An antique-looking plaque, featuring the solid brass letters “FD,” now hangs in Halethorpe Fire Station No. 5, which just celebrated 100 years of service in the community.

Late last month, the station held an open house and two events that connected the station’s past with its future.

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One: The plaque that features big brass letters from one of the station’s older buildings was presented for “prominent” display in the new building.

Two: A retired captain who led the station during the 1960s and a 24-year-old rookie cut and served cake, bridging the firefighting generations.

“I think it was a little poignant,” said Danny Coolahan, a fire apparatus driver and 22-year veteran of the station.

Coolahan, an Arbutus resident and the member of the station largely responsible for organizing the celebration, said a lifelong interest in “old things” is what led him to learn the history of the station. He has also collected and compiled a history of the Halethorpe station.

Station No. 5, situated at 4501 Washington Blvd., is one of 25 career stations fully funded by Baltimore County, which is also home to nearly 30 volunteer stations. The latter receive financial support from the county but are funded largely through donations and other fundraising efforts.

Halethorpe’s service area is flanked on either side by volunteer stations: Arbutus to the west and Lansdowne to the east.

“Thousands and thousands of people drive by all day long; sometimes you just kind of blend in with the scenery,” said Capt. Eric Reinhardt, one of four shift captains at Halethorpe.

But, Reinhardt said, a turnout of nearly 200 people for the 100th birthday celebration was a showing of the “good standing” the station has in the community.

“It gives you a proud feeling, to know the community is there and supporting you,” he said.

The Halethorpe station got its start in 1891, as Engine Company #6 along Annapolis Avenue and Severn Street. However, that property — and that station — were both annexed by Baltimore City in 1919, so the station had to be re-formed.

In March 1919, the Baltimore County Fire Department reorganized the company and temporarily located it in Relay. The company was renumbered from No. 6 to No. 5 in 1921, and moved to a spot at Washington Boulevard and Halethorpe Avenue.

The station — a combined fire department and police department building — was in use for about 40 years. On June 5, 1961, the fire department moved into the the station on Washington Boulevard, and it was formally dedicated in September of that year.

The police department moved to its new Precinct 1 headquarters on Wilkens Avenue in 1962, and the old building was razed in 1963.

The current station is “only” about 60 years old, and Capt. Eric Reinhardt said that most of the sense of history, or generational passing, at Halethorpe comes not from the building itself, but from the camaraderie of the folks who have worked there.

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The station has about 55 personnel, according to Baltimore County officials, and operates in four shifts, like all career stations in the county, with between 12 and 15 staff on each shift.

Halethorpe Station No. 5 has one fire engine, a truck, a brush truck, a medic unit, an EMS unit and the only antique engine listed by the county.

“The history comes from the old timers that come in, the stories that get passed on from generation to generation,” Reinhardt said.

That history includes some memorable blazes and other incidents from the station’s past, including a $2 million loss at Washington Aluminum in Violetville in 1972, an explosion after a tanker fell off an overpass in 2004 and a pedestrian bridge collapse in 1999 in Arbutus.

While it may be generational wisdom and relationships that create the strongest sense of continuity at the Halethorpe station, some physical representations of the station’s history were on display at the anniversary ceremony.

The two large, solid brass letters, “FD,” for fire department, were recovered from the old station that was razed in 1963. Capt. Phil Schubert, who headed the department in the 1960s and died in 2017, had saved the letters and held on to them for years, before passing them along to John Berryman, another retired captain from the station.

“I wrapped them up and put them away,” Berryman said. “To be honest with you, I just forgot about ’em.” Being invited to the 100-year anniversary open house jogged Berryman’s memory, and he knew he had to do something with the relics.

He went to a hardware store, bought some lumber and assembled a plaque that has the station number on it, the brass letters, and a photo of Capt. Schubert from decades ago, backing an antique fire engine into the old firehouse.

“Nobody at the station knew what happened to the letters, they had just disappeared. I don’t think anybody even knew Schubert had them,” Berryman said.

Coolahan said the presentation was a surprise to just about everyone at the station. He added that it was “very meaningful” to have the letters back at tthe station and placed in a prominent location.

“It was a nice, little surprise,” he said.

When Berryman presented the plaque to the station, Schubert’s son, Jeff, was on hand.

“I was surprised and overwhelmed,” Jeff Schubert said. “It just meant so much that those letters were finally going to get back to a place of honor at Station 5, where they should be now forever.”

Berryman said the plaque will be displayed in the station, above the door between the engine bay and the inside of the station. Anyone leaving the station to the engine bay will see the plaque.

“If you believe in a god, he was there smiling, and [Phil] Schubert was there right along with him,” Berryman said.

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