Map circa 1878, published by G. M. Hopkins and Co.
Map circa 1878, published by G. M. Hopkins and Co.
The Marlboro Fire Department is actually the successor of the Marlborough Fire Association. The Town of Upper Marlboro, formerly spelled Upper Marlborough, was first surveyed in 1706. Fifteen years later it became the County Seat of Prince George’s County, and in 1888 became an incorporated town. The first home in Upper Marlboro was built on Water Street. All of the early homes and businesses were along what is now Water Street, Rolling Road (now Elm Street, Church Street, and Main Street. The Western Branch at the foot of Water Street was at one time a small port. Here barges and small boats docked to collect hogsheads of tobacco for shipment abroad and to deliver merchandise and produce to the merchants.
Around 1879 or 1880, there was an emergency fire alarm system. Whenever a fire started, Uncle Ned Deville, who had a very strong voice, would run up and down the streets yelling, “Fire, fire!”. Then the residents of the town would rush out with buckets of water and available ladders to combat the fire. Later, the ringing of the Court House bell at an unusual hour became the fire signal.
In about 1886, a large portion of the town was destroyed by two seperate fires at the intersection of Water Street and Church Street. After this fire, the residents of the town organized the Marlborough Fire Association. The association was incorporated by the Circuit Court of Prince George’s County on March 8, 1887.
The Association held regular meetings and sought donations toward the construction of a fire house and the purchase of equipment. Shortly thereafter, a contract was awarded to John C. Wyvill, a local contractor, to construct a two-story wood frame fire house at the cost of $342.25 on property donated by Mrs. James Belt.
On March 15, 1924, a cold windy day, a fire started on the roof near the chimney of Bennett’s Lunchroom and hotel shortly after noon. The Court House bell was rung and telephones frantically notified the town residents. Due to the high wind, efforts to extinguish the fire were futile.
By the time the fire was brought under control, it had completely destroyed the lunchroom, the buggy and carriage shop operated by Mr. John H. Trayband, and the large two-story residence of Mr. William T. C. Davis. The residence of Mr. R. Ernest Smith and the law office of Mr. Joseph K. Roberts were also lost. Valiant efforts of the bucket brigade saved the residence of Dr. Maguire and a building on the north side of Main Street.
Urgent calls for help were made to the District of Columbia. Engine Company 19 responded but the pumper was unable to draft water from the Western Branch. Mr. Jacob L. Fisher, who operated a store and lived on the north side of Main Street, directly opposite the burning building, called the Eastport Fire Department. They responded and extinguished the smoldering embers after several hours.
While the towns people had suffered a heavy loss, this fire provided the incentive for the organization of the present fire department. Almost immediately, practically every able-bodied male attended meetings to organize a Volunteer Fire Department. Various committees were appointed, and after many meetings the Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department was organized in early 1925. The original fire house of the Marlborough Fire Association was used as the new department’s first station.
With a very meager sum in its treasury, the company voted to purchase a new chemical truck from the Buffalo Fire Apparatus Company through Mr. Leon Conneford. This piece of equipment consisted of two 35-gallon soda-acid chemical tanks, roof ladder, extension ladder, and three or four brass Deitz Oil Lanterns mounted on a Chevrolet chassis. This equipment was very effective on small fires, but it was of little value on building fires unless the department arrived on the scene before the fire had gotten a good start.
After about three years of service, breakdowns and repair jobs were frequent. Quite often the department was unable to respond to calls. In April 1930, the department purchased a Seagrave 500 G.P.M. pumper with a 100-gallon booster tank at a cost of $5960.00. The manufactures had just started installing booster tanks in place of the soda-acid chemical tanks. The new Seagrave was delivered August 1, 1930 and formally accepted after having passed all tests on August 8, 1930. After the initial payment of $1250.00 and with less than $500.00 in the bank, the company took off to participate in the County Convention Parade in Laurel.
On October 25, 1930, while responding to a call for help from the Capitol Heights Fire Department, the company met with disaster on the Forestville Ritchie Road. While traveling, a motorist apparently heard the fire truck siren and pulled to the right of the road just as the fire truck was about to pass, the car pulled back to the center of the road in front of the truck. The driver, to avoid hitting the motorist, pulled to the left and hit a deep, sandy shoulder causing the driver to lose control. The truck overturned, pinning Captain B. Wesley Cranford and Assistant Chief Wesley R. Kerr under the front running board. Captain Cranford was killed instantly and became the first county volunteer to die in the line of duty. Assistant Chief Kerr suffered several fractured ribs, a broken arm, and a knee injury which hospitalized him for more than a month. Fortunately, Chief McCormick, James Ridgely, Charles Kerr, and C. Earle Wyvill received only minor injuries. This accident did not dampen the enthusiasm of the members, but instilled in them a firm determination to develop a strong, active, and efficient fire department.
The Seagrave rendered excellent service and was retained as an active piece of equipment for nearly twenty years. During these years, the firemen realized that the 100-gallon booster tank was inadequate in fighting building fires when no other water was available. Financially unable to purchase a new truck, the members purchased a 1936 school bus chassis on which was mounted a 500 gallon water tank, actually an old gasoline truck donated by Mr. Frank Tippett of Cheltenham. A used 500 G.P.M. pump, operated by power takeÂoff, was mounted in front of the water tank. The pump had once been owned by the Berwyn Heights Fire Department. This home-made piece of equipment proved very effective and enabled the company to save many buildings.
In 1940 a 750 G.P.M/ pumper was purchased from the Ocean City Fire Department. This truck was used exclusively on town fires. It was later sold to a department in New Jersey. A new Oren-Brockway 500 G.P.M. pumper with a 500 gallon booster tank was purchased in 1945.
The next piece was a 1951 Ford 500 G.P.M. pumper with a 300-gallon booster tank. While this truck was in excellent condition, it was sold to the Avalon Shores Volunteer Fire Department because the 300 gallon tank was inadequate for rural building fires.
The Oren-Brockway was sold in 1957 to a newly organized fire department in Dunn, North Carolina.
In the early part of 1968, the department became interested in the possibility of operating a truck company. After obtaining prices on a completely new unit, they realized the budget would be unable to afford such a sizable piece of apparatus. After several months of looking for a used piece, a 1939 American LaFrance 100-foot aerial ladder truck was found at the Water Witch Company in Annapolis. The truck was purchased in May 1968, and after equipping the truck and members completing the Prince George’s County course on Ladder Truck Operations, it was placed in service on July 22, 1968. After one week of waiting, the truck ran its first call on July 30, 1968. In November, 1968, a Ford tractor was purchased to replace the 1939 American LaFrance tractor. The truck was placed back in service in April 1969.
Many new ideas and happenings occurred in Marlboro in 1968. Besides the originating of a truck company, the idea of opening a second station was also brought up. After many hours of research and ravel, a 1.5 acre lot was purchased on Croom Road just off Route 301. In November 1969, ground was broken for the new station to be constructed by W. T. Hinton, Inc. This station was assigned the running number of Company 45, and went in service on July 5, 1970 with two pumpers and an ambulance.
With the purchase of Truck 20, space at the station on Pratt Street became limited. After seven years of crowded conditions it was decided to build an addition. After several months of planning and meetings, ground was broken on July 28, 1975. This addition provided a larger bunkroom, additional recreation area, storage area, and a maintenance room in the rear.
Money was always needed to pay bills and maintain equipment. Ways of raising funds were discussed for several weeks and it was finally decided to try bingo games. The first one was held on April 10, 1975 and a profit of $12.25 was made.
In 1976 the department deleted the word “male” from the applications and began to accept female applicants.
The first squad was approved in April 1977 by the Board of Directors. A used Chevrolet squad truck was purchased from the Greencastle Volunteer Fire Department in PA., in May 1977. The truck was placed into service the same month. Late, in 1978, the company purchased a larger 1968 Ford squad truck from a company in Edgely, PA., and sold the old squad to the county.
On June 15, 1978, the department again suffered a tragic accident. While responding to an emergency call, Engine 452, running from Company 20 as Engine 201, collided with a large truck at the intersection of Route 301 and Croom Station Road. James M. O’Connor was killed instantly in the crash. Vice-President Cecil W. Thorne was injured as were volunteer firefighter Howard Buck and firefighter Steven Stough.
Prince George’s County purchased a 1979 Seagrave 100-food aerial ladder truck and assigned it to Company 20, replacing the old American LaFrance.
In 1988 the truck was reassigned to Marlboro Station 2, Company 45. This unit was moved to make room for a new medic unit and other additions to Station 20. In 1990, a new Seagrave 100’ ladder truck was purchased for Company 45.
In 1990, we lost C. Earle Wyvill, Jr. and John Anderson after long illnesses. Engine 202 was replaced with a new Seagrave Pumper.
In January of 1991, Medic 10 was placed in service, operating from Station 20. A new five thousand square foot addition to Company 20 was also opened and dedicated to Donald & Roberta Strine.
Also, in 1991, after a very long illness, we lost Lifetime member Earl S. Walker.
In May of 1992, renovation of Company 45 was started, along with a new twenty-five hundred square foot addition. This project was completed in 1993. The Department also purchased a new custom-made Seagrave in 1993.
1994 found the Department regrouping to find new ways to raise funds, due to the decision from the State of Maryland to stop charitable gaming activities.
In 1995, the Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department hosted the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association’s Annual Convention. During this event, we hosted the first Fire & Rescue Exposition, held at the Show Place Arena.
1997 saw the Department provide to all active members, a life insurance policy.
During 1998 and 1999, God called four members of our Department to be with Him. To the families of our deceased members, we express our deepest sympathy.
C.E. Rector (Past Chief)
Father John D. Vail (Past Chaplain)
As we continue to provide service and remember our deceased members, we paused in July of 1999, for a dedication of two trees, in memory of Cecil Thorne and Daniel Theurer and a re-dedication of a new plaque on Engine 202 to honor Jack Sawyer.
The year 2000 also saw both departments hold the 1st Annual FIRE/EMS Rescue Day, adjacent to Station 20. Because of such a great success, it was decided to continue with this event every year.
The department maintains a very efficient fleet of Engines, Squad, Truck, and Ambulances. In due tine, wear and age take a toll. Therefore, Pratt Street Station purchased a 1996 Pierce Arrow 1500 G.P.M. Engine in 2000. This unit is something to see with state-of-the-art handling and pumping capacity.
2000-2001 saw the members of the Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department take a stand in fundraising efforts. Bingo is currently being held every Friday night with much success. In September of 2001, Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department once again hosted the Annual Convention of the Prince George’s County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. The events of September 11, 2001 occurred during our Convention and brought together a brotherhood unlike any other.
This Department is most proud of all its members. It is the behind-the scenes individuals who sacrifice their time and talents to keep both stations and equipment in operating conditions, the individuals who man the apparatus all hours of the day and night, and those who continue to train that provide the best service to our citizens of Upper Marlboro. We look forward with great anticipation towards whatever lies ahead in the years to come.