OMVFCo is proud of its long history as a volunteer fire company in Baltimore County, Maryland. Established in 1921, Owings Mills has pioneered many of the traditional fire fighting methods of today.

Station from the 1920's.

Station from the 1920's.

The Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company was originally an idea the community had for the protection of lives and property. After all, volunteer companies in neighboring communities, such as Pikesville, Reisterstown, and Glyndon, were already established. The communities concern for fire protection led to several informal sessions at John Hoff’s Black Smith Shop. On Friday, September 16, 1921 the final meeting occurred which led to a general community meeting at Rosewood Center on September 24, 1921, and is the place and day the Owings Mills Fire Company was born. They elected Douglas P. Campbell, District Engineer of State Roads, as President, George Ward as Treasurer and William E. (Bill) King as Captain. Since then, the growth of the company has been nothing short of impressive.

With the company established, the community found no reason to hesitate moving forward towards their first goals. Establishing an administration, beginning a membership drive, and planning fund raisers, were the stepping stones that would lead to purchasing the first fire engine for the company. The first officers were chosen, firemens’ badges were ordered for members, and minstrel shows, benefit movies, bake sales, card parties, carnivals, and raffles brought money into the company. Eventually the hard work paid off, money added up, and it was time to order a fire engine. Every make and type of fire engine had its own supporters but eventually the field narrowed down to the Stutz and the LaFrance. On one final vote the LaFrance won and was ordered and arrived on February 21, 1924. Unknown to the members, an anonymous local resident personally guaranteed the notes given by the Company to American La France Company for the engine.

The American LaFrance was a type 38 triple combination, 500 gallon per minute pumper with solid tires, two wheel brakes, right hand drive, nickel-plated headlamps but no windscreen.. It carried a 35 gallon chemical tank, 1000 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose and equipment and tools for fighting structural and field fires. This was the original engine.

The work taken to obtain this engine was great, but the challenges of having it in service would be found to be even greater. This exceptional piece of apparatus was kept in service originally by an eleven man firefighting crew, dispatched via telephone through a street car dispatcher, and housed at the Trouble Station of the United Railways Electric Company’s car barn. The original fire crew had no organized program for training available to them. The only training they received was when an actual fire occurred. The firefighting gear that was used was a heavy black rubber coat and hat, and a heavy pair of boots.

The crew was alerted to a fire via a steam whistle at the town power house. Alarms were telephoned in to the street car dispatcher (manned 24 hours a day) who had the engineer blow the whistle – three times for south, four times for north, and once for downtown. Because these were times of manual telephones, all calls were handled by operators. The two exchanges were Pikesville and Reisterstown and operators reported fires to the nearest exchange – not nearest to the fire. Many times first information of a fire in Owings Mills came when neighboring engines came driving by enroute to a fire. When word finally got to the fire crew, they would go to the Trouble Station car barn where the engine was kept and respond to the location of the fire where more obstacles were to be met.

Obtaining water supply was very difficult at the scene of a fire. There were no water mains north of Pikesville and there were no tankers. Owings Mills depended on streams and ponds for a water supply. Eventually, the problems the company faced at that time would all be solved in the future with the development of an organized dispatching system, extensive training programs, and a county wide water main supply system.

Obtaining water supply was very difficult at the scene of a fire. There were no water mains north of Pikesville and there were no tankers. Owings Mills depended on streams and ponds for a water supply. Eventually, the problems the company faced at that time would all be solved in the future with the development of an organized dispatching system, extensive training programs, and a county wide water main supply system.