Delmar Davis, a retired general contractor and pioneering member of the Baltimore City Auxiliary Fire Department who served at the deadly Tru-Fit Clothing fire in 1955, died of congestive failure Sept. 18 at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The Lafayette Square resident was 99.
Born in Baltimore, he attended Carver Vocation-Technical School and was a 1933 graduate of Frederick Douglass High. He earned a degree at the old Baltimore Junior College.
Mr. Davis served in the Army in the Pacific during World War II.
He became a general contractor and worked from his home on Harlem Avenue. He renovated houses throughout Baltimore.
Friends said Mr. Davis was a lifelong Fire Department buff and spent free time at Engine 13 at Fremont and Myrtle avenues in West Baltimore. An official there encouraged him and a group of friends to enter a firefighter class.
But because African-Americans were not permitted to serve in the Baltimore Fire Department at that time, he served as a volunteer auxiliary member. The group responded to multiple-alarm fires. Mr. Davis also responded to fire calls during blackout periods during World War II.
He helped fight the Tru-Fit clothing store fire, a nine-alarm blaze in the 500 block of E. Baltimore St. that claimed the lives of six firefighters, including Battalion Chief Francis P. O'Brien, in 1955.
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In a 1999 Baltimore Sun article, Mr. Davis recalled being on the roof of the Tru-Fit building with Chief O'Brien.
"Chief O'Brien sent us down off the roof to get the inch-and-a-half line," he said. "When we walked through the small alley we heard Whoomp! ... I turned around and the building was gone. And we spent the rest of the night digging out, digging out."
Mr. Davis joined a group called the SHC Fire Buffs, based on McCulloh Street.