32 AACoFD  (Linthicum)

32 AACoFD (Linthicum)

In 1909, the little town of Linthicum was changing from a group of family farms into a planned community with commercial businesses. A group of citizens formed the Linthicum Heights Fire and Improvement Association.

Funds from sponsored social activities supported the purchase of a red, two-wheeled hand-drawn fire vehicle which consisted of a sixty gallon chemical tank and hose, a ladder, buckets and axes.


The relatively primitive fire apparatus was housed on the ground floor of the “Town Hall” (above) located near the northwest corner of Maple and Camp Meade Road and was the only fire protection in the community for the next 17 years. (1)


In the summer of 1922, a major dwelling fire (the Benson House) occurred on the north side of Maple Road just east of Medora Road.

Engines from Glen Burnie and Baltimore City responded and much of the dwelling was destroyed. This fire provided the catalyst for improvement of the fire service in the area. (1) (Note) It has been stated that the city engine, Engine 58 (Westport) was chain driven, and the chain broke in response to the fire.

Although it took five years, a group of local residents in 1927, incorporated the “Community Fire Company, Linthicum-Shipley.” Encouraged by the existence of a modern water system including fire hydrants, the fire company raised funds from the community for the down payment on a new American La France (ALF) Type 91 500-gpm pumper with a 100 gallon water tank. Also in 1927, work was started on a brick and slate roof, single engine fire station at 309 Camp Meade Road. (1)

Above - Herb Cromwell behind wheel of the 1927 American La France fire engine. (1)  

Raymond Jeffery and Marion Ford were the first two engineman assigned to the station and their pay was provided by the county. The pair split days and nights and at times worked 24 hour shifts.

(Above) Marion Ford forth from left.

During the first seven months of 1928, the company responded to 68 alarms. In addition to Linthicum-Brooklyn Park-Ferndale-Glen Burnie, engines responded to fires as far away as Camp Meade, Fort Smallwood, Gibson Island, Odenton and Relay. (1)


Two additional addition engines were purchased in 1931 to replace the ALF, requiring the construction of a wooden structure adjoining the original building.

Engine #1 1931 U.S. Fire Apparatus 600 gpm pumper with a 325 gallon water tank.

Engine #2 1931 U.S. Fire Apparatus 350 gpm pumper with a 350 gallon water tank.

Old Engine #1 (ALF) was traded to U.S. Fire Apparatus in 1931 and was resold to the near-by Lansdowne VFD in 1933. (1) 

In 1937, Raymond Jeffery, engineman and Al Parlet, member, responded to Annapolis to fight a fire at the Carvel Hall Hotel. The pair responded with Engine #1 on the 23 mile trip without a windshield. (1)

In 1938 a new building was constructed (funded through the WPA program) containing three engine bays, a recreation and bunk room and a commercial sized kitchen. The second floor was huge meeting hall with a stage. (1)


As a result of World War II, the active membership dwindled and teenagers from 16 - 18 years of age were allowed to join. In 1941 Eagar Ford became a member when he was 14.

On a spring afternoon in 1942, Raymond Jeffery, engineman, responded to an accident in Engine #2. The accident involved a Jessup VFD engine and a tanker truck at the intersection of Rt.1 and Rt.198 in Laurel. The accident resulting in a serious fire with firemen trapped but were freed before the arrival of the Linthicum engine.

On a November Saturday afternoon, 1942, a fire broke out in the basement of the large Sweetser mansion on the northeast corner of Sweetser and Maple roads. It was an electrical fire that was burning in the wall and upwards towards the attic.

Fortunately, Marion Ford, engineman, had a large contingent of volunteers responding with him on Engine #2. Ford laid a supply line hose from the hydrant at the corner of Sweetser and Maple roads. A Glen Burnie VFD engine tied into the hydrant and pumped to Engine #2 on the fire ground. Later Engine #1 responded with Carl Hughes, driver, and a small crew. Hughes laid an additional line from Glen Burnie VFD’s Engine to a hydrant at Maple and Medora roads. The crews were successful in extinguishing the fire and kept it from spreading to the attic. A valuable Linthicum residence and landmarked was saved. (1)

In the early morning hours in the fall of 1944, the old town hall mentioned earlier was burning. It was fully involved when Marion Ford, engineman, arrived on location. Ford had to deal with a “stuck hydrant” but was able to find a secondary water supply. Ford, Engine #1 and a small crew, did a tremendous job protecting and saving many buildings that were being hit with flying fire brands. (1)


 (Photo - Joseph MacDonald)

A third engine was purchased in 1947, a Mack Type 45, open cab, 500 gpm pumper with a 400 gallon water tank and designated as Engine #3. The Mack Company was selected due to its strong reputation and its willingness to guarantee a relatively short delivery date, something no other manufacturers would do because of high post war demand. The engine cost $8,795. (1)

At some point during the late 1940s to early 1950s mobile radios were installed in fire and medical apparatus throughout Anne Arundel County. All companies were designated  numbers. Linthicum became Company 32. It is believed that the number was derived from the geographic tax and voting precinct the station was located in.


In 1952 a Ford F-7 engine (enclosed cab) was purchased with a 500-gpm pump and a water tank capacity of 500 gals. and designated Engine 1. It took the place of Engine 2 which was sold to near-by Sach’s Junk yard.  


 (Photo - Joseph MacDonald)

Circa early 1950s Raymond Jeffery retired and member Donald Amrhein was hired to take his place.  

On a cold, rainy evening on January 29, 1956 a tragic fire broke out at the Arundel Park on Belle Grove Road near 6th Avenue in Brooklyn Park. The fire killed 11 people and injured approximately 250. Engine 1 responded with Donald Amrhein, Engineman, and laid a supply line from the building to a pond on the west side of Belle Grove Road to set up a drafting operation. The Mack, Engine 3, responded with member Eagar Ford driving and young members William Morrison, Virgil Buttrum and others.

On September 26, 1956, a new engine was purchased and delivered. A 1956 Mack B95F, 1,000 gpm enclosed cab pumper with a 600 gallon water tank, designated Engine 2. Old Engine #1, the U.S. was traded in to Mack and resold to National Plastics Company in Odenton to be placed into service by the company’s fire brigade.


 (Photo by Atkinson - Courtesy of Joseph MacDonald)

As a result of the above purchase, the '47 Mack would be fondly referred to as the "Little Mack." 

In 1957, Marion Ford retired and Raymond W. Smith, a member of the Brooklyn VFD, was hired by Chief Al Parlett to take Ford’s place. Member Melvin Morrison would remember Ford as a regular station "card player" and would always bring in produce from his farm in Pasadena to share with the members. 


(Photo - Chuck Morris Jr.)

Due to a growing number of vehicle accidents occurring on the new Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Baltimore Beltway, along with Rt. 170 and Dorsey roads, a 1957 GMC/Morysville was purchased as a light rescue unit for the company.


 (Photo - Joseph MacDonald)

In 1959 a 1950 Willys Jeep (CJ-3A) 10 gpm with a 65 gallon water tank, was purchased for the growing amount of brush and woods fires in the area.


 (Photo - Joseph MacDonald)


Circa 1960 - 61 a three-bay one-story addition was constructed on the Benton Avenue side of the station. The addition also contained an area to wash and mechanically dry hose, a SCBA shop with a compressor and large air storage bottles, a workshop, a storage room and a grease pit with grate.

During this period, Company 32 became the custodians of the Fifth District SCBA Air  Bottles. The "yellow" (steel cylinder) bottles were worn by firefighters to provide air for their masks during interior firefighting. About a dozen bottles shelved and maintained in the SCBA shop were automatically transported to all Second Alarm fires in the 5th District and other districts when requested. The Fifth District consisted of the Brooklyn, Linthicum, Ferndale and Glen Burnie VFDs.

(Photo - Maryland Gazette)

Soon after the addition was completed, the original  station was remodeled. The first-floor bunk room/kitchen became the board room. The second-floor stage and one of the stairways was removed. A bunkroom was built with a brass sliding pole to the new lounge area on the first floor. A recreation room was created to incorporate a pool table. A full-sized restroom and showers were also added and a sliding brass pole to the apparatus bay at the front of the station. A spiral staircase was installed in the middle rear of the 2nd floor, along with a chief’s office, storage room, locker room and a small kitchen. A large room for company meetings and training classes was also constructed.

On the exterior of the original building, a large awning was constructed over the front engine bay doors to protect the apparatus paint from the damaging rays of sun. 

Melvin Morrison would share that member Fred Miller, a carpenter at the U.S. Naval Academy, found that there were a number of surplus midshipmen bed frames and headboards available. A small crew drove to the academy in one of member Robert Zimmerman's school buses and transported about a dozen beds back to the fire station. The beds were still in use at the station through the 1990s.

During the late '50s and early '60s, Al Parlett was the volunteer chief of the company.

(Photo - Joseph MacDonald)

A 1961 Ford C-850/American 750 gpm pumper with a 600 gallon water tank was purchased from the Glen Culbert Company in College Park. The cab-over engine had jump seats in the rear of the cab for firefighters to don self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) while responding. This engine became first out for most dwelling and building fires.

 (Photo by Atkinson - Courtesy Joseph MacDonald)

Circa 1961 - 1965 all county fire stations went to a two to three-digit numbering system for all fire and medical apparatus. The company number was first with the engine or apparatus number second.


(Photo - Tom German)

When the 1961 Ford C-850/American went into service, the '52 Ford's (above) number designation was changed to Engine 324. This engine along with the jeep were the first units sent out to brush and woods fires. 

       (AACo Engineman's patch)

On January 1, 1963, a third engineman was added to the two enginemen unit throughout all 23 companies that made up the Anne Arundel County Fire Service. Chief Eagar Ford hired active member Melvin Morrison - Standing on the far right of the photo below.

Also in the photo is Tom German, standing far left. Kneeling in front of German is Charles "CJ" Wright. Wright later became a senior instructor with the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute (MFRI). Wright also was employed as a Hazardous Materials Specialist with the Union Pacific Railroad serving for many years. Kneeling third from the left is Gaylor Watts and to his right William Morrison. 

(Photo - Tom German)


Donald Amrhein adjusting deck pipe nozzle as William Morrison works the throttle on Engine 321's pump panel.

The station now had three shifts as follows: A Shift – Raymond W. Smith, Engineman; B Shift  - Donald Amrhein, Engineman; C Shift – Melvin Morrison, Engineman. The men worked 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off duty. The 24/48 shift would remain as the fire department’s work shift standard for approximately the next 52 years.

There were also many qualified volunteer personnel who would work relief when the assigned engineman took off or who responded with additional apparatus and equipment or placed the station back in service for the next call. Some of these trained drivers and pump operators were Robert Zimmerman, Virgil Buttrum, Eagar Ford, Bob and Russell Pryor, Reverend Ulmer, Tom German, Ron Bierman, Sonny Harvey and Henry "Butch" Lawall. 

(Photo - AACoFD Circa 1972)

Eagar Ford, standing in the middle was the company's fire chief during the mid-sixties. Here he is taking part in fire extinguisher training with Lt. Keith Malleck from the Fire Prevention Bureau. Ford was a Captain for the AACo. Police Department at the time the photo that was taken at the AACo Detention Center in Annapolis.

On Saturday, April 20, 1963, one of the busiest days in the history of the county's fire service, major brush fires broke out throughout the region due to low humidity and heavy winds. Company 32 would respond to many throughout north and west county as well as its first due area.


(Photo-Tom German)

In 1964 Engineman Donald Amrhein was promoted to the AACo. Fire Inspection Bureau and Tom German was released as Engineman, Company 19 (Cape St. Claire) and assigned to Company 32 “B” Shift.

In the summer of 1964, the company purchased a ’64 Willy’s Jeep (CJ-5) and built a new brush fire unit with a Front-Mount High Pressure Pump. The new Willys, has a Perkins Diesel engine and a 90 gallon water tank. It replaced the 1950 Jeep which was sold to the Liberty Road Fire Department.

Tommy German behind the wheel of Jeep 324. (Photo - Tom German)

In January 1965 Charter government was enacted which established the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. The Linthicum Station or Company 32 was now part of a countywide firefighting system that included 22 other fire companies.

Company patch worn on dress and gray work uniforms. 

The year 1966 would see a big change in Company 32’s fire apparatus fleet.  Engine 323, the little Mack was sold to a fire department in Maine. Engine 324 was sold to an unknown source or traded in for a new Ford engine.

A 1965 Ford C-1000/American was purchased from the Glenn Culbert Company, located in College Park, MD. It had a 750 gpm pump, an auxiliary high pressure pump, and a 1000 gallon tank. It was classified as a Tanker and for approximately the next 10 years would respond throughout the county on large brush fires and structure fires located in non-hydrant areas. The new unit was designated Engine 320.

 (Photo - by Atkinson, Courtesy of Joseph MacDonald) 

In 1967, Raymond W. Smith, the "A" shift engineman, was elected as the company's fire chief. Later that year in June, Smith was promoted to AACoFD  Division Chief to head the departments' new training center (to be built in Millersville) and training program. Ron Bierman, an active member of the company, was hired and assigned as the “A” Shift Engineman.

Nineteen-sixty-eight was a very busy year for Company 32. There were multiple alarm fires at Sach’s Junk Yard, West Linthicum, the April riots in Baltimore City, 84 Lumber Company in Harmans and many responses to assist firefighting operations in Glen Burnie, Brooklyn, Marley, Odenton, Jessup, Severna Park and Lake Shore.


 Sach's Junk Yard. Three Alarms. February 1968. (Photo - Maryland Gazette)

In April, Engine 321 with crews spent three days in Baltimore City fighting fires caused by the riots. 


84 Lumber Company. Three Alarms. April 20, 1968. (Photos - Jim Vecheck)

During the summer of 1968, Chief Raymond Smith resigned from the company to focus on his position as the training officer for AACoFD. David Mentzel was elected as the new chief. 

(David Mentzel. AACo.FD's first Fire Communication's Division Chief. Photo - AACoFD)

Mentzel had been a long standing active member. He worked his way up the officer chain to the assistant chief's position. He was also the Division Chief of AACoFD's Communication Division and had much input in the the designing and operation of the fire communications dispatch center located at Fire Headquarters in Millersville. 

During the spring of 1969, Mentzel resigned to accept a position as a law enforcement officer for a marine division in a jurisdiction in Florida. Henry "Butch" Lawall succeeded him as chief.

Lawall a very active member since the early '60s would work his way up the officer chain.  He was also a career firefighter for the BWI Airport FD and would serve as Company 32's Chief through the early 1970s. Lawall would be the last active chief officer in the Linthicum department as the company board of directors turned the station and fire apparatus over to to Anne Arundel County in circa 1973. 

On a Thursday in January 1969 at approximately 5:30 p.m., a fire broke out in a two story apartment house behind the mansion at 5910 Twin Oaks Road. Volunteer Lieutenant Dan Betz, Engineman Ron Bierman, and crew consisting of firefighters Robert Miller, Gray Dressel and Jerry Minarick on Engine 321 made a great stop and saved the building which is still there today. A second alarm was quickly requested. The fire caused extensive damage to the building and contents. Although the blaze routed three families, there were no injuries.

In 1970, Anne Arundel County purchased two tractor-trailer ladder trucks. The first delivered in the summer was Truck 335 (Glen Burnie) and was staffed with three firefighters per shift seeing its first responses in the early fall. The second truck was slated for Company 32 and a crew was selected as follows:

Truck 325 “A” Shift – Walt Issacs released as roving enginemen, assigned to the truck; Doug Shanks released from Truck 31 (Brooklyn), assigned to the truck. James “Duke” Hasselholff released from Co. 32 daywork, assigned to the truck

“B” Shift – Tom German, released from Engine 32, assigned to the truck. Kenneth Klaismeier, released from Co.32 daywork, assigned to the truck. Charles Boyer, released from Co.29 daywork, assigned to the truck

“C” Shift – Melvin Morrison, released from Engine 32, assigned to the truck. Donald Schultheis, released from Co. 31, assigned to the truck. Richard “Doc” Stone, back from the military, assigned to the truck.

Issacs, Shanks, German, Klasmeier, Morrison and Schultheis were assigned to Truck 335 for truck and truck operations training from September 1970 until the new truck was delivered in February 1971.

The trucks were 1970 Seagrave ladder trucks with a 100’ aerial ladder. Two drivers were required, one to drive the cab and one to tiller the trailer in the back.

The only difference between the two ladder trucks was that Truck 335 had a cab on the back to protect the tillerman. Truck 325 only had a seat with with a windshield and dashboard. A tiller cab would be to high for the doorway in the middle bay in the rear station addition. It would run without a protective tillerman’s cab for 10 years until a near fatal accident with a tillerman required the cab to be installed. Truck 325 went into service late February, 1971.

The trucks first major fire was at the multi-alarm, Carpet Mart Fire in Ferndale in March, where both positioned side-by-side had water towers flowing.

(Photo - Joseph MacDonald)

As a result of the Truck personnel changes there were new assignments for the engine. Roger Johnson, released from Engine Co. 29 (Jessup) assigned to Engine 32, “B” Shift. Wayne Wiggins, released from Co. 14 (Green Haven) assigned to “C” Shift. 

At some point toward the end of 1971 and early 1972, the last number of the ladder trucks “5,” was omitted. All ladder trucks were now identified by their stations. Truck 325 became Truck 32.


Company 32's workhorses from the mid-'60s to mid-'70s. Engines 320, 321 and 322.

In late 1969 or early 1970 a tragic accident occurred on Camp Meade Road in front of the Linthicum Elementary School. A little girl was struck by an automobile and died from her injuries. The accident happened within 200 feet of the apparatus ramp of the fire station  but the closest ambulance to respond was from Brooklyn (Company #31). It was assumed that the delay in medical care may have resulted in the girl’s death.

After the accident the community was up in arms about the need for an ambulance at the Linthicum fire station. Over the past 43 years either the Ferndale or Brooklyn Park stations provided ambulance service for North Linthicum and Linthicum – the Linthicum station never had a medical unit.

In December 1971, the company saw its biggest change ever when a fully staff around the clock career ambulance was assigned to the station. Ambulance 32. 


Firefighters Melvin Covington and Donald Merkle check out Ambulance 32, Circa 1971.


(Company 32 "B" shift on the Benton Ave. side of Station (Circa 1972). L-R, Roger Johnson and Richard "Doc" Stone leaning against Engine 321; Charlie Boyer, Tom German, Ken Klasmeier in front of Truck 32 cab; kneeling in from of Ambulance 32, Joe Rumanap and Bob Kornman Photo - Credit to the photographer)

All photos - credit to the photographers. I would also like to thank Joseph MacDonald, Chuck Morris and Tom German for most of the photos.

(1) Many photos were captured from "The Train Passes Through it - A Collective History of Linthicum Heights" (Oscar "Skip" Booth and Beth P. Howell)

To be continued.







1 comment

  • Michael W. Robinson

    Great information and many of the current personnel need to appreciate the contributions and recognize the “pioneers” who laid the foundation for the major metro FD/EMS system that exists today. The Merkle shown on A32 was actually Donald not Rick. Rick graduated high school in 1975.

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