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Fire company marks 75 years

February 15, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - While it's not unusual for volunteer fire companies to trace their origins to a big fire that mobilized a community, Funkstown has the distinction of having its current fire station at the actual site of that blaze.

"In 1929, an old flour/paper mill along the banks of the Antietam Creek burned down," Funkstown Fire Co. President Larry Iseminger said. After organizing a year later and moving to a number of locations, the fire company's volunteers bought the current site at Alternate U.S. 40 and Westside Avenue in 1950.

The official date of the company's charter is May 22, 1930, which means this year is the 75th anniversary, Iseminger said.

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A parade is planned sometime in the spring along with an open house and a muster, so the members can show off their prowess at fighting fires. A committee is looking into some type of major event in May closer to the actual anniversary, Iseminger said.

"We also want to publish a book and one of our members, Mike Weller, is putting together a video," Iseminger said.

The year of celebration will be capped with a banquet Nov. 10 for all past and present members, each of whom will get a copy of the book and the video or DVD.

The land where the mill had been was purchased from the Funkstown Mayor and Council and the building was built at the end of the lot farthest from the creek.

"The cost to build the current building was $25,000," Iseminger said, drawing from the extensive archives of the company. Additions to the building were constructed in 1967 and 1978.

The original location was rented space on South Antietam Street, where for the first few months the original 47 volunteers stored the company's only piece of equipment - a nonmotorized hose reel. That reel was taken to fires and the hose was hooked up to the water source.

Guy Hebb was mayor of Funkstown then and was involved in helping the company get started. Other pioneers were John Williams - chief for more than 30 years - and Glenn Williams, himself a chief in the 1940s and 1950s, Iseminger said.

Over the years, Henry Manspeaker, Herb Smith, Jack Smith, Kyd Dieterich, Mike Weller, Iseminger and Jim Kershner have served as chief, some for more than one term. Jon Gift is the current chief.

"The volunteers ran four calls in 1931 and 11 in 1932," Iseminger said. In contrast, the company ran 1,307 calls in 2003.

The 1930 budget was $1,537. In fiscal year 2005, the budget is $292,000, Iseminger said.

After the first few months, the Junior Order Lodge rented space to the fire company on West Baltimore Street. That building, which used to have a bay door, was used for 20 years. It is now a private residence, Iseminger said.

That original nonmotorized hose reel is still in the possession of the fire company. And much of the equipment still being taken on calls has either been with the company for many years or includes parts from former vehicles.

"We have 70 dues-paying members. Approximately 25 of those volunteers run on calls," Iseminger said. Funkstown also has one daytime paid person who works Monday through Friday.

For some history buffs who might recall an earlier fire company in Funkstown, Iseminger said there was an effort in 1826 to organize one but it only lasted until 1830. From then until 1930, the town had to rely on Hagerstown firefighters to respond to Funkstown fire calls.

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