Manchester Volunteer Fire Company history

Manchester Volunteer Fire Company history
The Manchester fire company station along Md. 30 is pictured. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

A group of private citizens and businessmen organized in 1885 to form the Manchester Fire Engine and Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, and in March 1893, the company was officially incorporated by the state of Maryland.

Its first firehouse was the Manchester Academy Building on York St., being used at the time as a high school. It was located in front of the present Manchester Elementary School. Five years later in 1898, the Gardner Building, the present site of the company at 3209 Main Street, was purchased for $725. After approximately $350 worth of repairs, the new fire hall was dedicated on Sept. 2, 1899. That same year, the first hand-drawn chemical engine, which used a foam-like substance to extinguish fires, and a horse-drawn ladder wagon were painted white and striped in blue and gold.


In June 1921, a fire that started in a nearby buggy shop destroyed the firehouse and adjoining buildings. After selling off some of the surviving equipment, the company ordered a Stutz fire engine with a chemical tank for $7,000. It was Manchester’s first motorized piece of fire equipment. The engine was converted to a water system in 1931.

Manchester, along with Taneytown, Hampstead, Westminster and Lineboro fire companies, formed the Carroll County Firemen’s Association in 1923.

Work began on a new fire hall a few years later and it was completed in 1925, complete with a tower clock donated by J. Frankforter as a memorial for G. Paul Frankforter, who was killed in World War I. The clock tower, which is still in place, cost $600.

In the 1930s, the fire company took over operation of a movie theater on the second floor of the fire hall. It provided a source of income for the Manchester company until it was closed in 1953. The Volunteer Fire Company Band of Carroll County was also organized out of Manchester in the ’30s, and marched in parades and other functions until it disbanded in 1937. Uniforms are still stored at the fire hall.

It was in 1935 that the first telephone was installed at the fire station, improving communications during fires and other emergencies. In 1937, the company purchased Turner Field for $2,000 to be used as Manchester’s carnival grounds.

A second piece of motorized equipment, a 1938 Sea Grave Engine Sedan with a 500 gallon pumper, was purchased for $8,276, which improved the company’s capabilities in fighting fires. In 1941, a siren was installed to alert members of an emergency more quickly.

During World War II, two firefighters, Edgar E. Yingling and Russell Zepp, were killed while serving in the military. A few years later, the company would purchase a fire insurance building adjoining the fire hall for $2,400 and had it torn down for future expansion. A nearly $21,000 addition to the building was completed in 1949 and dedicated to the memories of Yingling and Zepp.

In 1945, the company gave away its first car at the annual carnival. It purchaed a car stand for the giveaway in 1959 which is still used to this day.

The fire company and the Ladies’ Auxiliary jointed sponsored their first play in March 1955, called “Disappointed Widow.”

In 1959, the company purchased a new Ford four-wheel-drive truck to fight field fires. It was the first four-wheel-drive vehicle for fire service in Carroll County.

The auditorium of the fire house started hosting weekly bingo in 1966, although it was later moved to the Activities Building at the carnival grounds on York Street, where it still takes place.

In the 1970s, in addition to another expansion of the fire hall, firefighter Ralph Dull submitted a fire prevention booklet to the county and state association contest, winning first place in both. A float was also made with the theme “Fire Prevention Never Takes a Vacation,” which won 12 trophies, including the Governor’s trophy at the state firefighter’s convention. Set up in the back of a pickup truck with a tent, the float reminded people about fire safety when camping.

Improvements were made to the carnival grounds and activities building during the early 1980s and, in 1984, a $330,000 addition to the fire station was approved and completed in 1985, coinciding with the company’s 100th anniversary year. The annivesary was celebrated with a parade in August and banquet in October of that year.

In 1991, the company placed a basic life support unit in service.


On Dec. 5, 1994, an apartment fire on Locust Street became one of the biggest the town had ever seen. Ambulances and medics from as far as Towson assisted, and 32 firefighters and civilians were transported to hospitals as far away as Baltimore. No serious injuries were reported.

Manchester hired paid EMS personnel in 1996-97 for the first time to cover daytime hours for the medic unit while most volunteers worked full-time jobs.

During the fall of 2000 the fire company began plans to remodel the Firemen's Activities Building and Training Center.

3209 Main St., Manchester, MD 21102

Phone: 410-239-2286