The Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department celebrates its 75th anniversary with a series of events, including a gala at Turf Valley planned for November.
On Jan. 14, the year of celebration began with a visit to the department on Southwestern Boulevard by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Inside Franchot, surrounded by volunteers, delivered a proclamation praising department members for their service and their partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"All of the emergencies you have gone out on ... it is appreciated," Franchot said. "Great work, guys."
Franchot then toured the department with Administrative President John McDowell and Capt. Doug Simpkins Jr., checking out the vehicle bay, the bingo hall and even the station's popular holiday train garden, which was running just for him.
"One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother called and said she sold all my train sets," Franchot said.
The department then presented Franchot with its official 75th anniversary T-shirt and pens.
"We know you are a busy man," Simpkins said, as he handed Franchot the pens. "Next time you have to sign a tax program, use one of our pens to sign off."
Simpkins also invited the comptroller to a free ride in a fire truck any time.
"Can I wear my cowboy outfit?" Franchot asked.
There are 265 volunteers on the department's roster, according McDowell, making it the largest volunteer company in Baltimore County. McDowell said the station handles, on average, about 1,200 fire calls and 2,400 emergency service calls a year, roughly seven calls a day.
"We are always looking for new members and ways to raise money," McDowell said. "It is an ongoing process."
The station holds several fundraisers to help cover expenses that include the mortgage on the new addition and the loan on its newest vehicle. Bingo is held five nights a week and the hall is also available to rent. A mulch sale is held in the spring and a carnival is held in the summer. The department is getting ready to do a mailing, too.
"There is always something to be done in a volunteer fire department and there are good people to get it done," Simpkins said.
As he was leaving, Franchot thanked the department for the tour and the gifts.
"It's a first rate group of unsung heroes," Franchot said, of the department. "They don't get paid. They are supported by the community. I'm so proud of Arbutus."
McDowell said he would take the comptroller's proclamation to the station's members.
"We certainly appreciate it and I will pass it on to our members and express his (Franchot's) appreciation," McDowell said. "They are really the ones that make everything happen."