Three children died in the flames of a burning house on Route 3 one day 40 years ago because it took the closest firefighters half an hour to get there.
John Jorden and his friends in the Arundel Grange Farm Organization swore that such a terrible event wouldn't happen again. They banded together to form the Arundel Volunteer Fire Company in Gambrills in 1954. Now, Mr. Jorden, 72, and his wife, Marie, are the only charter members still active in the department.
"The closest fire companies back then were in Odenton or Annapolis," said Mr. Jorden, who lives in Gambrills. "So me and the Grange members, always wanting to help out the community in some way, decided this was our next project."
Two years later, the new firehouse was ready. The original volunteers even answered their first call before the building was finished. A neighbor's barn had caught fire, and Mr. Jorden and a few others put out the fire with water from a nearby pond before any other fire department arrived.
"When that whistle would blow, everyone would take off," Mr. Jorden said. "We helped our neighbors back then, partly for them and partly for ourselves."
Although Mr. Jorden no longer fights fires from the front lines, as he did for more than 20 years, he still attends all the monthly meetings at the firehouse and assists in fund-raisers and charity events. He and his wife have been awarded lifetime memberships at the Arundel department.
Mrs. Jorden, now 67, says she wanted to fight fires, but couldn't because she had young children.
"When a call would come in I would jump in the family car and speed down to the end of the farm to pick up my husband," she recalled. "John would hop in and drop me off at the house on the way out. I had to sit on the front porch of my house and watch my mother's house burn."
She helped by joining the Ladies Auxiliary, a support group and fund-raising organization for the Fire Department. She became secretary and president for many years before the group fell apart. Now she's a part of the men's auxiliary.
Mr. Jorden was never injured in his 25 years of battling fires and he said he never had to pull someone who died from the wreckage.
"Fires concerned me, but I never considered the danger at the time," he said. "I just did it and later I would think, 'Wow, that was close.' "