Antietam Fire Co. volunteer preparing for Hagerstown company's 200th anniversary

August 15, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN -- It was high school graduation day at South Hagerstown High School for Harold Semler when a fire call came in for Brandt Cabinet Works on Pennsylvania Avenue just before the ceremony got under way.

"I had just recently joined the Antietam Fire Company as a volunteer," Semler said as recalled that day in 1979 when he and fellow South High graduate-to-be Mark Baker responded to the call.

Fortunately, the fire was quickly extinguished, and Semler and Baker were able to make it to the ceremony in time to graduate.

Nearly 30 years later, Semler still is active with the Antietam Fire Company at 113 Summit Ave. He is serving as secretary and more recently as chair of Antietam's 200th anniversary observance, which is scheduled for next month.


Antietam volunteer Jim Sprecher, himself a 25-year veteran as captain of the company, said Semler was the perfect person to head up the anniversary celebration.

"Harold is always someone you can depend on ... a good man to have at your back," Sprecher said, noting he was best man at Semler's wedding.

There are 16 or 17 active trained volunteers who respond to fires, but are not able to drive the fire apparatus that are owned by the City of Hagerstown and staffed by paid career firefighters.

"We need some new blood," Semler said of the fire company.

In his younger days, Semler hung around the fire hall waiting for calls or he "ran" to calls from his boyhood home on Radcliffe Avenue.

For the past four years, Semler has been employed as a forklift operator at Pavestone Co. on Hopewell Road.

In his off hours, Semler has been working with his committee to pull together all of the details for the Sunday, Sept. 14, open house at the fire company.

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 100 block of Summit Avenue will be closed to traffic, with events and exhibits in the street and in The Herald-Mail Co.'s parking lot across the street.

There will be tours of the fire hall and equipment, games, Ident-A-Kid by the Hagerstown Police Department, a smoke house, Community Rescue Service car seat safety checks and installations, smoke detector information, a recruitment table, Smokey the Bear, and bicentennial shirts and memorabilia for sale.

If you go

What: Open house to celebrate the Antietam Fire Company's 200th anniversary

When: Sunday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: 100 block of Summit Avenue, Hagerstown

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