Three devastating fires at the start of the 20th century prompted the Mount Airy community to form its own fire company.
In late 1925, after a third fire in the course of 22 years destroyed the town, a meeting was called to discuss fire protection for Mount Airy and surrounding areas and organize a fire company. According to the company’s website, a street fair was held to help raise money for the fire department, making $633.33 that first year. The fair would later morph into the company’s annual summer carnival that is still held to this day.
In 1926, the Mount Airy company joined the Carroll County Firemen’s Association and the Maryland State Firemen’s Association, and purchased the town’s first pumper truck, an American LaFrance, at a cost of $8,325. It cost $88.20 to have the pumper delivered to the town via flatbed railroad car on Nov. 30 of that year, and it is rumored the entire town was shut down while the engine was being unloaded, then paraded up and down Main Street to be admired by the town’s citizens. The pumper was in service until 1958, was restored a decade later and now sits prominently inside the firehouse museum.
A garage on South Main Street in Mount Airy served as the firehouse from 1926 until 1992, when the company relocated to 702 North Main Street. During those six-plus decades, the company added two more pumper trucks in the 1930s, a fourth pumper in 1947 and an ambulance in 1952.
In 1940, the Ladies Auxiliary to the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company was formed.
The year 1953 was particularly eventful. The company added two-way radios connected to the Carroll County frequency and the fire board in Washington Grove, and it also purchased the 45-acre farm on Twin Arch Road that became the home of the annual carnival.
In 1959, the activities building was constructed on the carnival grounds to be used by the company and other community organizations. Mount Airy’s junior fire company to train boys and girls interested in becoming volunteer firefighters was also organized that year, and a fifth piece of equipment, a Dodge fire and rescue truck with a front-mount pump, was purchased.
The fire company replaced much of its aging equipment in the 1960s, and in 1972 purchased a Mack/Swab rescue squad truck to be used for heavy rescue. The vehicle was so big, however, that the doors on the firehouse had to be enlarged to fit it.
Votes were taken in 1977 to consider changing the color of the company’s equipment from all red to lime yellow, and in 1986 to red and white. Both were ultimately defeated.
The Activities Building was renovated in the 1980s, adding a two-story addition with a garage on the lower level and a new kitchen on the top floor. The fire company began hosting money bingo to finance the renovations.
In 1984, recognizing the need for a bigger facility to house ever-larger apparatus, the company began searching for a new home. They thought they had found it at Wildwood Park, at the intersection of Park and Ridge avenues, but because of zoning challenges, it was rejected by the Town Council in 1986.
In 1988, the company began work to request that Carroll County hire Emergency Medical Services personnel to be on duty during daytime hours Monday through Friday. Part-time, paid EMS personnel started to work in April of the following year.
The next year, the company purchased a gas station and the Clay property next to the existing fire company, in hopes of eventually expanding its existing location. While there was a push to move the company next to the carnival grounds, membership didn’t want to be on the east side of Route 27. Rezoning of the Clay property was approved in 1990 and ground was broken in November 1991 on the new building. The company moved into its new digs — a $1.6 million 28,000-square-foot facility — almost exactly one year later.
In 2000, the company purchased a Spartan/Saulbury Engine Tanker, which could serve two purposes, to make up for a lack of personnel available to respond to daytime calls.
The Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company marked its 75th anniversary in 2001 with a formal gala at Turf Valley Country Club that recongized past presidents and chiefs, the auxiliary and a memorial service for all past members.
C. Oscar Baker, a 60-year member of the fire company who served as its president from 1952 to 1955, was recognized for his outstanding service in 2002 at the annual Maryland State Firemen’s Association convention, winning the Gladhill-Thompson Award. The company also decided to sponsor a MSFA award named after Baker, the C. Oscar Baker Rookie of the Year Award. On June 30 of that year, the new fire house was dedicated to Baker in recongition of his many years of service.