Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department history

Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department history
Equipment is at the ready at the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

A fire at the Hugg Mansion, a 100-year-old landmark on the Howard County side of the Patapsco River a short distance from the Town of Sykesville, was destroyed by a fire in July 1933. By the time the closest fire company from Ellicott City reached the scene, the home was beyond saving.

It was that event that caused Sykesville residents to recognize the community’s vulnerable position in the event of a fire and just a few months later, 20 men signed up as members voted to form the Sykesville Volunteer Fire Company, according to a history posted on the fire company’s website.


On Sept. 24, 1933, the company had its first fundraiser, a Tag Day Sale, where small red lapel tags were sold for a “silver donation,” most selling for 10 to 25 cents. The sale netted $51.25. A hastily arranged carnival was held the first week of October on a lot on the south end of Sykesville’s Main Street, near the railroad station. Fire companies from nearby towns put on pumping demonstrations and took children on fire engine rides. Hot dogs, bottled soft drinks and bing games each cost a nickel. The carnival made the company $350.

In November, a committee from the fire company visited the American LaFrance plant in Elmira, N.Y., placing an order for a 500-gallon pumper, including nozzles and 1,000 feet of hose. The $7,000 order was subject to cancellation if the company failed to raise sufficient funds.

Yet, on Dec. 14, 1933, a parade that started in Eldersburg marked the appearance of Sykesville’s first piece of motorized fire apparatus, despite extremely cold weather that day. Two weeks later, the company would respond to its first alarm, a chimney fire in an Eldersburg home.

The first payment of $2,400 on the fire truck was due Jan. 15, 1934, but just a bit more than $1,000 had been raised, and it seemed as if the fire truck would have to be returned to the manufacturer. However, merchants Marion Harris and Henry Forsyth showed faith in the volunteers, endorsing bank notes enabling the firefighters to borrow the needed money.

That summer, the company put on its first large-scale community carnival on the grounds of the town’s high school. It was successful, netting more than $2,000.

In the evenings after working their regular jobs, the volunteers laid a concrete floor and restored an old house at the south end of Main Street to serve as the engine house, with a second-floor meeting room. The owner of the building permitted the company to use it rent-free for three years.

Sykesville suffered its first significant fire loss in October 1937, when flames broke out on the roof of the building near the fire hose. Volunteers hooked up their engine to a nearby fire plug that piped water from the Patapsco, but mud and silt from the river closed the intake pipe. By the time the company was able to begin pumping water, the flames were out of control, destroying a block of businesses and apartments.

In 1939, the company purchased the old stone store building across the street and had it renovated to meet the firefighters’ requirements. Throughout World War II, it served not only as the fire house, but also the civilian defense office and control center for the Freedom and Berrett districts of Carroll.

Following the war, the company began looking for new quarters. The stone building was sold to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, and plans were made to build a new station on Main Street several blocks uptown. The two-story building was completed and dedicated in spring 1949. During the ceremony, a siren atop the new building sounded, and a truck and crew responded to a fire call. That station continued in service for 34 years.

Ambulance service by the Sykesville company was begun in May 1957, when a new Pontiac costing $7,827 was purchased. The vehicle’s equipment included a resuscitator donated by the Freedom Lions Club.

In 1964, state officials approved leasing 22 acres of Springfield State Hospital farmland along Md. 32 and Freedom Avenue to the fire company. The favorable lease was provided in consideration of providing fire protection to state-owned property at Springfield and Henryton Center in Florhville. The space provided land for the carnival and training grounds and, eventually, space for a new fire station. The first carnival was held there in 1970.

Starting in 1968, public water facilities came to Sykesville and later to much of the Freedom District, leading to the installation of fire plugs at strategic locations. A year later, the fire plugs proved their worth when a fire struck the Main Street firehouse, although two trucks were lost and the engine room heavily damaged. With insurance and fundraising, the company was able to restore the building and buy a new pumper truck and smaller vehicle for brush fires.

The company was renamed the Sykesville Freedom District Fire Department in the early 1970s, and Station No. 2 in Florhville was put in service. About 10 years later, the company closed the Main Street station — to much consternation from townspeople — and consolidated operations at the Florhville location, with plans for expansion in the future.

The first female firefighter in Carroll County, Libby Luebberman, joined the Sykesville-Freedom department in 1971. A junior fire department program began in 1977.


In March 1984, construction began on a new facility at a total cost of $646,960, and it officially opened in 1985 and dedicated May 5. Much of the work was done by volunteers, including demolition of the old station.

Sykesville-Freedom’s first full-time paid employee Neil Robey was hired in 1994.

In 2010, following a pair of blizzards less than a week apart that dropped more than 4 feet of snow on the county, the roof of the Sykesville-Freedom District company collapsed under the weight of the snow, striking a gas line and causing a fire that gutted the activity building. The $6 million rebuild was completed in early 2013.

6680 Sykesville Road, Sykesville, MD 21784

Phone: 410-795-9311