Architect, Michael Profitt was
thanked by building committee chairman John Damskey
for his help in rebuilding the Vigilant Hose Company
fire house in Emmitsburg, during the 125th
anniversary celebration at the fire house on Sunday
October 25, 2009.
Inside a garage that usually only houses
standard fire station equipment — an engine, emergency
vehicles, fire suits and helmets — a huge crowd of people
gathered on Sunday to celebrate Vigilant Hose Company's 125th
"It was more than we expected," Frank Davis,
the company's president, said of the turnout.
Recently appointed U.S. Fire Administrator
Kelvin Cochran spoke at the event, calling himself an
"indirect citizen" of Emmitsburg because it serves as the home
of the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Academy.
"This fire company represents all that we
try to achieve in the fire service," Cochran said. The
Vigilant Hose Company is "one of the greatest, if not the
greatest," volunteer fire companies in the country, he said.
One thing that was emphasized throughout the
celebration, during speeches by Cochran and members of the
company, is that Vigilant Hose has remained entirely staffed
by volunteers throughout its 125 years — a modern rarity — and
has seen huge involvement within families.
Many current members aren't the only person
in their family who serves in the company. Tom Hoke, a nearly
70-year member, is the son of the first recorded chief of
Vigilant Hose, Joseph Hoke.
Davis said his family is four generations
deep in the company. He reflected on a time before Sept. 11
when Emmitsburg used "fire phones" — certain community members
had them in their homes or businesses, where people would call
in case of emergency.
There were several throughout the town, he
said, but his family had the main one at its The Palms
restaurant, which was staffed 18 hours per day, seven days per
week and was across the street from the fire station.
It wasn't food service tasks that new
restaurant employees learned first, "it was what you did when
the fire phone rang," Davis said in a pre-taped interview for
a short commemorative film made for the occasion. The next
step in the process was for someone to ring the bell on the
front of the station, alerting volunteers of an emergency.
Member Bob Rosensteel Sr., remarked in the
film that a past Vigilant Hose chief was also a barber in
town. When the fire bell would toll signifying an emergency,
customers were sometimes left with half a haircut, he said.
In addition to celebrating 125 years of
service to the community, the event also served to unveil the
newly renovated station.
The right wing of the building was
essentially demolished and rebuilt, a $1.7 million project. It
now houses exercise equipment, laundry machines, two freezers,
a storage area, administrative offices, a lounge and
kitchenette, a bunk area, showers and lockers.
It now has the ability to temporarily house
residents who are displaced by a town emergency.
"The men and women of this company deserved
something better than what they had," said John Damskey, the
company's vice president.
"It suits the men and women of today and it
will suit the men and women of tomorrow," he said.
According to Tim Clarke, the company's
spokesman, funding for the project came entirely from
fundraising and community support. While Davis joked to the
crowd that the Baltimore Ravens' bye-week was the reason for
the event being held on Sunday, it was actually the only open
weekend the company had in the fall, due in large part to
pre-scheduled fundraising events.
A painting by local artist Rebecca Pearl,
featuring images from the company's past and present, was also
unveiled at the ceremony. Performances by The Fire Brigade
Pipes and Drums of Greater Baltimore, Inc. served as
entertainment, but the group also played "Amazing Grace" to
honor fallen firefighters.