Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1 history
By Carroll County Times staff
Jun 22, 2018 | 10:25 AM
The Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1 began roughly 195 years ago in 1823, when members erected a plain board firehouse with two large doors, no windows and a shingle roof on Church Street. The engine house moved in 1834 to Main Street, where it doubled as a jail.
In 1851, the Westminster City Council grew upset with the fire company because of the burning of town barracks and stables. The council sold the fire company’s engine, and ordered hooks and ladder as the only tools available.
It took several years, but the company reorganized and incorporated under its current name, the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1, in 1879, and land was purchased to build a new fire station on Main Street.
By 1885, the City of Westminster had a water system in place, so the company disposed of its pumper and replaced it with reels and hose. Hose houses were erected at either end of Westminster in 1887, and by 1896, a three-story firehouse was constructed at 66 East Main Street.
The first floor contained a large fire apparatus room; a wide stairway led from the street to the second floor, which held a meeting room, a parlor, the city council chambers and a clerk’s office. The third floor held lodge rooms, a banquet hall and a kitchen.
The new firehouse included a clock tower that housed a 1,000-pound alarm bell, transferred from the old fire station, used to signal a fire. The bell initially cost the company 25 cents per pound, according to a timeline on the company’s website.
A century ago, in 1918, the company purchased its first motor-driven engine, a Republic 350-gallon capacity pumper.
An American LaFrance ladder wagon, which is still kept at the company’s museum at its current fire hall, was put into service in 1924. Within 24 hours, it was used to fight a large fire at the Wm. Myers Meat Packing plant in town.
Four paid engine drivers were hired to maintain an around-the-clock presence at the firehouse in 1926 and, in 1928, Westminster started an ambulance service with an assist from the Rotary Club, which helped convince the city council to purchase an ambulance for the department.
Westminster is current one of just three of Carroll’s 14 volunteer fire companies that does not host a summer carnival, but that wasn’t always the case. The company held an annual carnival in the 1940s, although the exact years and for how long are unclear.
The Westminster fire company also hosted banquets and community oyster, ham and turkey dinners in the 1950s through the 1980s.
Westminster established a junior firefighter program in the late 1970s, to train young people to become volunteers for the company when they turned 18.
At noon on Oct. 24, 1998, the 66 East Main Street station was retired and the company moved into its current quarters at 28 John Street. The company held a parade from the old station to the new one, inviting outside companies to join. At 1 p.m. that day, the new station went into service.
When it opened, the John Street location was the second-largest volunteer firehouse in Maryland, covering 35,280 square feet.
In the early 2000s, the Westminster fire company’s Ladies Auxiliary disbanded, mainly because so many women were joining as responders.
In December 2017, firefighter Jamie Petry because the first female first responder in the company’s history to be elected president by its membership.
When Petry was installed in January 2018, she joined a growing number of women in leadership roles in the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Company No. 1, including EMS, fire suppression, and administrative officers. Lt. Kim Darby, a firefighter paramedic, is now a shift commander. Lt. Laura Tyler, a flight paramedic, is an emergency services officer, and Caroline Babylon, a federal auditor, is the treasurer.