THE PERFECT FIRE - TRAGEDY ON RIVERVIEW ROAD, 12-26-76, BROOKLYN PARK - THREE ALARMS
THE PERFECT FIRE - TRAGEDY ON RIVERVIEW ROAD, 12-26-76, BROOKLYN PARK - THREE ALARMS
by Joseph B. Ross Jr.
Authors note: On April 23, 2018, at Fallen Heroes Day, conducted at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Firefighter Patrick Bauer and Volunteer Firefighter George Driggers received recognition for their service and sacrifice as a result of the Riverview Road fire that occurred on December 26, 1976.
During the ceremony, Pat and George’s families were presented with a replica of the Fallen Heroes Memorial and a resolution from the Maryland General Assembly. Also, the two families were presented with a Governor's Proclamation, as a tribute, since the Fallen Heroes Day was established in 1986, after the tragic Riverview Road fire.
This is Pat and Georges' story.
THE WORD “PERFECT" HAS MANY MEANINGS. In recent years it has been used to describe severe weather phenomena as in the “Perfect Storm,” a movie released in 2000, based on the best-selling book by Sebastian Junger. “The Perfect Fire,” a story written by Sean Flynn for Esquire Magazine in July of 2000 described the tragedy that took place when an old abandoned cold-storage building fire occurred that took the lives of six Worcester, MA firefighters in December 1999.
In each of these events, forces of nature, out of control, and moving on different levels, were brought together quickly for one massive deadly blow. In the movie, three storms came together and created massive waves killing fishermen in a workboat at sea. In Worcester, dark black acrid smoke that filled the upper floors of a multi-story warehouse caused fire crews, who were looking for possible trapped victims, to become separated, cut off, trapped and overcome by superheated gases and rapidly moving flames.
Twenty-three years before Worcester, there was another “Perfect Fire,” where forces of nature, unleashed and out of control, came together quickly to create a deadly force that would kill Volunteer Firefighter George Driggers Jr. and severely injure Career Firefighter Patrick Bauer to the point where he would succumb to his injuries and pass from this world – 24 hours later. This fire occurred in a two-story brick-row-home (end unit), located on Riverview Road, Brooklyn Park, Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
I first saw Pat Bauer for the first time in the summer 1972. I was working as a relief engineman for Firefighter III Paul Goray, who had taken off the night-half of “C” shift at the Jessup VFD station, Company 29. The reason I remember Pat is that he had the darkest black hair and unlike most young volunteer firefighters hanging around the fire station; he was wearing a suit and tie and carrying a brief case.
Pat was looking for a Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) class that he wanted to attend. He thought it was being held at Station 29 but it wasn’t. He left and I felt bad for him because he seemed very anxious to attend the class. I think he later found what he was looking for at the Odenton Station, Company 28, six-and-a-half miles along Route 175 to the southeast.
After that day I would see Pat occasionally at various fires as I continued my assignment as a daywork firefighter at Station 29 and working on the weekends for the enginemen when they took leave. Pat was a 17-year-old volunteer with Maryland City VFD, Company 27. He had been with the department for about a year.
In 1973, I was assigned to Herald Harbor VFD, Company 6 as a Firefighter III (engineman). On one late summer night we responded to a two-alarm Laundromat fire in the Boomtown section of Odenton. Company 27 was on the scene and I believe I saw Pat on that call.
One year later, I transferred to the Maryland City Fire Station, Company 27, located on Fort Meade Road in the Laurel section of Anne Arundel County. I became to know Pat better during my assignment. He was a very active volunteer along with his twin brother Mike (nicknamed “Peabody” after the intelligent and spectacle-wearing inquisitive dog in the Rocky and Bullwinkle Cartoon Show) and little brother Kevin who also had a nickname – Baby! I thing Kevin was a “cadet” member at the time and did not ride, but helped clean the engine and the equipment when we came back from a run.
(Company 27 volunteer firefighters standing on the tailboard Engine 272. Top row (L-R) Jerry Knerr, Eddie Derr, unknown young girl and Pat Bauer. Bottom row (L-R) "Baby" Bauer, Vic Lindsey and Steve Moe - Photo Circa 1975 - Courtesy of Rick Anderson)
Pat loved life. He also enjoyed being a prankster and a joker, but he also had a very serious and deep side. On Sunday afternoons when I was working “C” shift, he would always stop by the station in the late afternoon. Sitting at the little table in the small station kitchen, we would converse on all types of subjects including religion and the possibility of life after death.
I never worked with Pat during a fire, but the other firefighters spoke very highly of his firefighting abilities. On a dumpster fire in the parking lot of the 702 Club on Fort Meade Road, Route 198 on a fall afternoon, our Engine 271 crew consisted of day-work career Firefighters David Dohler and Gary Rogers, volunteers Ed Derr, Scott Bierman, Pat and myself. Derr was a full time police officer with the Washington D.C., Metro Police Department and volunteered on his time off.
(In front of Station 27, Engine 271 on right. A 1970 Seagrave, 1,000 GPM, 500 GAL/WT. On the left, Engine 272. A 1951 Ward La France, 750 GPM, 400 GAL/WT. Photo - Credit to the photographer)
After the fire was extinguished and we prepared to drive off, Dohler hopped-up in the officer’s seat of the cab and said, “Man, I hope we get a working dwelling fire today.” I said, “whys that?” Dohler continued, “because with you, me, Gary, Bauer, Bierman and Derr, we have the best crew on board that you can find down here.” I said, “Sounds good to me,” and we drove back to the station. There were no dwelling fires that day which would validate Dohler’s statement, but I took his word.
In January 1975, I was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the Fire Prevention Bureau. Pat was hired by the county as a firefighter and started his fire training school, Recruit Class 11 in August 1975. I instructed the fire school fire extinguisher segment of the class later in the fall and had a chance to work with Pat again. When he graduated, Pat was assigned to day-work at Company 28 (Odenton). I believe his career day-work partner was Keith Lefler.
(Firefighter Patrick Bauer, Recruit Class 11 Graduation, Circa '75-'76. Photo - AACoFD)
Firefighter III Doug Shanks, Truck 32, “A” Shift, used to work the day-work position for Lefler when he took off. It seemed like anytime Shanks and Bauer worked together, Company 28 responded to working structure fires. I remember two during the summer of 1976. One in Crofton, a dwelling fire, when a plastic portable fan overheated and caught fire on a night stand in a 2nd story bedroom where a young child was sleeping. The child’s mother, heard the smoke detector go off, ran up stairs, rescued the child, hustled back downstairs and called the fire department.
I was conducting fire inspections in the area and drove to the scene. By the time I arrived, the fire was knocked down by Company 7’s (Arundel) crew and Shanks and Bauer, arriving with Engine 282, raised an extension ladder and hung a smoke ejector over the bedroom window. The pair of firefighters seemed to work very well together.
On another hot summer day, there was a room and contents fire in a one-story dwelling in Herald Harbor. I was in the area and again responded. By the time I arrived, parked the prevention vehicle and walked over to the steaming structure, Shanks and Bauer were removing their SCBA face pieces and turning off their air bottles after helping Company 6’s (Herald Harbor) crew knock down the fire.
Some years earlier Bauer attended Arundel High School in Gambrills. One of his classmates was Doug Wilson, and like Bauer at the time, Wilson was a volunteer firefighter but with Arundel VFD, Company 7, near Crofton. Wilson was a graduate of Fire School Recruit Class 9 in 1974.
Upon graduation, Doug was assigned to Company 2 (Woodland Beach). Later, after a short stint at Company 21 (Harmans-Dorsey) A Shift, Wilson transferred to Truck 32 (Linthicum) “B” Shift, in 1976.
About a week before Christmas, Doug was scheduled to work at Truck Company 31 (Brooklyn), “C” Shift, on Christmas Day so one of the regular shift members could have off. Back in 1976 as well as today, firefighters that are single typically work for firefighters that are married so they can have the day off and enjoy the holiday with their families.
Later Doug received a phone call from Firefighter III Ed Weber, Engineman assigned to Company 7, “C,” Shift. Ed wanted to know if Doug would be willing to work on Christmas so Ed could be home with his family. Wilson explained to Weber that he already committed to Truck 31. However, if he could find someone to cover for him at 31, Doug would be more than happy to work at his old volunteer house, where he had already worked on many occasions since he became a career firefighter.
Wilson called Station 28 where Bauer was assigned to day work. He wanted to see if his old H.S. classmate Pat would like a chance to work some overtime. When Bauer picked up the phone, Wilson said, “Hey man, you want to a work in the big city on Christmas?"
Wilson explained to Bauer as to what had taken place, and if Pat could cover at 31, Wilson would be free to work at 7.
Bauer was elated and said, “I would love to work at 31,” and "yes" to the deal. Wilson contacted the officer at 31 and had the names changed on the leave slip. Pat was all set to work on Saturday, Christmas day, in Brooklyn Park.
(Photo of Driggers’ home next to Brooklyn Fire Station taken some time in the late '40s when the end bay was added courtesy of Judith Ann George from the Burnard Starlings collection.)
The Drigger’s family lived next door to Company 31’s Fire Station on Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn Park. George F. Driggers Sr. was a cabinet maker who worked out of a garage in the backyard.
George’s son, 16-year-old George Jr., wanted to be a firefighter since he was a little kid. According to family members, it's all he talked about.
(Volunteer Firefighter, Sixteen-year-old George Driggers Jr. Brooklyn Park High School Picture - Courtesy of Theresa Driggers Bush, his sister)
During the past summer, on the night of his 16th birthday, George Jr. joined near-by Company 34 (Ferndale VFD) since there were no longer volunteers riding at Brooklyn. George had been riding on the Ferndale engine ever since. George Jr. was looking forward to the upcoming Christmas/New Years’ holiday since school would be closed for the week and the Brooklyn Park High School 10th grader could spend all his time responding to fire calls at the Ferndale fire station.
In December 1976 my transfer request to Company 21 was honored. Lieutenant Donald Smith, “B” shift officer, transferred to the Fire Investigation Bureau, which created an opening. My first shift was on 12/21/76. At about 7:30 a.m., Company 21 was alerted to respond with Companies 28, 29 and Truck 33 to Box 251 for a basement fire at 8201 Coatsbridge Court in Still Meadows off of Jacobs Road.
(Harmans-Dorsey Station's Engine 211, A 1976 Seagave. 1000 GPM, 500 GAL/WT - Photo - Credit to the photographer)
I responded to the call in the new Engine 211 (’76 Seagrave) with Steve Gardiner, engineman, and firefighters Jim Duckett and Charlie Phelps. When we arrived on location, there was little smoke, Engine 282’s crew with Pat Bauer had extended a handline down to the basement and extinguished the fire. I spoke with Pat, doubled checked his work; found everything to be satisfactory and all units were placed back in-service. That was the last time I would see Firefighter Patrick Bauer.
(Odenton's Engine 282. A 1970 Seagrave, 1,000 GPM. 500 GAL/WT - Engine 271's sister engine. Photos of Engine 211 and 282 Courtesy of Joseph McDonald - Credit to the photographer)
DECEMBER 25, 1976, WAS ONE OF THE BUSIEST CHRISTMAS DAYS EVER in the history of the Anne Arundel County Fire Service. In addition to the run-of-the-mill medical boxes, auto fires, and alarm soundings there was an eight-alarm dump fire on Capital Raceway Road off of Route #3 in Gambrills during the late afternoon.
The burning dump fire along with a mountain of rubber vehicle tires tied up fire companies for hours fighting the fires, shuttling water and transferring to empty fire stations.
Firefighter Doug Wilson, working as engineman at Company 7 on Christmas day would later state that it was the busiest shift he would ever work as an engineman throughout his career. He responded to two working dwelling fires in Crofton, some miscellaneous calls and was the first engine in on the big tire and dump fire and the shift wasn’t over.
At the house located next door to Brooklyn Park’s Station 31, the Driggers’ family had been celebrating a festive Christmas. George Jr. had been home all day spending time with his family.
Around 10 p.m. he received a call from Company 34 (Ferndale VFD) where he had been a member for the past six months. Due to all of the fires, the station was short of volunteers and wanted George to report to the station to help out.
George Sr. told his 16-year-old son, “No.” It was Christmas, and young George needed to stay home with his family. According to George Jr.’s younger sister Theresa, George Jr. and his dad argued for a while. She recently stated that the two argued until her dad eventually gave in and suggested that George Jr. ask his mom – who said, “Yes, you can go.”
At approximately 11 p.m. a member of the fire station picked up George, and that was the last time the family would ever see him.
By midnight most of the fire activity had simmered down. At the Ferndale VFD, Company 34, the crew backed Engine 343 into the station after battling the dump fire all evening. Volunteer firefighters were assisting Engineman William “Rocky” McDonald in washing down the new Seagrave engine.
Firefighter Charlie Baublitz had jumped into the shower to clean up before going to bed. Baublitz was covering for “C” Shift Firefighter Jim Lentz, who had taken the shift off to spend Christmas with his family.
After midnight, light snow started to fall which for the next couple of hours would blanket the area in about a half-inch of white cover. With the snow falling and the houses decorated with colorful lights, a drive along Belle Grove Road through the intersection of West Riverview Road looked like a wintery scene on a Christmas card. All seemed quiet and peaceful.
However in an end row home located on the Southeast corner of West Riverview and Cortez roads, as a tired family slept after a full day of opening gifts and holiday cheer, an out of control fire was working its way into the finished basement from the rear utility room beneath the kitchen floor where it started.
At approximately 2:30 a.m. in the front second-floor bedroom located at 213 West Riverview Road, 44-year-old Charlie Kunkle, a longshoreman who worked Baltimore’s docks as a marine carpenter, woke-up. He spotted smoke and told his wife Helen that he thought the house was on fire.
They got up to alert their children, Katherine, 15 and Jeffrey, 8, who were both sleeping in a rear bedroom, however, the kids were already up and on their feet. Everyone met in the smoke-filled hallway above the stairway leading down to the living room.
As the coughing and eye burning foursome cautiously inched their way down the smoke-filled staircase to the front door visibility was down to zero. They could feel the extreme heat. Kunkle believed the floor might collapse and pushed the children and his wife back up the stairs. In the confusion that followed, Helen somehow managed to make it out the front door.
At the Fire Alarm office, located on the first floor of Anne Arundel County Fire Department Headquarters in Millersville, Firefighters Eric Smith, George Wagner (on light duty for a broken leg) and Lieutenant George Andre were recovering from a hectic night.
The alarm center had been “rockin” since the three of them arrived for duty at 5 p.m. Smith, who was assigned to Truck 23 (Jones Station) was working overtime at the center so a member of the regular shift could be off for the holiday.
At around 2:30 a.m., Smith picked up and answered a ringing phone as a resident called in and reported a dwelling fire at 213 West Riverview Road. Smith quickly started the tone generator to alert the north county stations and verbally announced the box alarm on the Channel #1 radio frequency.
“Box 11, Companies 31 (Brooklyn), 32 (Linthicum), 34 (Ferndale) and Truck 31 respond to a dwelling fire at 213 West Riverview Road near Belle Grove Road.”
(The Brooklyn Fire Station, Ritchie Highway and 11th Ave. Truck 31, A Pirsch 85' Ladder Truck and one of the Pirsch engines, 1250 GPM 300 GAL/WT take in the sun on the station's front ramp. Circa - Mid '70s. Photo - Atkinson.
After the companies responded verbally, reporting their status on the air, Fire Alarm announced that they have received multiple reports of people trapped.
With a report of people trapped and the possibility of injury, Fire Alarm contacted Station 31 on the station “hotline” phone to dispatch Paramedic 31. Firefighter-Medics* Jack Simms and Bill Metcalf, quickly put on their work uniforms, hustled down the stairs, jumped into the Swab-truck-box paramedic unit and headed for West Riverview Road.
Back on West Riverview, Katherine followed by Jeffrey rushed into the bathroom to wash their stinging eyes with water. Struggling to breathe, the pair worked their way into the back bedroom.
Katherine opened and then climbed out of a window simultaneously pulling her brother Jeffery to the sill. With her mom and a neighbor watching from the ground, Katherine somehow balanced herself on a telephone line in an attempt to grab Jeffery and drop him down to the neighbor.
However, in the process, Jeffrey passed out and fell out of the window to the sidewalk below, near the cellar way steps. The fall caused a severe laceration on the back of his head. Katherine somehow slid down an electric cable attached to the brick exterior and made it safely to the ground.
From his 2nd-floor bedroom window in the front of the dwelling, Charlie Kunkle climbed out to an awning over the front door porch. His wife Helen who surprisingly made it out was standing in front of the house. She hollered up to Charlie that the kids were now out and located in the back of the house.
Brooklyn's Engine 312 (’67 Pirsch), with Firefighter Tom Hnyla, relief engineman, Lieutenant Donald Gibson and Firefighter Richard Anderson, stopped and laid out at a hydrant located on Belle Grove Road just South of West Riverview Road.
(Brooklyn's Engine 312 A 1967 Pirsch, 1250 GPM 300 GAL/WT. Credit to the photographer)
As Anderson, started hooking up the mueshaw valve* to the fire hydrant, Engine 312 proceeded to the fire laying out a three-inch supply hose.
Hnyla pulled the engine to a halt in front of the smoking dwelling, Lieutenant Gibson got out to make a size-up of the situation. Moments later Truck 31 (’59 Pirsch 85’ aerial) pulled behind the engine with Firefighter’s Gary Scheckells (driver) and Patrick Bauer, riding shot-gun.
As Bauer bottled up, Scheckells, chocked the truck’s wheels, then carried a ladder and placed it in front of the dwelling so Kunkle could climb down to safety.
(Linthicum's Engine 321. A 1961 American-Ford. 750 GPM 400 GAL/WT was second due on Box 11 - Photo - Atkinson)
Engine 321 with Firefighter Ramon Hodgson, relief engineman, pulled up to the Belle Grove Road hydrant with Lieutenant James Booker and Firefighter Robert Bailey. Anderson, after attaching the mueshaw valve** to the hydrant, was relieved of his responsibilities once Engine 321 arrived.
It was now Hodgson’s job to turn on the hydrant, hook lines to the mueshaw hydrant valve and pump the water to the fire. Anderson double-timed it to the fire ground, followed soon after by Booker and Bailey after they bottled up in their SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus.
**(The hydrant valve allows a second engine to hook-up to a hydrant that is already opened and flowing water to the fire ground via a hose line. The device enables the second engine to pump additional water and pressure without interrupting the flow of water to the engine located on the fire ground)
As smoke poured from the two-story row-home Lieutenant Gibson had his hands full. There was now a small band of community members in the front yard of the dwelling trying to help out. Gibson was trying to determine - who was out and if anyone was still trapped inside and just as important – where was the location of the fire?
Before Scheckells could team back up with Bauer, Gibson grabbed Scheckells and ordered him to the back of the dwelling to provide medical treatment to the injured Jeffrey.
Gibson told him to stay with the kid until the paramedics relieved him. (In 1976, paramedics were technically cardiac rescue technicians (CRTs); however, they were always referred to as paramedics).
Scheckells found the boy bleeding badly from the head. He was also soaked from the elements, in shock and shivering from the cold. Scheckells took off his fire protective bunker coat and covered him, ran to the engine for the first-aid-kit and then back to Jeffrey to administer medical aid.
Ferndale's Engine 343 (’76 Seagrave) turned onto West Riverview Road, swung around the passenger side of Engine 312, and proceeded to set up on the Cortez Road side of the burning structure; however, a car stopped in the middle of Cortez Road (someone parked there trying to help) obstructed the engine.
Charles Baublitz jumped out of the engine to move it as volunteer firefighters Ray Russell, Alan Bartlett and Frank Pleyo riding in the enclosed cab bottled-up. Sixteen-year-old volunteer George Driggers did not have on an SCBA bottle at that point.
Fortunately, the keys were still in the ignition and Baublitz moved the vehicle as McDonald pulled the engine closer to the side of the dwelling unit. Once stopped, McDonald put the pump in gear and dragged a three-inch supply line hose back to Engine 312.
As McDonald helped Hnyla hook up the supply line to the engine, Anderson, Bauer, and Bailey, fully equipped with SCBA were advancing a one-and-a-half-inch attack hose through the front door.
Lieutenant Booker was removing ladders from Truck 31 and raising them to the second story windows in the front. Engine 321 charged 31’s supply hose with additional pressure and water. Hnyla charged the attack hose with water from his engine’s 300-gallon booster tank.
Firefighter Hnyla was experiencing problems with Engine 312’s radio. He could transmit but not receive. After Booker climbed the ladders and used an ax to take out the second-story windows at the front of the dwelling, he was made aware of the radio problems that Hnyla was experiencing.
Booker immediately ran over to the pump panel of Engine 343 and told McDonald to contact fire alarm and transfer the fire ground command post from Engine 312 to 343. He also ordered McDonald to request an additional truck company.
Before around-the-clock battalion chiefs and incident command procedures, fire ground officers quite often co-managed the fire scene. As Booker managed operations in the front, Gibson handled the back of the burning unit. Both would meet at intervals on the side of the house to discuss the decisions each one made.
Charlie Baublitz pulled the one-and-a-half-inch pre-connect attack hose from Engine 343 and advanced it to the rear of the dwelling as McDonald charged it with water under pressure. Three of Company 34’s volunteer firefighters, bottled-up, put on their face pieces and entered the front door.
Driggers seeing his fellow firefighters entering the front door as dark smoke poured out of the dwelling no doubt felt the need to help them. He hustled back to his engine found and donned an SCBA. He eventually entered the dwelling unknown to anyone.
Inside there was some confusion trying to locate the fire, but the three-person crew made up of Anderson, Bauer, and Bailey, crawling on their knees with one hand on the hose and the other on the floor, was able to sweep the living and dining rooms to complete the primary search.
Finally, after seeing flames blowing from the kitchen through to the dining room, the crew with Anderson on the nozzle knocked down the fire in the kitchen. Once in the kitchen, Anderson left the nozzle and crawled to the exterior kitchen door and opened it.
Anderson quickly rejoined Bauer and Bailey, and the team started down the basement stairs when a ball of orange flame shot over them – Anderson opened the nozzle swinging it and its spray-fog pattern around in a combination attack and knocked down the fire.
Anderson would later state, “From the kitchen, we proceeded down the steps. Sure, we knew it was a worker, and we attacked it in textbook fashion, confident in our ability to knock down the fire. In fact, we were so self-assured that we simply sat on the steps and plopped [down] from one to the next on our butts.”
Company 34’s firefighters after crawling through the dining room were now entering the kitchen, and Bailey believed that there were too many. The fire attack had become cumbersome as the newly arrived firefighters began pushing against one another. Confusion heightened as voices tried to communicate with one another through the hard to speak-through face pieces – visibility was near zero.
In the rear and side of the dwelling, Baublitz kicked the basement windows out and could now see the flames. He advised Lieutenant Gibson that it might be a good time to get the crews inside out – Gibson agreed. The lieutenant instructed Baublitz to knock down as much fire as he could from the basement window. Gibson was getting the crews out.
Back inside a blue ball of flame, flashed across the ceiling of the basement stairway up into the kitchen. Anderson again opened the nozzle to knock down the fire.
In the rear of the house, Scheckells was relieved by Firefighter-Medics Simms and Metcalf, now that Paramedic 31 was on location. Scheckells ran to the medic unit picked up a blanket and ran back to young injured Jeffery. He removed his bunker coat from his patient and covered him with a blanket. Scheckells was now ready to get back into the firefight.
Appreciating the seriousness of the situation, the medics wisely requested via Engine 343 an additional paramedic unit. Fire Alarm dispatched Paramedic 32, and they were quickly on the air responding.
Scheckells kneeled on the sidewalk next to the house and snapped the clips of his turnout coat when a strange sensation came over him – it got very quiet, and it seemed to him that the wind picked up. Charlie Baublitz felt the same sensation in the back of the house – he had a bad feeling that something terrible was going to happen.
Inside, the crew of Anderson, Bauer, and Bailey were working the nozzle down the wooden basement stairs when they ran out of water. Anderson just figured that Hynla was changing over from the tank to the pump – which at times could cause a momentary lapse in the water flow. But the hose “remained limp,” and Anderson told Bailey to follow the hose line back out and check for kinks.
As Bailey checked for kinks, Anderson and Bauer withdrew to the top of the steps. Suddenly, there was an explosion, and a massive fireball shot up the basement stairway ceiling, across the kitchen, through the dining room, and into the living room. The living room lit-up in a bright orange glow.
Outside Scheckells watched as panes of glass shattered from the rear second-floor windows and pieces of glass fell on top of him mixed with the falling snow. Booker who had returned to the front of the dwelling watched as Bailey “bailed” out of the front door on “all fours” as the living room burst into flames.
Engine 312’s diesel revved up as the pump took-off pumping air. They were out of water, but surprisingly the three-inch line hose attached to the intake valve of the engine was hard as a rock.
Hnyla, suspecting that something mechanically had gone wrong with the pump, suggested to Booker to call for another engine. Booker again dashed over to Engine 343 to request another engine from Fire Alarm.
There was mass confusion inside the house as the majority of firefighters believed they were trapped, rooms were becoming extremely hot, and all crews were out of water.
Streaking flames interwoven with the smoke could be observed above. The crew crouched low, some hugging the floor, firefighters in all three rooms. Anderson would later say that the flames were only a few feet from the floor.
(A flashover in a room of another structure fire. Anderson would later say that the flames were only a few feet from the floor - we can only imagine - photo - Credit to the photographer)
Anderson, aware of the rear kitchen door, tried to calm everyone down. He even grabbed a couple of anxious firefighters and instructed them to follow his arm as he pointed in the direction of the rear door – two firefighters followed his instructions.
In the door opening between the dining room and kitchen, Anderson could hear members hollering, but communications were muffled due to the voice clarity limitations of the face pieces.
Anderson could hear additional muffled voices from the dining room - living room area. He would holler back trying to get the attention of someone, hoping they would crawl toward him – they didn’t.
Holding out as long as he could, Anderson, withdrew to the rear kitchen doorway and crawled quickly outside on the small porch into the awaiting arms of Lieutenant Gibson.
As Anderson described the situation inside to his lieutenant, he and Gibson both crawled back into the kitchen for one last search. In the front of the house, Booker and Bailey pulled a two-and-a-half inch attack hose off of Engine 312, advanced it to the front door, but there was no water.
In the rear, Baublitz could hear what sounded like hollering inside as an injured firefighter crawled out of the rear dining room window. He opened up his line to knock the fire in the dining room but soon ran out of water.
Scheckells could hear the hollering from inside and tried to get up to the living room window on the side of the house. Flames were now blowing out from the tops of the windows that were too high off the ground to reach into, but too low to use a ladder on.
Seeing a picnic table nearby, Scheckells smartly pulled it beneath the living room window. Standing on the table, he could still hear the hollering and was trying to talk the trapped firefighter to him.
The trapped firefighter now found the side dining room window; however the top of his air bottle was caught on one of the widow sashes preventing his escape. It was Bauer.
At the dining room window, Gibson lifted Scheckells onto his back, and Scheckells "bear" hugged Bauer pulling him from the burning window. Scheckells along with Gibson fell backward with Scheckells' back hitting the ground with a smoldering Bauer on top of him.
In less than 14 minutes from the time 31’s crew arrived on location, the entire incident had gone to hell.
Kathrine Kunkle, sitting in the passenger seat of Paramedic 31 in the alley at the rear of the house would later say that she was looking at the colored lights on the Christmas tree through the dining room window. The tree located in the living room disappeared within a second as the room enveloped into bright orange flames.
She had no idea as she watched the firestorm invade the first floor of her home that the cute brown hair sixteen-year-old teenager who sat behind her in a nearby Brooklyn Park H.S. classroom and was always bragging about the Ferndale VFD was caught in the throes of the storm.
(The double set of windows on the lower left rear of the house are the dining room windows that Kathrine Kunkle could see from the paramedic unit as the room enveloped into bright orange flames. Photo - Credit to the photographer)
AROUND 6 a.m. ON SUNDAY MORNING, December 26, 1976, I drove my Volkswagen to Station 21 (Harmans-Dorsey) from my home in Woodlawn Heights off of Linwood Avenue.
After celebrating a full day of Christmas with my family, I was totally unaware of all of the fire activity that had occurred the day before and that morning only four miles to the north of where I lived.
The roads were all covered with about one-half-inch of snow. When I drove past the station, the first thing I noticed was the engine tracks on the snow-covered apron. The engine bay was empty and the new Mack ladder truck in storage, designated Truck 5, was located in the adjacent bay.
I was first in the station followed shortly by Firefighters Frank Hannon, Tony Freeburger and Duke Hasselhoff. I was working the day half of “A” shift for Lieutenant Jim Bostic who had taken leave. I picked up the station hotline phone to find out where the engine was and if the crew needed to be relieved on the fire ground.
Fire Alarm Operator Al Prevost answered the phone. He said the engine was on its way back from a three-alarm dwelling fire on West Riverview Road in Brooklyn. He added that a firefighter was killed and another was at the hospital.
As I hung up the phone I was stunned. We never had a firefighter killed in a fire before and who was the firefighter in the hospital? Maybe it was all a mistake and Prevost was passing on a bad rumor.
When the station’s rear overhead door opened and the new Seagrave, Engine 211, came rumbling into the building with Firefighter Richard "Doc" Stone driving, Lieutenant Melvin Thomas Sr. and Firefighter Charles Parks, I walked across the tile bay floor to meet them.
When the diesel engine was shut off, you could hear a pin drop. The silence and ashen faces of the crew revealed to me that something was definitely wrong. As I greeted Thomas, he looked up at me and said that "Bauer" was burned really bad, shook his head and continued to walk by.
Stone and Parks didn’t say a word and went about their business in silence. It was the start of a shift where the station phone would ring all day long as information about the fire was passed back and forth until we could conceive a picture in our minds as to what happened. There were many questions.
On that morning at 213 West Riverview Road, Bauer was transported to University of Maryland Shock Trauma by Paramedic 32 with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 75% of his body (mostly thighs, hands and arms). Simultaneously a Second-Alarm was requested and around 4 a.m. a Third Alarm was also called.
Special called Engine 331 (Glen Burnie - ’75 Ward La France) arrived, with Lieutenant Dave Bond, Firefighters Charlie Phelps, relief engineman, and Michael Schultheis. They laid a second supply line from Engine 321 at the hydrant to Engine 312. Water supply was re-established on the fire ground.
Special called Truck 32 (Linthicum - ’71 Seagrave 100’ aerial-tractor-trailer) was now located on Cortez Road behind the structure. The truck's crew members were Firefighter’s Melvin Morrison, Jack Reckner and David Dohler who worked the hose lines in the rear.
Suppression activities picked back up. The three members of T-32 had knocked down some of the fire on the first floor, laddered the 2nd floor and were now hitting the fire in the rear bedroom that Kathlene and Jeffrey had managed to escape from nearly a-half-an-hour earlier.
Second alarm Engine 261 (South Glen Burnie - ’73 Ward La France) arrived in the front of the building with Lieutenant Bill Poteet, Firefighters James Swinimer, relief driver, and Leroy Mitchell.
Days later at Bauer's funeral, Swinimer shared with me that the scene was unimaginable. Seeing flames still blowing from all of the windows and through the roof; ground ladders melted and sagging at the top, the upper section of the front aluminum storm door and awning melted and twisted – all gave Swinimer a sense that something terribly wrong went down here. It was bad.
("Something terribly wrong went down here. It was bad." Firefighter James Swinimer (Captain-Retired) - Photo - Credit to the photographer)
Approximately 40 minutes after Bauer was transported to shock trauma, Truck 32’s crew of Morrison, Reckner and Dohler was working on the 2nd floor with Engine 181’s crew (Marley Park) in support. Volunteer Firefighter Cliff Noland, Company 18 heard a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) low-pressure alarm sounding.
Hearing SCBA alarms going off on the fire ground is quite common, but the wearer usually shuts off the alarm bell by turning the bottle off and releasing air built-up in the regulator. As this bell continued to sound, it was determined that the alarm was coming from the dining room (first floor) area of the dwelling.
Noland, working with Lieutenant Poteet, who now was supervising operations in the rear of the house, entered the dining room and requested help when he found a downed firefighter.
Someone brought in a Circle “D” light to illuminate the area as Noland tried to get a pulse, then breathed through the victim’s nose – there was no response and it was assumed that the firefighter was deceased.
Reckner brought in a ground ladder and with additional firefighters assisting from Company 18, lifted the body up on the ladder, to and out the rear dining room window.
Outside, paramedics from 33’s unit confirmed what Noland already knew – the down firefighter was deceased. After officers conducted a head count among the companies, it was determined that the deceased was 16-year-old volunteer firefighter George Driggers Jr. His body was transported to South Baltimore Hospital by Paramedic 33.
George’s younger sister Theresa recently stated, “I would like to share that my big brother Georgie, which is what I called him, was the most thoughtful, kindest, caring person you could ever meet. His heart was as big as this world.
Anyone who knew him would say the same. If you needed him, he would be there come hell or high water. He was the best big brother any little girl could ask for.”
Sixteen-year-old George Driggers Jr., who always wanted to be a firefighter and never attended a formal fire-training program, was buried in Meadowridge Cemetery, in Elkridge, MD at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday, December 29, 1976.
While north county fire companies were battling the Riverview Road fire, a second multiple alarm fire broke out at the Harundale Presbyterian church located at Eastway and Guiford Road in Glen Burnie.
Lieutenant (Retired) Michael Tewey remembers responding to the fire on Engine 332 (Glen Burnie) as a volunteer. He said that he could see the fire from the building as the engine crest the hill at southbound Ritchie Highway and 5th Avenue.
Deputy Chief (Retired-BcoFD) Michael Robinson remembers responding from Company 12 (Earleigh Heights) in Engine 121. For young volunteer firefighter Robinson it had been a very busy night.
Earlier Company 12 worked on the 8 Alarm Dump fire (Capital Raceway Road) and a working dwelling fire in Severna Park. Robinson further stated that on the engine that morning was Firefighter Waters Tucker, driving, Firefighter George Eber, Deputy-Chief (Retired) Frank Stokes as a young volunteer and himself.
At the church fire, his crew was able to get one of the first attack lines on the incendiary fire which was confined to an office. Robinson also shared that Paramedic (Retired) Dan Jarzynski, a volunteer officer with Company 33 was OIC.
Later that morning, Doug Wilson and his shift firefighter DelI Horsman transferred with Engine 71 to Company 26 (South Glen Burnie) following the church fire.
No sooner did they back Engine 71 into the station and notify fire alarm of their arrival, the big station doors opened and Jim Swinimer backed in Engine 261.
Doug later shared with me the following: “While there [at Company 26], I'll never forget the look on [Lieutenant] Bill Poteet's face when he came in the day room and told us about Pat and Driggers. And the fact that Pat was in grave condition. I remember feeling sick to my stomach.”
Doug Wilson further stated, “When Pat passed away, and until even now. I often wonder if things would have been different if I hadn't called him to work and had worked the shift myself. I had long conversations with Robert Bailey about the fire and what all happened that night.”
ON MONDAY MORNING, DECEMBER 27, 1976, “B” shift was on duty at Company 21. At around 10 a.m., as we were washing down the Seagrave pumper, a tone went out over channel-one of the fire department radio.
Fire alarm announced that FIREFIGHTER PATRICK BAUER HAD DIED IN THE LINE-OF-DUTY – FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS TO FOLLOW.
We were all stunned - From the information we had at the time, we knew it was bad, but we didn't think that bad.
This was all new ground for me. I never experienced anything like this since I started out as a volunteer in 1967. I still feel a little shaken when I think of that announcement.
The following “B” Shift, early in the morning of Friday, January 31, Company 21 was dispatched to respond to a 2nd Alarm dwelling fire on Minta Court in North Linthicum, Company 32’s area. As we were responding north on Route 170, the channel 2 radio seemed very quiet for a 2nd alarm fire.
When we arrived at the fire scene, the fire was knocked down and under control. Only steam was being emitted from the dwelling. It was horribly cold. Small groups of firefighters were standing around in silence.
I walked up to Lieutenant Jack Griffith, OIC Company 32, to see what he wanted us to do. He said to hold on for a bit “we’re just about done.” He didn’t want to release us until he was sure that the fire was completely out.
As the motors of the fire apparatus rumbled on the fire ground, no one spoke, firefighters just stood around in little groups with the “one-hundred-mile stare.” It was eerie.
Doug Wilson was working Truck 32 on this night. He shared the following: “The fire on Minta Ct was our first worker after Pat died. We were all nervous and jacked up. I remember the house being tight and hot. Ray Hodgson and I were almost holding hands while doing the first-floor search. Somehow Charlie Boyer got the [attack hose] line while we did the search. He took the line down the hall [and the fire] flashed back over his head."
"Ray and I made it through the first floor to the rear door. Went out came around front and got back on the line with Charlie. Griffith almost pulled us out, but we got a good knock on it. But I can tell you, all our asses were tight when we first made entry into that house. We all said when we got back out, that Pat was looking out for us.”
It turned out to be a basement fire with a ground level entrance. Thirty-two (32’s) crew was able to hold it in check on the first floor while another crew (probably 31) hit the fire from the basement door.
Friday, January 31, 1976, a sunny but very cold New Years Eve, is a day that I will never forget for the rest of my life. We, after the most mournful, somber, yet stunning and spectacular funeral I have ever attended, buried 21-year-old Firefighter Patrick Bauer.
A mass was held at the Resurrection of our Lord Catholic Church located on Brockbridge Road in Maryland City. The building was packed - standing room only. Outside, grieving firefighters, police officers, family, and friends stood by and offered their respect. Firefighters and police officers attending were from all over the State including Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
In the church sanctuary, members of the Fire Department Honor Guard stood at attention on each side of the casket. The honor guards consisted of Firefighters Stephen Collins and I think, Calvin Holmes (or Fred Jones, I’m not sure) – all were members of Bauer’s Recruit Class 11.
Later when someone asked Collins how he was able to stand at attention for over an hour, he said he counted every ceiling tile in the church that he could see straight ahead, over and over.
When we left the church, Engine 312 (driven by Firefighter-engineman Jim Koch) carried the gasket. Engine 282 followed to represent, Bauer’s assigned station engine ( driver unknown) and Engine 271 (driven by Firefighter-engineman Jim Amrhein and Bill Hein riding shotgun) followed to represent Bauer’s volunteer station. All engines were draped with black bunting.
The funeral procession was unimaginable. It was led by numerous helmeted police officers riding motor-cycles, followed by the three engines, fire administration and prevention vehicles carrying family, honor guard and funeral detail.
Other official vehicles from jurisdictions near and far joined in creating a cortege of mourners that stretched for three miles. On the southbound lane of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, traffic was backed up for miles from Rt. 198.
As the procession slowly passed the Maryland City VFD Station (Company 27) on Fort Meade Road, the entire membership including career personnel were standing at attention in front of Engine 272 (’56 Mack – old E-211 and E-322).
A member firefighter slowly “tolled” the engine’s bell – the entire scene put tears in my eyes and the hair stood up on the back of my neck each time I heard the clang of the bell – the tribute was very impressive, respectful and touching.
When we arrived at the Cedar Hill Cemetery off of Pennsylvania Avenue in Prince Georges County near the Washington D.C. line, there were two ladder trucks at the entrance with their aerial ladders extended and crossed over the entrance way.
One truck was from Washington, D.C. FD, the other from PGCo.FD Truck #26 (District Heights). I remember Lieutenant Nelson Pyle seated next to me in the car saying something like, "Oh God here we go." I was numb and speechless.
Arriving at the burial site members of the funeral detail boarded the tailboard and hose bed of Engine 312 to retrieve and lower the casket to the pallbearers. Since many AACo.FD firefighters did not have the heavy fire department issued coats, all uniform personnel were required to wear only the winter (light weight) dress blues.
I remember standing on the tailboard of Engine 312 and the wind blowing. It was freezing. The shivering raced through my body despite a layer of long underwear beneath my winter dress blues. It was the coldest I have ever been in my life and since. Later, most everyone in the detail would admit a similar experience.
I felt very privileged that the family chose me to be a part of the funeral detail. Lieutenant Nelson Pyle was also selected and was designated as the OIC of the detail – he did a superb job. The funeral, attended by what could have easily numbered over a thousand was an impressive sight.
Lieutenant Pyle walked in front of the casket. Pallbearers: Firefighters Richard Anderson, Doug Shanks, Scott Bierman, Keith Hammack, Ray Phillips, and Will Budzynski carried the casket. Firefighters David Bond, Paul Hibbard and I followed as alternates.
(Funeral Photo - Credit to the Photographer)
Lieutenant John Riggin, a Marine veteran, barked out orders as the huge mass consisting of hundreds of uniformed personnel snapped to attention and a bugler played taps. It was all very sad and many cried. I was shaking from head to toe, my teeth were chattering – I think it was just as much the emotional feelings I was experiencing as it was the cold.
Retired AACo.FD Battalion Chiefs Scott Bierman and Vic Lindsey were childhood friends of Pat and Mike Bauer. They attended school together, Boy Scouts and later they all joined the Maryland City VFD. Before Pat’s death, he was a roommate of Scott. They lived in a house located in Chapelgate, near Odenton.
Doug Wilson would later state, “Pat and I went to High School together. We were friends, and not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about him and what happened that night in Brooklyn.”
After the funeral, Bierman had a wonderful idea for a tribute to Pat Bauer. He wanted to make sure Engine 272’s bell never rang again. As a career shift firefighter assigned to Maryland City VFD, he and fellow firefighter pump operator Jim Amrhein not only removed the bell’s caliper; they removed the bell from the old Mack engine and placed it in storage.
With permission from Chief Harry Klasmeier, AACo.FD Fire Administrator, Bierman had the bell mounted on varnished wood with a plaque in memory of Bauer. The wood and plaque were donated by Mr. Wilcox of Thompson's Jewelers in Maryland City.
In late 1977, the Bell was mounted on the west wall of the dayroom in the newly constructed and open Fire Station 5 – Waugh Chapel. The memorial remains there to this day. It states:
THIS BELL TOLLED THE LAST CALL FOR FIREFIGHTER
PATRICK A. BAUER
FEB 25, 1955 – DEC 27, 1976
(Bauer Bell and Plaque at AACoFD Station 5, Courtesy of Scott Bierman, Battalion Chief - Retired. Photos by Firefighter Theodore Speier, Station 5 "C" Shift)
What happened that morning at the end row house located at 213 West Riverview Road?
I have asked myself that question over and over again for the past forty-five years. I’m even asking myself the question as I re-write this article for 2022.
Many would say that a “Backdraft” occurred. However, backdrafts typically occur when a burning building that has been closed up with extreme fire temperatures explodes when fresh air is admitted into it at or below the fire level.
At Riverview, a number of windows had already been taken out, the front door and rear doors were open, the side windows must have been taken out, otherwise, Scheckells would have never heard Bauer hollering for help.
The 2nd floor rear bedroom windows were open from the escape of the children, yet the glass remaining along with the bathroom windows blew out at the rear.
A flash-over typically consist of an ignition of smoke at the ceiling level when the surrounding combustibles reach their ignition temperature. In this situation, fire flashes across the ceiling. This did occur. But the blue flame - Maybe a gas leak?
Anderson, Bailey, Scheckells, and Baublitz, who were all located at different parts of the structure when the event occurred, said it was an explosion. No doubt running out of water perpetuated the event. It was found out later that pebbles and debris from the hydrant clogged the gated intake connection on Engine 312.
Hnyla wisely emptied and collected the debris into a bucket. The bucket of debris was sent to training where personnel recreated the same scenario with the same engine and the strainer clogged again.
If the crew never ran out of water, this entire event may have ended as a routine dwelling fire.
Did the attack line placed into the basement window blow the products of combustion up the staircase? We will never surely know.
This is why I have chosen the name “Perfect Fire” since there were so many contributing factors and phenomena happening all at the precise time. It is very possible that a combination of a gas leak (which they eventually had to shut off because of a broken pipe in the front of the basement) backdraft (in the closed-up 2nd-floor bathroom) and flashover all occurred at the same
As a result of the fire, the county executive, Robert Pascal, heavily persuaded by the Firefighters Union, Local #1563, initiated a fire department management study.
The main result of the study was to implement battalion chiefs around the clock. The chiefs would not be assigned, along with the creation of the 4th Battalion until late winter 1978.
For me, from that day forward, I always wore my bunker pants when responding to structure fires until they would be required to be worn in the mid-1980s (Bauer was wearing ¾ rubber boots over his gray work uniform trousers). In addition to his hands and forearms, the front of his thighs that were not protected by protective clothing (bunker pants) received some of the worst burns.
Up until the day I retired, I always called for double supply hose lines when confronted with a basement fire and a second line for any working fire (later large diameter hose, for the most part, made this practice obsolete).
I was often criticized for this, but now everyone should know why.
On Tuesday morning, December 28, 1976, after my shift was over, I visited the burned out dwelling on West Riverview Road. I walked up to the aluminum front storm door. It was scorched black and melted at the very top. The bottom was fine – it was not even black or brown in color from the heat.
This evidence should establish that even though the living room was burning, it would have been tenable at the floor level to make an escape – by staying low Bauer and Driggers could have followed the limp hose line out - Bailey did!
There are many lessons to be learned from this fire.
May Patrick Bauer and George Driggers Jr. Rest In Peace and God Bless the Bauer and Driggers Families.
I would like to thank Theresa Driggers Bush, Rick Anderson, Scott Bierman, Michael Bauer, Gary Rogers, Eric Smith, Mike Wiley, Michael Tewey, Doug Wilson, William R. Metcalf and Michael W. Robinson for contributing to this article.
Front of dwelling from one of Murray's Books provided by Chuck Morris Jr.
Funeral Detail - Sun Clipping
Bauer Memorial Bell - provided by Scott Bierman
Note - In the photo of front of dwelling, the large aluminum awning that Mr. Kunkle escaped from had been removed earlier by firefighters.
Comments from the 2015 Facebook Post:
Joel Feldman - Great read Chief Joseph Ross. I had the privilege to work at station 31 for 11 years of my career, most of them assigned to Truck 31. I was even more privileged to work with Engineman Tom Hnyla for 4 of those years. We spoke of the incident briefly on occasions but it was always apparent to me the Tommy was still living with the nightmare of that fire.
I have seen the plaque on the side of the engine and ridden by the home on many occasions and often thought of Pat even though I never met him. During my career, I responded to a great deal of fires in Brooklyn, very similar to the one that night. Although I am sure that the tragedy of that night lives with many of our brothers that were there, it no doubt helped to change the ways that the department operated from that time forward.
The only good thing that comes from a LODD is the education that we get from it. Although my life may have not turned out quite the way I planned, I wouldn't trade those 11 years at the best firehouse in the world for a million dollars!!! Take care Chief and have a great New Year!!!
Joseph Ross - Thanks Joel Feldman for your kind words and thoughts. Yes, I to worked with Hynla when he was roving in the 2nd Battalion in '85-'86 and for four years when I was at Battalion #1, B-Shift and Tom worked at 31.
When he was at the pump panel or the turntable of the truck, I never worried. He always knew his job. We never discussed the fire. But the most important thing with these articles is for civilians to be safer and appreciate what firefighters do.
Firefighters must take from this practices that assist them to work safer, especially with all of the comments and refections, then we all accomplish something positive. Thanks again for sharing and you and your family Joel have a Happy New Year.
Darryl Lee Despeaux - Thank You again. Happy New Year. Thirty-nine Years have passed and I still grieve and also wonder..What If...
Jackie Bauer - Thanks for your recollection of Patrick's funeral. The funeral and the numbers of people that attended was an amazing tribute to my brother Patrick. My family appreciated then, and continues to appreciate your efforts to preserve the memory of Patrick and the ultimate sacrifice he made in the line of duty. God bless you all and Happy New Year!
Rick Anderson - Pat Bauer and George Driggers, Jr. entered that blazing building with one thing in mind--to rescue the people who were reportedly trapped inside. It's the greatest tribute anyone can pay to another by going into harm's way to help that person who is in peril.
That doesn't mean sacrificing your life that another might live. It means putting your life at 99% risk while doing a job which we all knew was dangerous when we took it on. I never had the honor of knowing George. The first time I consciously saw him was at his viewing.
I knew Pat. He'd often quipped that if he had to go, he wanted to go in a blaze of glory. He was kidding, but that's what happened and he remained brave toward the end. When Schekells risked his own safety to pull Pat out of the window, we knew--and Pat knew--that it was as bad as it gets.
Pat sought to put all of us at ease by joking, "This is a helluva way to lose weight." We should all also say a special thanks to Pat Prendergast, who fought hard to attend to Pat while en route to the hospital by trying to establish an IV and to do all the other things that we do to assist one another.
But when Bauer stopped Prendergast for a moment and asked him to join him in reciting the Lord's Prayer, Prendergast never hesitated in attending to Bauer's soul--along with his physical injuries. It was a tough night, it broke my heart, but we learned lessons that have undoubtedly saved other fire fighter's lives since.
Joseph Ross - Thanks Rick - Nicely stated from someone who was at Ground Zero that morning.
Skip Carey - Great read chief.
Jeff Stauffer - Well researched and documented. Thank you for telling the story of a fire that was mimicked on DC's Cherry Road.
Jennifer Bauer Thank you for these beautifully written articles. They mean a lot to our family.
George Eber - Joe Great read, brought back memories. I recall pulling up on the church fire and Rummy [Firefighter/Paramedic Joe Rumenap] coming up to me saying "there are no officers here" Not sure where he was working that night. Thanks again.
Joseph Ross - George, if my memory serves me correctly, Rumenap was tillering Truck 33.
Benny Wolford - Chief as young firefighter with only almost 10 years on the job in the county I absolutely love reading your stories. I tell all the new guys that show true interest in the job to friend request you and read up on our history because its important. Have a great new year chief! (Thanks Ben - JBR)
George Gadbois Jr - Thank you Chief. I read and shared a previous version you wrote.
Marty A Hammond Jr. - Great story. I had seen the bell at 5 and only heard bits and pieces of the story. Thanks for sharing.
Melvin Thomas Sr. - Great article Joe! That was a tough call to be on. RIP guys and may GOD BLESS the families and everyone who was on that call. Happy New Year Joe to you and your family.
Shawn Coleman – Thank you Joseph Ross for always posting these stories so we can carry on the legacy of this great department through your stories and pictures as it is so very important. Happy New Year. Be Safe!
Dan Frend Thank you for sharing the story behind the history.
Michael W. Robinson - Joe, An outstanding job of preserving an important part of the AACOFD history. This incident though unfortunate served as the catalyst for the change and evolution of the AACOFD into a major metro fire service. My experiences at a young age with the department influenced me greatly throughout my career not to mention the many individuals who took an interest and served as my mentors! You are certainly among them! Have a great 2016.
Mike Frazer - Thanks for your dedication to the fire service.
Darryl Lee Despeaux - Thank You Rick for your kind words and Dedication to the Fire Department. I have never been in a War to watch a soldier next to me get killed. Possibly someone I have know and been at each others side from the beginning of Bootcamp.But a job needs to be ain…
Darryl Lee Despeaux - Joe, again we can't thank you enough for your time and dedication in putting this entire incident in perspective. In reading some of the many comments that have been posted, the AACOFD did change in great detail on the way new firefighters would be trained and as you can see we have some of the best in the County.
By doing this [training] lives have been saved as we speak. I also commend you for starting the way structure fires would be approached until the County put the plan in place for the Battalion Chiefs to take command of such incidents. And as I read these Facebook comments I can see you are a well respected man and I commend you for your hard work and putting these stories out there.
[Hopefully many firefighters] can learn from [these stories]. Thank You Again. God Bless all of our Paid and Volunteer Firefighters and EMT/Paramedics for there dedicated service to this County. And after 39 years I [still] haven't been able to ride by that terrible scene.
Rusty Sears - Good Job Joe.
Johnny Floyd II - Chief Ross, I'd heard only bits and pieces of that story over the past four decades, but nothing has stitched the entire thing together like your writings.
Thank you ever so much for sharing such a painful time with those of us who were not there. As mentioned in your story, here is brand-new "Truck 5" at Co. 21's on 23rd January 1977. (photo by J. D. Floyd II, Royal Blue Ltd. archives)
(Mentioned earlier in the story Truck 5, A Mack tractor/100' Maxim ladder/trailer was stored at Station 21 in 1976 until the opening of Station 5 in the Spring of 1977. The truck would become a reserve piece for many years until permanently assigned to Company 31 in 1980)
Joseph Ross - UPDATE ON PART III - Jim Amrhein just called me. At the time he was a Firefighter III at Company 27. He shared with me that Company 27 volunteer's Al Miller and Norman Rounds rode the tailboard of Engine 271 all the way to the cemetery. It was frigid that morning, and Jim begged Norman and Al to ride in the jump seat behind the cab. They said "No." The pair stated that riding on the tailboard was an honor and it was a tribute to Pat. Very Nice - Thanks Jim. (Hannah Miller, Teri Fox)
(213 West Riverview Road as it looked the day I took this photo, Circa 2015-16)
Doug Wilson - I know this was 39 years ago now. But it still seems like yesterday . . . Every year at this time, I still wonder . . . what if? Rest in peace Pat.
Doug Koeber - As I read the chilling account of this fire, all I can think is, "I know those guys. That is an incredible group of great firemen, pump operators, and officers". I hate to think how much worse it could have been if it were other people on that call. I know that doesn't make it any easier. So sorry you guys had to go through it. RIP FF Bauer and VFF Driggers.
Jackie Bauer - A very sad day for the Bauer family, and so many others.
Darryl Lee Depeaux - Thank You for providing this story after 39 years. My family still really doesn't know the scenario that unfolded that evening. I have some pictures of George’s turn out gear laying on the kitchen floor, and we did know that the water lines had stopped supplying the scene with water.
It was rumored at one time vandals had stuffed rocks into the hydrant. We really appreciate your time in putting this together and look forward to [future edits] As this story continues, I can see we had many heroes that evening. We also can see the ending could have been more tragic than it turned out. George and I knew that day was busy because we had been inside Co. 31 listening to the Tones and Box calls.
Joseph Ross - You're welcome Darryl. I find it interesting that the two of you were in 31's station listening to radio activity earlier that day. We can never forget what happened that day and we can never forget George and Pat. Thank you for your support.
Darryl Lee Depeaux - Agree. George and I spent a lot of time in the Firehouse. I did join 34 after George joined. I stayed thru most of the Summer of 76 then joined 31, but you couldn't ride at 31 until you were 18. My career as a volunteer ended after the tragic event. Mom and Dad said no more. Also, love the Picture of Truck 31. Bertha was her nickname. Co. 31 also had two identical Engines, 311 and 312.
Joseph Ross - I did not know that you were a volunteer and after raising four boys of my own, I understand your parent's concern.
Theresa Driggers Bush - Wow reading this bring back that night so vividly. I now can read and feel everything my brother and everyone on that call went through that night. I'm also learning what happened that night. My family and I never knew exactly what occurred. Thank you again, Joe, for writing this. It's helping to bring closure for me and my family after 39 yrs.
Joseph Ross - Thanks Theresa, but more so, thank you for helping me get Georges story out so others may learn more about him, his family and what he did along with his great sacrifice.
Theresa Driggers Bush - Now this story that you've been writing here is this just for Facebook and when will the 3rd part be finished? I was on the edge of my seat reading it then it was to be continued. I was all ready to finally learn everything that happened that night. My heart was pounding reading it. That night so many scenarios going on. All things are meant to be, and after reading this story so far I believe it was George and Pats time to go.
Joseph Ross - I'm sorry to cut you off. I'm still fine-tuning Part III and will have it out sometime Thursday, New Year's Eve. And yes, it’s just for Facebook for now. Who knows maybe I'll publish a book about it down the road.
It's kind of how the book Arundel Burning started. In 2006, I built a website (its still up) Arundelburning.com. I wrote a 16-page article about the Arundel Park fire and posted it on the site with some photos. Within a couple of weeks I received so many hits and additional information, I decided to write the book. Thanks again for all of your support.
Clifford James - You did your job good Joe. I like your other stories too.
Joseph Ross - Thanks, Jim for all of your support.
Kenn Underwood - Joe, Do you remember the original Brooklyn firehouse on Pontiac and 5th St.? My dad was a volunteer in the early fifties.
Joseph Ross - When I was little, I remember my dad picking me up so I could look through the bay door windows at the apparatus at the original Brooklyn firehouse.
Fred Tayman - Thanks, Joe. This was very near to me.
James Braun - Kenn Underwood I was too small to remember a firehouse on Pontiac & 5th, but wouldn't that be Baltimore City when did the city annex Brooklyn, Fairfield, Curtis Bay. I would like to hear more about this I grew up in the county part of Brooklyn.
Joseph Ross - Actually it is the original building of the Brooklyn VFD that opened in Circa 1912 and was taken over by BCFD in 1918 when the city annexed the area. In the mid-sixties, BCFD Engine 35 and Truck 21 moved to their present location on Maude Avenue.
James Braun - I know about the station on Maude Ave went past it quite often; I did not know the rest. Thanks for the information
Reggie Nutwell - Joe, I have read this story many times. I was a Vol in 1976 in Deale..and became a career FF in Annapolis in 1979 and an AACO FF in 1994...I know most of the people involved in this fire pretty well. All of them very good FFs and POs and Officers.
As I read this, I can picture in my head what was going on as it happened..I have been on fires with civilian casualties and know the urgency in trying to find, and get them out...but, I have not, and can not imagine the urgency and almost sheer panic in trying to find and get to an injured or trapped FF and get them out.
This fire and your write up, should be taught in fire school. Just so everyone understands how things can go bad in a moments notice, even with all the modern FireFighting tools we use now, it can still happen. Thank you for writing this. It never gets old reading this story. I want to share this on my post if you don't mind my doing so ??
Joseph Ross - Reggie - Thanks for your kind words and your compassion for saving others as well as our own - please feel free to share my stories with whoever you like. Your endorsement means a lot to me as I continue to write about our firefighters and the dangers they face. My goal is for the public to appreciate the firefighting profession as much as you and I do.
I would like to thank Theresa Driggers Bush, Doug Wilson, William R. Metcalf and Rick Anderson for contributing to this article.
Photos of Peter Pirsch Engine 312 and Truck 31 courtesy of Joseph MacDonald and Johnny Floyd II.
News clip photo of back of house from the Sun.
Copyright Joseph B. Ross Jr.