Toward the 21st Century and Today

In the early hours of a June morning in 1993, a much-anticipated addition to the family arrived. A 1993 Spartan Gladiator/ American Fire & Rescue, Heavy Rescue Squad (Rescue Squad 354) finally rolled into Arbutus after years of planning and waiting. The old 1969 Brockway had been showing its age for some time. The squad had difficulty making the climb up the beltway towards US Rt. 40 since being weighed down over the years with heavier and more advanced equipment. The old squad found new paint and a new life as Reserve Rescue #1 with the Baltimore City Fire Department. Very often, the Brockway can still be seen responding to emergency incidents through the busy streets of downtown Baltimore or sitting “in quarters” at the John Steadman Station on Lombard and Eutaw Streets.

The new squad had more than enough pulling power and room for all necessary tools, but something else was also very different. Red was back! After about a 10-year absence, AVFD decided to start returning their apparatus to a more traditional white over red paint scheme. Nobody really liked the lime-green/yellow anyway and if they did, they wouldn’t admit it.

It was noticed that there was an increasing amount of potential members being turned away due to the fact that they were not yet 18 years old. These young adults would simply seek membership at the other surrounding volunteer companies who had been accepting members at 16 years old for many years.

Another hot debate at AVFD was brewing! Tempers flared at the thought of letting “children” become riding members. The initial attempt to allow the young members failed approval by the membership but the fight wasn’t over. In 1995 the by-laws were once again amended to allow members between the ages of 16 and 18. The young members had to have guardian consent and were strictly limited to certain hours of Departmental participation during the school year. In addition, the young members had to present their report card quarterly and could be suspended from Department activities for failure to maintain ‘C’s in all classes.

During a time of litigation, strict training standards, and insurance considerations, the 40-year-old aluminum boat was brought into question. There was no real training or certification to use the boat for water rescues and it became a liability concern. The membership decided to commit to the development of a properly trained water rescue team within the department instead of getting rid of the boat all together. This was also AVFD’s way of specializing in a rescue field to comply with Baltimore County’s Rescue – 2000 plan.

In 1996, under the instruction of Rescue 3 International, training began for Swift Water Rescue Technicians and the beginning of AVFD’s Swift Water Rescue Team (SRT-35). A Seaworthy, 12ft inflatable raft was donated and proper water rescue equipment such as helmets, wet suits, ropes, and personal flotation devices were purchased. Together, AVFD and Kingsville Vol. Fire Dept. (St.48) became the Swift Water Task Force for Baltimore County.

In 1997, AVFD had a remarkable amount of changes. Half of the parking lot was crumbling and full of pot holes. The other half was a little bit of stone and a lot of mud. During large hall events, parking was what you made of it. After and enormous amount of work and cutting through red tape, the lot was finally paved with asphalt and striped with dedicated parking for loading, handicapped, and Department members.

Also, that year, a dedicated group of ladies reorganized the Auxiliary. Membership was now open to both male and female members who did not want to ride the apparatus but were interested in helping with Department events. Bingo and dances were just a couple of the Auxiliary sponsored events to raise money for the benefit of AVFD.

One of the most exciting events of 1997 was the replacement of the dilapidated 1978 Seagrave pumper. The old Seagrave was badly rusted, leaking, and wasn’t able to pump the 1250 gallons per minute of water for which it was rated. A 1997 Pierce-Dasch, 1250 GPM pumper found a home at AVFD as the new Engine 352. The Seagrave went to Levels Volunteer Fire Dept. in Levels, West Virginia where it was truly welcomed as a “modern” fire engine.

In September of 1998, the AVFD Auxiliary made a gracious presentation to the Department. A new set of Holmatro rescue tools for Squad 354 replaced the 1970’s era Hurst rescue tools. The new tools were smaller, lighter, faster, stronger, and more technologically advanced than the old Hurst system.

Also in 1998, a decision was made to replace Engine-351 instead of refurbishing it. The eleven-year-old Hahn 1250 GPM pumper was still in good condition but was showing signs of its age.

Engine-352 was less than a year old and was met with great success in design and performance. Since the blueprints were still fresh and the price was still relatively current, Pierce would become the builder of the new Engine-351. The 1999 Pierce Dasch 2000-1250 GPM pumper was nearly a twin to the 1997 model and arrived during the summer of 1999. The Hahn and 57 sections of extra hose were sold shortly after being put up for sale and months before the new engine would arrive. S&L Fire Equipment of Andalusia, Alabama purchased it in order to refurbish for the local volunteer fire company in the town of Andalusia.

The 1988 Ford/Medtec ambulance (Medic-356) had also served diligently for longer than anyone had expected but was in dire need of replacement. The committee reviewed many different design plans and companies and came to a decision on a 1999 Ford F-350/Horton-Type I ambulance

The new ambulance arrived in May and put into service in June of 1999. The 1988 Ford was retained by the Department and converted into a Swift Water Rescue response unit and redesignated as Special Unit 359.

In May of that same year, a special meeting was held and a decision agreed upon to open a substation at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) campus. Medic 355 would be housed on campus and “University Members” would staff the unit during the school year. The “University Members” would be given the same training and responsibilities as regular members but would have no voting rights and would be held accountable to the fire line officers and Board of Directors of the Department. (back)


AVFD recently celebrated an achievement of 60 years of commitment to their community and hopes to continue providing professional protection to the citizens of Baltimore County for many more years. All the services of the equipment, and the members, are completely volunteer. Expenses of the Department are met by fundraising events such as the annual carnival, fund drive, bingo, photo drive, and hall rental to name just a few.

As the twentieth century came to a close in 1999, the Department had responded to 1019 fire/rescue calls and 1615 ambulance calls for the year. Through the efforts of the men and women of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, who have worked long and faithfully for the advancement of their organization, this Department has reached an enviable position among the volunteer fire companies of Baltimore County.