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Close-knit community mourns firefighter


Maryland Line Volunteer Company No. 45 was Bob Humphrey's home away from home.

Humphrey volunteered at the firehouse for 27 years. When he was not responding to calls along the rural roads of northern Baltimore County, he and other longtime volunteers gathered in the firehouse, reminiscing.

The firehouse has long been a center of community life in Maryland Line, whose 300 residents live along a 3/4 -mile stretch of York Road. Residents hold dances and bingo matches at the station. Many of the volunteers went to school together at Hereford High and live next door to one another. As far as the station's 30 volunteers are concerned, they are always on call.

On Sunday, as he had so many times before, Humphrey, 62, of Parkton jumped into his pickup truck when a call was dispatched over his pager. Arriving at the scene of an accident on southbound Interstate 83, he parked the truck on the right shoulder of northbound I-83 and started walking across the highway. Almost immediately, he was struck by a car. He died later that day at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. State police said they do not plan to file charges against the driver.

Yesterday, friends and family placed Humphrey's firefighting equipment and an American flag at the spot where he died and said they plan to establish a memorial fund in his name.

Humphrey was the 20th volunteer firefighter to die in the line of duty in Baltimore County since 1928, said Jim Doran, an administrator for the Baltimore County Volunteer Firefighters Association.

At the Maryland Line firehouse, Humphrey worked alongside volunteers with 30, 40 and 50 years' experience.

Sunday's call was the third time this month that the firefighters were called to I-83, an unusually high number.

"Around here, [when a volunteer hears a call], you stop what you are doing, throw your clothes on and come to the station as fast as you can," said Dick Fogle, 62, who volunteers with his son. "Bob was usually too far, so he would go in his own truck."

Humphrey, a retired truck driver, had three children, including his daughter, Bobbie, 21, a volunteer firefighter.

Humphrey "was a complex man with simple taste," said volunteer Bill Schmalze, 62, of Parkton, who went to high school with Humphrey and lived next door. "He was a country boy."

Humphrey's funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 315 N. Constitution Ave., New Freedom, Pa.

Visitation will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow at J.J. Hartenstein Funeral Home, 24 Second St., New Freedom.

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