Byron Phelps was 15 in 1942 when he began volunteering with the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company.
Phelps’s service with OVFC was as a ‘junior.’ Boys that age were only allowed to help during brush, field and wood fires. Back in the 1940’s “Odenton to Glen Burnie was all forest,” Phelps said.
Last month, the 91-year-old was honored by the fire company for his 75 years of service at a banquet where he received a glass plaque. Phelps is also a member of the Anne Arundel County Volunteer Firefighters Hall of Fame.
Times have changed, and so has firefighting, Phelps said.
“We had to use the tanker truck a lot [to carry water] because there were no fire hydrants around back then,” Phelps said.
He was voted in as an official volunteer with Odenton Volunteer Fire Company Oct. 22, 1943. Phelps was 16-years-old.
“At 17-years-old, I got to take the training to be a full-on fire fighter, and every year after that,” said Phelps smiling.
Phelps credits his uncles Lester and Lee Phelps for inspiring him to be a firefighter as they were a part of the company, too. The firehouse was a quick walk from his home which is where the Odenton Regional Library now stands.
Phelps said “everything” has changed during his 75 years with the fire company.
“They built a whole new fire house and moved the old one back [in 1963],” Phelps said.
Phelps remembers 1970 when ambulance service began being offered and the drivers were women. Phelps embraced the new volunteers.
“I enjoyed [seeing the women],” Phelps said with a sly smile. “We were a good family up there, We all got along and still do. I go up when I can.”
However, firefighting is serious business.
“My scariest moment was on Dorsey Road,” Phelps said. “There was a big brush fire moving towards a house. The fire actually burned the hose that was still attached to the back of the fire truck.”
Phelps is proud they saved the home and no one got hurt. Phelps held many positions in the OVFC including treasurer for eight years, lieutenant for several years, but could only survive being captain for six months.
“They wouldn’t let me drive anymore (as captain) so I gave it up,” Phelps said. “I wasn’t one to sit around. I wanted to be there and be in on the action. It’s always been a busy fire house.”
Phelps was an active firefighter over 50 years until bad knees and age caught up with him. He continued to be a part of the OVFC family by cleaning the hall with his late wife Alberta and friends Ray and Linda Hodgson for eight years.
Phelps worked over 24 years for the Westinghouse Electrical Corp. in their security and fire operations department. Phelps also ran OVFC’s carnival, which begins in a week, for five years.
“I love the carnival,” Phelps said. “Now I just go up and sit there. It’s one of the biggest things we have to make money. Now we have Food Truck Thursdays.”
Phelps encourages people to volunteer or donate to the fire company.
“The county doesn’t give you that much money to run a company,” he said.
Phelps said he stayed with the company for 75 years because, “I just like to help people.”
Western District meeting
On May 9 at 7 p.m. at Western District Police headquarters, Capt. Jeff Silverman owill present his monthly “Captain’s Report” at the Community Relations Council and answer questions. Cpl. Cory Eslick, special resource officer at Broadneck High School, will be the guest speaker.
All are welcome. The Western District Police headquarters is at 8273 Telegraph Road in Odenton.
Scam awareness presentation
The Forum will present Jeannine Hurley-Anderson of the Maryland Office of the U.S. Attorney General at noonMay 17. She will address avoiding scams and fraud. Americans over age 50 are the prime targets of crooks. Scammers stole tens of billions of dollars last year from seniors.
The Forum is open to the pubic and meets at Osaka’s Grill & Buffet, 1633 Crofton Center. Call 410-562-8920 for more information.
High School freshmen and Crofton residents Renee Enzor, Lauren and Maddie Hamilton and Judi Wanamaker are headed to the Destination Imagination Global Finals Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. May 23-25. Destination Imagination is a STEM-based program with rules that requires months of preparation.
The girls chose the Improvisational Challenge that involves an impromptu performance based on research and cultural competency. The team is hosting a fundraiser May 16, 4-9 p.m. at Nando’s Peri-Peri in Waugh Chapel. They are holding a car wash and 50-50 raffle May 19, 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. at the Wellfleet pool, 3000 Nantucket Drive.