"It was a very devastating night, let me tell you," said Hoff, now 70, in a recent interview.
The world that Agnes rushed through was a different one from today, many people interviewed noted.
The local highway system was much less developed, the science behind the identification of historical flood plains wasn't as accurate, and channels of communication — early-warning systems, cell phones, social media — were woefully inadequate or nonexistent.
Local emergency responders also had far less equipment.
As the waters rose, Hoff said he and another firefighter, Charlie Mellin, were dispatched to a home a couple of hundred yards from the Patapsco River on Marriottsville Road, across from the Carroll County line, where water from the river and a nearby creek had created a rapid torrent that was lapping against the home's second-story windows.
There were 14 people trapped inside, including two mentally handicapped children, Hoff said.
All Hoff and Mellin had were a 14-foot flat boat, rope, radios and hand-held lights, Hoff recalled.
"It was pitch dark," he said.
The pair assessed the situation and determined Hoff would join a National Guardsman on the boat while Mellin would post up on dry land, at the other end of a rope attached to the boat.
Hoff wondered if he'd be alive the next day.
"I kind of prayed a little bit," he said. "I said, 'Lord, you get me out of this, we got it made.'"
He then handed Mellin one of the radios, and looked his partner in the eyes.
"I said, 'I'll tell you one damn thing. The only thing, Charlie, I want you to do, is keep talking to me. That's what the radio is for. I don't care what you talk about, I just want to hear a voice coming from you,'" Hoff recalled.
Then he headed out into the swift water, into the dark and the rain and the wind. He and the guardsman didn't know what was under them. At one point, a large propane tank popped out of the water right next to the boat, almost tipping it.
When they reached the house and realized how many people were there, they immediately decided there would have to be multiple trips made and started giving instructions to the first group.
"You had to explain to them," Hoff said. "You had to take them one-on-one and explain to them exactly what was going to happen, what to expect. And I plainly came out and told them, 'There's no guarantee with this swift water. There's no guarantee.'"
Hoff said he and Mellin and the National Guardsman worked most of the night, making four trips to the house and back.
Everyone was saved.
"It's been a long time," Hoff said, "but I can remember it like it was yesterday."
"Why those guys didn't get killed, I'll never know," said Richard Freas, another firefighter who responded the next morning to find Hoff and Mellin just ending their shift.