Fire Department celebrates 100 years of service

The cake’s emblem marking the fire department’s 100th anniversary is featured at the celebration attended by former Fort Meade fire chiefs and firefighters. (Photo by Nicole Munchel)

A video presentation featuring photographs of Fort Meade firefighters from the 1930s through today was the highlight of the fire department’s 100th anniversary celebration on Tuesday morning.

Fire Chief E.J. Rouvet welcomed an audience of former fire chiefs, firefighters and garrison leaders to the fire bay for a 30-minute tribute to the dedication and sacrifices of Fort Meade’s fire personnel.

“More than 100 years ago in the early 1900s, [the] Fort Meade Fire Department came into being,” Rouvet said. “Today we celebrate this department’s birth with a ceremony and fellowship with as many past and present firefighters as we could get to attend.

“And, as an aside —albeit very significant — note, this department has never experienced a line of duty death.”

The celebration included a catered lunch by Mission BBQ and a ceremonial cake.

The fire department’s 100th anniversary book was on sale for attendees.

Guests included Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard; Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brian S. Cullen; Lt. Col. Jeffrey Knudson, director of the Directorate of Emergency Services; Robert Holmes, deputy director of DES; Retired Fire Chief Robert Miller; and Retired Fire Chief Albert Daley.

Garrison Chaplain (Col.) Terry Whiteside gave the invocation. A moment of silence was held for the recent deaths of Fire Chief Herb Saffield, Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Smith and firefighters Anthony Dorsey and Teddy Tullman.

Rouvet acknowledged the recent retirements of Deputy Chief Wray Kinsley and Division Chief Jeff Clark.

Left to right: Retired Fort Meade Fire Chief Albert Daley of Pasadena shares a laugh with retired engineman David Freyman of Severn, who served with the Fort Meade Fire Department for about 30 years, at the centennial celebration of the fire department on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Nicole Munchel)

The celebration formally began with a recounting of the fire department’s 100-year history, begining with the creation of Camp Meade in 1917 and the formation of the fire department on Oct. 3.

The first fire department consisted of only a first lieutenant and four enlisted Soldiers. Over time, the department grew to 25 men.

By the 1950s, civilians with experience as volunteer firemen began taking the place of Soldiers,who returned to the Army’s mission. Twenty years later, the fire department operated out of two fire stations. The headquarters was located on Rock Avenue; the second departmented was at Tipton Airfield.

In the 1980s, the fire department’s equipment expanded, adding a ladder truck. A decade later, DES took on the task of becoming a hazardous materials unit.

By the early 2000s, the department added confined-space rescues to its duty list.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the fire department moved to its current location at 6619 Mapes Road. Eventually, the fire stations at Tipton Airfield and Rock Avenue both closed.

Last August, a second fire station opened on Clark Road and was named in honor of the late Deputy Chief Bruce Smith.

The Fort Meade Fire Department was named the Army Fire Department of the Year in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the DoD Fire Department of the Year in 2011.

To celebrate the centennial, a 100th anniversary patch and T-shirts were available to participants.

“This is an outstanding ceremony and opportunity to recognize the outstanding work of the fire department,” Knudson said. “They put themselves in harm’s way to protect the community. Their job is their calling.”

Fire Capt. Jeremy Magers produced the video and the book for the anniversary.

“I wanted to show the traditions and pride of the fire department,” he said. “It’s like a baton that gets passed from generation to generation.”

Steve Jones, a Fort Meade firefighter from 1982 to 2001, attended the event with his wife, Diane.

“We had a lot of great times,” Jones said over lunch. “Everyone was dedicated and focused on the job.”

Jones, who traveled from Hanover, Pa., said he wouldn’t have missed the anniversary.

“I’m seeing people I’ve worked with, and it feels great,” he said. “I’m sorry for the ones we’ve lost who can’t be here to enjoy this.”

Retired Capt. D. Michael Doll, who served from 1979 to 2010, said the Fort Meade fire department is a family.

“You eat, laugh and sometimes you cry together,” he said.

He said the firefighters respond to fires and calls for help on and off post, never giving a thought to themselves.

“Above all, we’re like a family,” he said. “That’s the best way to describe it.”

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