HISTORY OF THE BLADENSBURG VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT AND RESCUE SQUAD, INC.
By PAST CHIEF JOHN C. WELLS
Edits and additions as submitted by: Bill Maier and Randy Kuenzli
1922 to 1997 – Yes seventy five years ago on August 2, 1922, our department was organized by 35 Charter Members who elected George G. Wiseman as their first Chief. As we look at the sophisticated equipment and the apparatus that protect the citizens of our area today, it is hard to imagine that the first fire protection equipment was 500 feet of 21/2″ hose and a nozzle. A hand drawn reel was borrowed from the Cottage City Fire Department that was pulled to fires by our members until June, 1923.
The first motorized equipment was a used Simplex 500 GPM Pumper purchased in 1923 from the Norristown, Pennsylvania Fire Department. This was housed in an unheated garage and after experiencing difficulty starting the pumper during cold weather, it was determined that a proper Fire House should be built.
A carnival was held to raise money and a lot in the present 4800 block of Annapolis Road was purchased. The members constructed a cement block building on the lot. The building was completed in the Spring of 1926. The members then built an addition on the rear which contained a social hall on the first floor and a maintenance shop in the basement. This building still stands and is now occupied by the Bladensburg Barber School and other businesses.
In the fall of 1927 a Brockway Chassis was purchased. The body and pump from the Simplex was transferred to the new chassis. This pumper was unique in the fact that it was the first to be equipped with a glass windshield and the booster tank piped directly to the main pump.
In December of 1927 the Prince George’s County Rescue Squad was organized by Mr. H. L. Leonard. The first unit was placed in service at Bladensburg. American Red Cross records indicate that this was the first county-wide Volunteer Rescue squad in the world. Our ambulances still proudly bears the emblem of Prince George’s County Rescue Squad No. 1.
In 1932 a Ford Chassis was purchased and the members constructed another pumper. This one with a 300 GPM pump and especially equipped for forest fire fighting.
In 1934 an International Ambulance was purchased. This was the first factory fabricated piece of equipment purchased. In 1937 a Packard Ambulance and a new Buffalo Pumper were placed in service. This pumper is still operable and is the property of our Ladies Auxiliary.
Due to the size of the modern ambulances and pumpers and the increase in the number of pieces of apparatus, a drive through bay was constructed by the members of the rescue squad in 1939.
Also in 1939, a new Buick Ambulance was purchased to replace the International. Again in 1940 another Buick Ambulance was purchased bringing to three the number in service. With only nine ambulances in the County, it was not uncommon that all three of ours would be out on calls at the same time. Hanging on the rack, on the east side of the engine bay were one size fits all white coveralls with Bladensburg Rescue Squad embroidered on the back. These were worn when answering ambulance calls. The firemen wore firemen’s coats and metal helmets for fire calls. There were no pants or boots in these days but were finally provided around mid 1941.
Rescue Squads 1 and 2 were manned by firemen who had successfully passed the Red Cross Advanced First Aid Course. This requirement was later supplemented by the Maryland State First Aid Council, Inc. instructions. During these times the action of the squads was to primarily treat any arterial bleeding, bandage wounds, splint broken bones and transport. The emergency cases went to Sibley Hospital as there was no ER facilities in Prince George’s County. Some area doctors would take non emergency cases, such as cuts, dislocations etc. One doctor in Hyattsville, Martin Keane, who had an X-ray machine in his office would examine patients with suspected fractures.
The Sibley Hospital ER room wasn’t a specially equipped area in 1940, rather was a room where patients were given primary exams, and treatment if required, before being admitted to the hospital. They were not staffed by full time trauma doctors (and rarely were nurses present) but hospital staff doctors, who often requested our help with prep work before treating those emergency patients, sometimes even having us help with suturing and doing the final dressing of wounds. Doctors were notoriously incapable of applying a decent bandage and often shunted that phase of treatment to us. The Rescue Squad normally responded to cals as far north as Laurel and almost anywhere east to Marlboro.
With the threat of war hanging over us the members decided to order another pumper. This was done in November of 1940 and not until March of 1942 was the pumper delivered. This also was a Buffalo.
The war years were extremely difficult for the department. The majority of our young active members were called to arms and the responsibility of operating the Department rested on a few left behind. Through their planning, auxiliary departments were started in Edmonston, Roger Heights, Landover Hills and West Lanham Hills, also a Junior Department was then organized. The Fire House was designated the headquarters of Civil Defense for Prince George’s County and a O.C.D. Control Center. As such, it was equipped with a switchboard that was manned around the clock by the volunteer neighborhood ladies. Air Raid drills would be held throughout the year, summer or winter and required all fire department vehicles to be dispersed to pre assigned locations where they had to wait until the “all clear” siren sounded. All apparatus head lights were blacked out with exception of a small slit that allowed about as much light to escape as would be furnished by a flashlight. Driving at night wasn’t much fun. In addition, Bladensburg was required to send one fire truck to a designated DC fire station in case all that station’s apparatus was out in service. Protecting Washington D. C. was of top priority. After the war the Civil Defense turned the switchboard over to the fire departments and they became the first county fire department communication network.
The Packard Ambulance was retired for the lack of repair parts and the 1939 Buick was lost in a tragic accident at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road in which our member, Robert Lohman and the patient were killed. Mr. Lohman and Clarence Johnston who was killed responding to the Fire House and Henry Dailey killed by a hit and run driver while leaving the Fire House on Annapolis Road are the only “In Line of Duty Deaths” of the department.
During the war the manpower situation was so acute that the County Police sometimes would park their only car covering the northern section of the County to take ambulance calls. To help facilitate ambulance service a two-way radio on the Police Frequency was installed in our last remaining ambulance. This was the first two-way radio equipped vehicle in the Prince George’s County Fire Service.
With the end of the war and the return of the members, progress again was the theme. The Fire Department and Rescue Squad merged to the form the now existing Corporation. A committee was formed to search for suitable ground for a new fire house. The old Packard Ambulance was sold to the Woodland Beach Fire Department and two Cadillac Ambulances were ordered. New ambulances were delivered in 1947 and 1948 and for a while we again operated three ambulances. The 1940 Buick was eventually sold to the Oxen Hill Fire Department.
In 1949 the Department started regular weekly bingo games. These have continued to date. Prior to the bingo games, our only income was donations, a yearly carnival, which featured of all things, boxing matches between the local Gentry and door to door canvassing, soliciting funds to support the Rescue Squad. Our members would start in Largo and work back to the District Line. At one time, we sponsored a “Man Buried Alive” theme at the Peace Cross. Oyster roasts, shrimp and crab feasts, dances, fireworks sales; anything that would raise money we would do.
In the early fifties the search for a suitable building lot was completed and the Department purchased the Rowe property on Edmonston Road with proceeds from the bingo.
June, 1954 our new building was dedicated by Governor Theodore R. McKeldin fulfilling many person’s dreams. When we moved into our new building we possessed two worn out ambulances, two badly worn pumpers, very little hose, turn-Sout gear or other equipment. The fifties also produced the legislation that provided the Fire Tax. The Fire Tax, even at the time it was abolished, never fully supported the activities of the Department. Our building and the hard work of our members and the Ladies Auxiliary accounts for the eventual financial success of the Corporation. As we look back on these financially lean years, we must thank D.C.F.D. Chiefs Morris Clark, Bill Boswell and Vance Bartley for their benevolence.
In 1955 we placed into service two new Cadillac ambulances and a 1500 GPM Oren pumper. In 1959 a home alarm radio system was installed and a new 1000 GPM Mack Pumper was placed in service replacing the 1942 Buffalo. During 1961 one of the 1955 Cadillac Ambulances was traded to the Tuxedo-Cheverly Fire Department for a 1949 Mack 500 GPM Pumper. This was used until 1965 when it was sold to the Lost Creek, Pennsylvania Fire Department.
In 1961 we saw the hiring of two full-time fire fighters. This was accomplished through financial assistance from the Mayor and Council of the town. In 1964 a third man was hired and in 1965 a fourth man was hired which provided paid coverage around the clock.
In 1962 a new Cadillac Ambulance was purchased to replace the 1955. Also in 1962 the Community Room on the first floor of the Firehouse was divided into three rooms for the comfort and convenience of our members.
In 1965 a new Mack 1000 GPM Diesel Powered Pumper was ordered, this was placed in service April 29, 1966. Also in December of 1965 a 1966 Cadillac Ambulance was placed in service replacing the 1962.
The sixties also found the absorbing of all paid personnel into the County Merit Employment System.
In 1969 we purchased another 1000 GPM Mack Diesel Powered Pumper and a Cadillac ambulance to replace the 1966. The 1955 Oren was sold to the Harry Lundenberg School of Semanship at Piney Point, Maryland.
In the sixties it seemed like we had it all, new apparatus, excellent volunteer participation, career personnel that would go that extra mile. (The blizzard of sixty-six proved this.) Also, we were recognized by the State Association and the then Governor J. Millard Tawes as having the best Fire Prevention Program in the State.
The seventies took a whole new perspective. The implementation of the Charter form of Government found ourselves facing such things as budget requests, unionizing of the career personnel over staffing of our station by the County resulting in friction between the volunteers and career personnel. At one point there were 10 career firefighters assigned to Bladensburg. The first County owned ambulance was placed in service in 1975 and our 1969 Cadillac was donated to a fledging department in Virginia. A new model C.F. Mack was placed in service in 1979 and the 1958 Mack was placed in reserve often being loaned to other companies throughout the County.
The eighties saw a whole new ball game emerge. The career staff was reduced at our request and the “Live in Volunteer” program initiated. Also, the building that seemed so large in 1954 was now over crowded, an addition was constructed increasing the dormitory, rest rooms, offices, storage space and even a handicapped elevator was installed. Although we had a few distaff members in the late seventies we were now receiving many female members mostly interested in the rescue squad. Also in the eighties a used mini-pumper and a used model C.F. Mack was purchased. The 1966 Mack was sold to the Pikesville, Maryland Fire Department. In 1988 a Seagrave Telesquirt pumper was placed in service. The ’79 Mack, Mini-pumper, ’75 Mack, ’88 Seagrave and building addition were all financed by us, no County funds were used. The eighties also saw under the sponsorship of Joseph R. Hill the opening of “Casino Nights” at Bladensburg.
As we turned the corner into the nineties the progress would boggle your mind. More and more volunteer applications were received. Volunteers from Pennsylvania and New York would visit our station on week-ends to ride with us as we were known to be a very busy station. A state of the art command vehicle was placed in service. This vehicle has been called to use by law enforcement agencies, Armed Forces and Neighboring counties. Also, with the success of the Casino space was once again a problem. To solve this the Rohrback office building complex on Tilden Road was purchased. After extensive renovations, the administrative division, Board of Directors, Operational Officers and Committees, were moved in. Also a training center, library and apparatus maintenance bay was constructed. Included in the purchase of this property was the U.S.Post Office. With budget cuts in the County and University of Maryland our members could not get the training required. To combat this, training was contracted to individuals certified in their fields. Changes were made in our apparatus inventory. The Mini-pumper, 1975 and 1979 model C.F. Macks were sold. A 1991 Ford Ambulance was placed in service to supplement the County owned ambulance. We were now again operating two rescue ambulances. Also, in 1991 a Pierce Fire-Rescue Pumper was placed in service. In 1994 another Pierce Pumper was purchased followed by the purchase of a 1996 Freightliner ambulance. With the increase in the size of apparatus and the increase in members we again find ourselves over-crowded. Plans are in the works for either another addition or a new complex at another location. Also in the nineties our last Mack pumper the 1969 was completely restored to new condition and dedicated to the late Raymond A. Firestein, our long time superintendent of machinery. This is now used for ceremonial purposes. To show our appreciation to our Ladies Auxiliary a new Ford fifteen passenger van was presented to them.
A highlight of this Department was the organization of our Ladies Auxiliary in November, 1931. Our Auxiliary is second to none in support of their Firemen. Without their financial assistance we would not have been able to make ends meet at times. Even today many long hours, several nights a week, are spent by them in catering every imaginable affair in our Blade Room.
This Department has always taken an active part in affairs of the County and State Associations. We have hosted the County Convention in 1937, 1942, 1957 and 1966. We co-hosted with Cottage City Fire Company the 1972 Convention. Our members have served on the most important committees. Messers. W. R. Beattie, A.F. Gasch T.V. Moore and K.A. Stadler, served as Presidents of the County Association. W.G. Perry served as President of the Maryland Fire Chief’s Association. Mrs. Nina Merryman, Edna Miller and Gail Moore served as Presidents of the County Auxiliary.
Twenty-three men have served as Chief of our Department. They were George G. Wiseman, W.R. Beattie, F. William Norgle, Andrew F. Gasch, Lawrence H. Dayton, Sr., Edward N. Hill, William G. Perry, John E. Beavers, Jr., H. Eugene Gasch, Lester G. Humphries, Thomas V. Moore, John C. Wells, Lawrence H. Dayton, Jr., Gerald R. Kirby, Arthur M. Herbert, E. Dallas Carter, James 0. Craun, Thomas C. Silvers, Glenn D. Selzer, Timothy S. Delahanty, Edward Payne, Jr., Matthew R. Fowler and Randy S. Kuenzli.
As we look back over the last 75 years, we can’t help but think about the future and hope that the years ahead will continue to produce members with volunteer spirit, goodwill, brotherhood and community-mindness as our original 35 Charter members.
THE 21ST CENTURY:
During the late part of the 90′s casino nights ended. These were a significant part of the departments fund raising and members were quickly reminded of the need to go back to the planning stages.
The ideas of an addition to the present station or of moving to a new location were squashed but the need for additional space still remained very real. In 1996 the department purchased a used 100′, single axle Seagrave rear mount ladder truck from the then Mason-Deerfield Fire Protection District in Ohio. Time and time again plans with the County were reneged upon by the County and for several years this ladder truck was stored outside or in a Quonset hut in our back parking lot and then later aside of the engine bay.
Most of the years between 1998 and about 2003 was spent getting the department back onto its feet. While affecting all members many contributed great sacrifices but recognition to Donald S. Wells, Matthew R. Fowler and Edward L. Payne III, as the leaders administratively, operationally and financially is well deserved.
In 2003 the department was in a position to purchase three support vehicles which were assigned to the Chief Officers. These were Ford Explorers and remain in service, in good shape today.
2004 was a very productive year for the volunteers. Our live-in program was very strong and continued to grow dramatically. We broke ground for a 1.2 million dollar building addition which added two new bays to house the wagon and ladder, 8 new two person dorm style rooms to the rear of the new bays for our live-in members including a new locker/bath/shower facility and storage. During 2004 an offer was made to the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department to utilize the career personnel assigned to station 9 elsewhere in the county to alleviate massive overtime costs. Many months of negotiations came to fruition on November 1, 2004 when station 9, once again, became a completely volunteer staffed station.
During these negotiations, our members established the goals and guidelines to meet and maintain staffing levels at a minimum of six personnel. This allows us to maintain an ambulance crew of two and a suppression crew of four. To this day, our Volunteers can boast a record of never going understaffed and never failing to respond on a call. In fact, not only do we maintain staffing levels significantly above that of the Prince Georgeâ€™s County Fire/EMS Career Fire Department Bladensburg Volunteers have proudly staffed a second suppression piece 87% of this time and a third suppression piece greater than 54% of the time.
Our new addition was completed in June of 2005 and occupied in July. During the later months of 2005 we began the planning of a new ambulance and signed contracts for a new American LaFrance Freightliner M2. This unit was delivered in spring and placed into service in June of 2006.
Once again, in early 2007 a committee was formed to look at the replace of Telesquirt 9, now a 19 year old piece of apparatus that served us well while answering many calls and extinguishing a multitude of fires over her years of service. Late this year contracts were signed with Singer for a Pierce pumper.
Engine 94, a Pierce Arrow pumper with a 1250 GPM pump and 500 gallons of water was delivered in mid ’08. Its design was kept simple, based on what was known years past as a “City Pumper” with a short wheel base of 169″, over all length of 30′ Â¾” and height of 9′ 3″. Along with current day technology this unit is a simple engine with the greatest ease of maneuverability, particularly in tight spaces. After many hours of driver training and fitting of equipment, engine 94 was placed in service as the primary “wagon” on November 22, 2008.
The years since the late 90′s continue to see a great volunteer interest in Bladensburg as membership continues to grow. But that is not the only thing growing, so is the workload. Our volunteers, in the latest yearâ€™s statistics ran and average of 2700 EMS calls and 2700 Fire Suppression calls for a total around 5400 calls in 2008. During this year the men went to more than 78 “working fires”.
It is interesting to note that while Bladensburg is one of three all volunteer stations operating within the Prince George’s county combination system, we are the only all volunteer station that operates an EMS transport unit or ambulance. The Rescue Squad symbol is of significant pride to our corporate name and will continue to be well into the future.
Our members stand proud to provide the level of services, at the professional standards with which we do all while maintaining 100% volunteer staffing. We continue our drive to build upon the sound base which was built by those that have gone before us, while working hard to meet and exceed the expectations of our founding fathers and in an effort to establish an example and security for those that will follow after us.
TID BITS IN TIME: as Submitted by Life Member William “Bill” Maier.
INAUGURATION of PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT – 1941
At the inaugural parade of President Roosevelt in 1941, the American Red Cross requested us to provide an ambulance to be stationed at a designated spot in case of need for emergency services during that hours long parade. The 1940 Buick ambulance was cleaned and polished from top to bottom, inside and out, to make a good impression on the citizens attending the parade. It was a bitter cold day and when the crew arrived at the Red Cross building for their assignment, there was no representative of the Red Cross in sight. To escape the cold the crew went into the basement of the Red Cross building, only to be met by a matronly lady who threatened to have them forcefully evicted for trespassing. Negotiations went nowhere until the Rescue Squad threatened to return to Bladensburg, leaving the Red Cross one ambulance short. Then she conceded but, they could stay only until the time they received their assignment, which came in short order. The squad’s assigned position was on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, about 1/2 block west of the Presidential reviewing stand. As noted earlier, it was a bitter cold day and sitting in a cold ambulance for hours, while the parade passed, wasn’t a warming experience. About midway of the parade the Red Cross came by with hot coffee, which they poured out in cups for the police, but refused the squad’s request for some, telling them to “Go buy your own. We only give to the police”. And the squad was representing the Red Cross! Relations with that organization weren’t too good after that.
A mandated requirement during World War II was that all public places, especially firehouses with its essential public safety equipment, have buckets of dry sand located at all strategic places to combat potential thermal bombs dropped by our enemies. Thermal devices had to be smothered (something we learned from our British friends in London during the blitz bombing). Water is completely ineffective. Luckily we never had to use the stuff.
As you know, the B&O railroad ran (and probably still does) a freight line that left the mainline in Hyattsville, passed through Bladensburg, and reconnected to their line going through Washington, D. C., at Seat Pleasant. These trains were pulled by large, steam locomotives. From Hyattsville to Bladensburg is a slight downgrade which the trains engineers took advantage of to build up speed to negotiate a more significant upgrade to Seat Pleasant. These long trains normally ran about once an hour, but on busy days there could be trains only minutes apart. That was the situation for this particular incident.
I was sitting on the front porch of the house located at 4717 Annapolis Road (now under the Kenilworth Ave. overpass) Bill Perry’s home where I lived, when a long train passed through Bladensburg. Several minutes later a second train passed and was partially through the crossing when I heard a series of pop, pop, pops like when the slack of couplings between freight cars are being taken up, and the train came to a sudden stop, blocking Annapolis Road. To me this could mean only one thing; the train had to make an emergency stop (I suspected it had hit an auto at the Kenilworth crossing). About that time the siren on the firehouse sounded so I responded, climbing on the back step of the fire truck, and in no time arrived at where the tracks cross Kenilworth Ave south of Bladensburg. And there it was — A train wreck! A huge steam locomotive sitting in the middle of several shattered box cars. The first train had stalled on the upgrade and the second one had run into it, demolishing several box cars whose debris completely blocked Kenilworth Ave. The collision broke a high pressure steam line some place on the locomotive of the second engine, and the noise of escaping steam was deafening. One had to literally shout close to the ear of the one he was communicating with to make his intention known. The engineer of the second train was very agitated and it took a while, due to the noise of escaping steam, to find out he wanted the firebox of the locomotive extinguished, … immediately! The fireman had dumped the contents of the firebox on the rail bed between the rails, but it was still burning and generating steam in the boiler. The firebox grates were hinged on the outside edges and opened like a clam shell, effectively shielding it from being extinguished from outside. I was familiar with steam locomotives, having worked around one in the job I held before coming back east, so I volunteered to climb up into the cab with the booster hose. The cab was enveloped with smoke and steam so it was with some difficulty I located the firebox door, opened it and extinguished the fire. It was only after the noise of escaping steam died down and one could carry on a normal conversation, that we found out why the locomotive engineer was so agitated. He said he was afraid the “crown sheet”, whatever that is, “was going to blow up”. Apparently the situation could have been serious. After a locomotive was dispatched to hook onto the rear of the train blocking Annapolis Road, a coupling on a boxcar was loosed and the section of train blocking the road towed away, allowing traffic to flow again. Kenilworth Ave was blocked considerable longer before the debris could be cleared.
Of course there were lots of wrecks involving autos. One of the worst ones I can recall, was a mismatch between a car with 2 men inside, arguing over the right-of-way at the first crossing north of the Landover crossing (Lanham?) with a Pennsylvania RR electric train coming south, downhill, at 90 miles an hour. By the time the train stopped after the collision, it was blocking the Landover crossing. When the Fire Department and Rescue Squad arrived at the Landover crossing, there was little we could do as there were no survivors. So we took a field stretcher from an ambulance and hand lanterns from a fire truck (it was getting dusk) and started retrieving body parts from the RR right of way. By the time we finished, the stretcher contained from 50 to 60 pounds of humanity. The rest apparently was lodged in the running gear under the locomotive, where we couldn’t reach. The car had been rolled into a pile of metal one could almost reach around with their arms. The largest piece of flesh retrieved was a small portion of one individuals spine that looked as if it had been neatly cut with a meat saw. Not a pleasant evening.
Before the war, and a long time afterwards, freight trucks were powered with gasoline from tanks located at the rear of the tractor, just as diesel trucks tanks are today. Sleeper cabs were unknown in those days, but trailers usually had a small, enclosed cubicle in the front part of the trailer, over the hitch, with a small door on the right side, that was commonly used as sleeping space for the off duty driver.
One night two highly intoxicated men went to the bar of the Dixie Pig Restaurant, located behind the Peace Cross, and tried to purchase more booze. When the bartender refused to serve them, they angrily got into their car, shot across Alt. US 1 and hit a truck towing a trailer south, on the left gas tank, turning both the truck and trailer onto its right side. The gas tank was ripped wide open and the truck cab and the entire front portion of the trailer was enveloped in flames. Unfortunately there was a man in the sleeping compartment and when the trailer tipped over he was trapped. As you know, water on a gasoline fire only serves to spread it, but we didn’t have foam generators then so our only choice was water. The truck driver escaped from the cab and the two drunks managed to stagger away from the blaze, but the poor guy trapped in the sleeping cubicle of the trailer was roasted before the fire was extinguished. There was no way we could get to him.
Early one evening, just after dark, the siren blew for an ambulance call. There was a report of a car accident on Kenilworth Ave., just south of Bladensburg. Forty Eighth Street in Bladensburg made a 90 degree left turn at its southern end, then was divided with one portion going straight east, while the other leg (Kenilworth Ave.) went into a slight gully with a slight upgrade on the other side. A car with 4 passengers, 2 men, and 2 women who were in the back seat, lost electrical power part way up the south slope of Kenilworth and stalled, without lights. The two males were attempting to push the car the rest of the way up the hill so apparently, they could coast down Kenilworth and maybe get the car started. Unfortunately, a car came around the curve, and because the stalled car had no lights, the approaching car was unable to stop when they did see it, and crashed into the stalled car, smashing the gas tank setting the vehicle on fire. The two males pushing the car managed to jump out of the way before the collision, but the two females in the back seat were trapped and burned to death before we were able to extinguish the gasoline fed blaze. The steam from their burning bodies permeated my clothes so badly that even after repeated washings the odor of burning flesh would make itself apparent as my body heat would warm up my clothing. I had to throw those clothes away. That was one of the costs of being a volunteer fireman in those days.
Another train versus car accident occurred at the first uncontrolled railroad crossing south of the Gasch Funeral Home in Hyattsville. A fast moving B&O passenger train, running to Washington, D. C., from Baltimore, struck a car with 3 young people (late teens), a male driver, and 2 female companions, just as they reached the crossing. It is doubtful the even saw, or heard, the train before they were hit. The impact threw all three from the car within 50 feet of where the car was struck, and while they suffered many broken bones, their bodies were whole and not run over by the train. However, their faces and all exposed body parts were covered with ground in cinders from the road bed. We assisted Bill Gasch in taking the bodies to his establishment and cleaning them up for identification. It was while cleaning one of the females it appeared she looked suspiciously like the teenage daughter of Bladensburg fireman Bill Perry, who I lived with. If it turned out to be his daughter, how was I going to break the news to him? Fortunately, for him, (not the victim) after removing enough cinders from her face I was able to determine it was not his daughter. Whew! What a relief.
ANOTHER RED CROSS INCIDENT
Sometime after the war, a uniformed representative of the Red Cross, visited the station and asked to inspect our emergency room. He could do this as we had an official Red Cross Emergency Station symbol on the front of the fire house, and they needed to see that stations were kept up to their standards. Our emergency room was simply a curtained off area in the northeast corner of the engine room, furnished with a single cot and a small medicine cabinet stocked with an assortment of bandages, disinfectant, and other miscellaneous equipment such as bandage shears, adhesive tape, etc. “Cap” Norgle, an old timer who was Treasurer, was also present while the Red Cross representative made his inspection and noted that we were short quite a few supplies. We, Cap Norgle and I, acknowledged that to be true. The Red Cross representative volunteered to fully stock our emergency room if we turned over to the Red Cross all the voluntary receipts we obtained from our services. Cap Norgle exploded, told the Red Cross representative, in a few chosen words, how the Rescue Squad and Fire Department financed their operations, and suggested that the Red Cross representative leave immediately, and unscrew and take the Emergency sign from the front of the building with him. He didn’t take the sign, but he did hurriedly leave.