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Hagerstown fire marshal leaves with no regrets

Brown closes career after 33 years

Brown closes career after 33 years

November 30, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Charles T. Brown Sr. ended a 33-year career with the Hagerstown Fire Department on Thursday. It was a job he said he was fated to have from an early age.

"My uncle was with the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. ... I grew up around the fire service," Brown said.

He remembers being a student at Funkstown Elementary School when firefighters brought an engine to school for fire prevention week.

"I was totally impressed," he said. "And I knew this was it."

Brown, 54, was encouraged early in life by John Williams, Funkstown fire chief at the time. Brown joined the volunteer company at the age of 15 1/2 because it was "the thing to do."

Brown said kids didn't have computer games then, so there were two things to do - sports and running with the fire department.

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"The more I got involved, the more I wanted to be a firefighter," he said.

Knowing that he had to be 21 years old to apply to be a Hagerstown firefighter, Brown decided to train at Washington County Hospital to become an X-ray technician in the interim. After two years of study, Brown passed the national exam in 1973 and went to work at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

He waited for an opening at the fire department, and six firefighters were hired when he signed on in February 1975.

Ronald Horn, Hagerstown's deputy fire chief, was one of the six. The other four are retired, Brown said.

"I never gave up on my dream," Brown said.

His first position was at Western Enterprise Fire Co. in the West End from 1975-78. He became an assistant fire marshal in 1978.

"It was great because I was also interested in law enforcement," said Brown, who became senior fire marshal in 1981.

There have been many fire investigations in Brown's career, but he said three stand out:

n A fire on North Mulberry Street in 1982 where three people died

n The Super 8 Motel fire in 1990 where four people died

n A Randolph Street apartment building fire in 2002 where an occupant set the fire

Brown said he is taking off the month of December to relax and think about his plans for the future.

But he's in no hurry.

"I have no regrets. This job has allowed me to do exactly what I wanted to do. It's been a great job," Brown said.

The Hagerstown Exchange Club recently named him Firefighter of the Year, and on his last day, Brown was honored at a retirement reception held by his peers.

Brown is married with a son, Tommy, a daughter, Angie, two stepdaughters and 11 grandchildren.

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