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Antietam Fire Co. the last 200 years

September 14, 2008

"During our 200 years, many changes have occurred. They began using bucket brigades and moved to hand pumpers with leather hoses, then from horse-drawn steam engines to motorized apparatus. They also progressed from All Service Mask to Chemox Breathing apparatus and then to Self Contained Breathing apparatus.

"Additional changes brought with it Thermal Imaging Cameras, female firefighters and the Incident Command System.

"Our 200 years have seen many improvements, but the heart of the company has never changed and that is because of our volunteers."

1793 - A town ordinance was passed fining homeowners seven shillings and six pence if they had chimney fires, which were customarily fought by bucket brigades.

1803 - Hagerstown was divided into two districts using two hand pumper engines. Regular meetings were held and failure to attend resulted in a 25 cent fine. Money from those fines was later used to purchase fire hoses.

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1808 - Antietam Fire Co. was formed from the old Lafayette Co. as Hagerstown was beginning to organize fire companies to protect more than 2,000 residents living in the new town.

1822 - Another devastating fire prompted the forming of the First Hagerstown Hose Co. on South Potomac Street.

1824 - An ordinance was passed requiring the formation of additional fire companies. Every homeowner was to have two black leather fire buckets emblazoned with their name and fire ward.

1830s - There were two fire companies in Hagerstown's Public Square. One later became Junior Fire Co. The fate of the other company, Washington Mechanics, is unknown.

1835 - Antietam Fire Co. was incorporated with its current name, becoming one of five fire companies in Hagerstown with 48 volunteers, including three captains, four axe men, six hose guards, four ladder men and four hook men.

1835 - Land next to the Washington County Courthouse was purchased for Antietam fire station, which was built for $150.

1842 - Minutes taken at Antietam Fire Co. meetings showed the volunteers were divided into three classes: large engine, suction and reel hose. Practice runs were organized to check equipment as well as the various cisterns throughout the city used for firefighting.

1895 - Bids ranging from $6,500 to $12,000 were received for the Romanesque-style stone building built on the current site, reportedly for a little more than $11,000. The style reflected the "castles and palaces" design of the late 19th century.

1890s - A bunk room was on the second floor while horses were housed on the first floor to save time hitching them to the trucks.

1912 - Antietam's two horses, John and Jim, were killed by downed electrical wires while they were on their way to a fire. The remains of the horse harness apparatus still hangs from the ceiling in the fire company's north bay.

1913 - The first piece of motorized fire equipment, a 1913 Knox combination pumper, was purchased.

1914 - On Oct. 28, a raging fire spread from the roof of the adjacent Sherlay Building to the fire hall. The entire structure was destroyed except for the front facade. Losses were estimated at $30,000. At the time, the second floor served as the armory for Company B of the Maryland Regiment and the hall also was occupied by the Pioneer Hook and Ladder Co. as well.

1915 - The Antietam Fire Hall drawing plans were approved in June at a cost of $125.

1920 - Another fire struck the Antietam Fire Hall. The extent of damage is unknown but is believed to have been less severe than the 1914 blaze.

1961 - A Mack Model B95 pumper replaced a 1948 Ahrens Fox, which became the fire company's reserve engine.

1982 - A Mack Model CF was purchased and the Ahrens Fox was sold.

2007 - On Nov. 4, Antietam Fire Co. officially put into service Special Unit 32, a utility vehicle. As is tradition, Special Unit 32 was pushed into its quarters by the members and volunteers of Antietam Fire Co.

2007 - A new bunk room for active volunteer firefighters opened, marking the first time the company's volunteers had their own living quarters, if they chose to spend the night.

2008 - Antietam Fire Co. Inc. is managed by a small core of volunteers - 15 active firefighters and 30 active members out of a membership of more than 600.

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