Vigilant Hose Company

25 West Main St. Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727

  Phone 301-447-2728 / Emergency Dial 911


Frederick County Company #6        Est. 1884


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Our History

VHC's MuseumThe history of community-based fire protection in greater Emmitsburg can be divided into five distinct periods.

First, from the beginning of the community in 1757 to the purchase of fire equipment in 1840; the best label for these 83 years is "The Bucket Brigade Period". When the alarm sounded, everyone grabbed a bucket and ran to form a line from the well in the square to the fire. Men would pass filled buckets, women the empty ones. Every able-bodied person was expected to fight fires, and shirking of this duty brought notices like this one dated May 25, 1829 - "(Name), you are hereby requested to present yourself at the Engine House in Emmitsburg, on the 4th Saturday of May, June, July and August, precisely at two o'clock p.m. with buckets and other requisites for company training."

The second period began with the purchase of an out-dated suction pump in 1840, and a town ordinance requiring all men to join the fire company. There was a fine levied for non-compliance. Such subscription produced 141 members. A hand-pulled hose cart, that is now on display in the fire station museum, carries hose from this period. Made of riveted leather, this hose is the first type used in the United States, and a piece of it is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. But the problem of this period, was water supply. The lack of water, plus increased population and housing made this 44 year period a fire-disaster in Emmitsburg. In 1845, the Otter Hotel, located on the southwest corner of the square, burned. In 1848, the Elder and Taney Warehouse, now located where the Lutheran Parish House now stands, burned. This fire nearly destroyed the church itself, which is the oldest non-residence building in the community. And on June 15, 1863, fifty buildings northeast of the square were consumed in what James Helman called "The Great Fire". He writes in his history: "Oh, the desolation a fire makes; most of the people lost their all, and never recovered. Money was sent from the cities to aid the poor."

The carefulness which protected the community in it's early years, was no longer a viable safeguard. A new weapon for fighting fires was needed in Emmitsburg.  That new defense came in 1884, when water from a newly built reservoir in the hills west of town was piped along the streets and fire hydrants were installed. It was also in 1884 that the Vigilant Hose Company (VHC) was founded. This third period of 45 years records only one major fire loss-the Presbyterian Church on August 28, 1902. The VHC became a legal entity in 1910 and an existing building and property at the site of the present fire house were purchased in 1920, for $4,500.

The fourth period continued from 1929 to the late 1980's. By far, it was the most productive period in the development of the fire company, both in finance and capability. It began with the purchase of the first motorized engine in 1929, for $3,200. That unit is now the property of neighboring Rocky Ridge Volunteer Fire Company. There were subsequent purchases of equipment that included: a 1945 Ford engine for $7000. This unit was placed out of service in 1982, but it remains in the hands of a local resident; a 1951 Ford engine for $15,000. This engine was sold in 1977; a 1961 Ford with a 500 gpm front mount pump and a 500 gallon tank for $2,000; a 1971 Ford with a 750 gpm front mount pump and 1,000 gallon tank for $3,400; a 1968 light rescue truck for $7,000. This unit is now a brush unit since the purchase of a heavy-duty rescue unit; a 1977 Ford/Pierce engine with a 750 gpm mid-ship pump and 950 gallon tank for $65,000 (the 1961 and 1977 units are now gone); a 1978 Ford/Swab heavy-duty rescue squad that carries a complete array of rescue and fire-fighting equipment that includes a Hurst Rescue Tool and Hurst Ram; a 1973 International/Pierce mini-pumper 300 gallon mid-ship with 200 gallon tank, sold in 1988; and a 1989 Pierce custom-built, triple combination, Class A pumper (the first of it's kind in department history) was placed into service at a cost exceeding $204,000. Known as Engine 63, it was the first totally enclosed engine ever operated by the department, owing to a commitment to improved firefighter safety. It was during the last decade of this fourth period of department history that women became actively involved in operational emergency response and members began laying the foundation for future improvements yet to come.

The fifth and current period began with the process of aggressive major organizational, facilities and equipment improvements started in the late 1980's and which culminated in April 1995, with the dedication of a major renovation project to Fire Station No. 6 and the placing into service of "Tower 6", a 1995 100' Pierce Aerial Platform. It was also during this period that a new multi-purpose brush unit was was placed into service at a cost of $100,000, which increased VHC's emergency medical service assistance capabilities.

Tower 6, at a cost of over $535,000, brings about a new era of emergency response capabilities unlike anything in the department's inventory previously. The unit carries water, a pump, hose, and a wide assortment of specialty tools for mitigating emergencies of all kinds.

Following a highly successful 3-year long "Campaign for Community Safety", substantial facility renovations have occurred at a cost of more than $440,000 which allowed for more operational areas, offices, storage and recreational space. Such is occurring as a result of generous community-wide support.

Today, preserving the excellent tradition of community service are over 100 active members, both men and women. Additionally, nearly 50 others are involved as auxiliary, social, life and honorary members who likewise continue to provide a broad range of critically important support activities.





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