History of the Accokeek Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
Proficiency and dedication to service and the community have long been the hallmarks of the Accokeek Volunteer Fire Department (VFD). The following sequential history confirms that long and dedicated service. The Accokeek VFD was organized in March 1932 under the direction of Mr. G. E. Wilson. He held the position of our first president during the first years of the organization and continued in that office for a total of 20 years. The first chief of the company was Mr. William Adell (he is driving our first fire truck in the picture currently hanging in the FSB hallway). The company has grown from the most meager beginnings when it owned no buildings and no commercially prepared fire apparatus. The first fire engine was a Cadillac automobile which was donated by Mrs. Alice Ferguson. It was converted into a serviceable fire truck through the volunteer efforts of department members. This first piece of equipment was housed in a one-stall garage (shed) which was owned by Mr. Wilson. The site of that garage (shed) is about 100 yards east of the present fire station. It served the department for 3 years.
All fire emergencies were reported directly to Mr. Wilsonâ€™s home phone which was an 8-family party line. When calls got through, Mr. Wilson ran to the garage where he rang a large bell, hanging in the bell tower, to alert the communityâ€™s volunteer firefighters. The bell stands in front of the present station as part of our monument to our deceased members and is in memory of Mrs. Lois Underwood and Mr. Edward (Rusty) De Marr.
A new fire house was built in 1935 and in the same year, the first new fire engine was delivered. This engine was a Ford chassis with a 350-gallon per minute rotary Hale pump. Its total cost was $3,500. The homemade Cadillac fire truck answered many, many calls and served well until 1944. At this time, the complete malfunction and subsequent collapse of the engine yielded it impractical for further repair.
The year 1944 was an eventful year for the department. The early years of World War II made it impossible to order new equipment. A new Ford chassis with a 500-gallon per minute pump was purchased for $4,500 to replace the retired Cadillac. A 2-horsepower siren installed on the top of the fire house was now alerting volunteers to service, utilizing 2 new Ford pumpers. Pressure initiated on the telephone company through the Public Utilities Commission was instrumental in providing the first adequate fire service communication lines. A direct telephone line was installed between the Prince Georgeâ€™s County Fire Control Board in Capitol Heights and the Accokeek VFD. This enabled the siren to be blown automatically and emergency calls to be transmitted to the station as soon as they were received at the Fire Board. A 5-horsepower siren installed at this time increased the citizenâ€™s coverage by alerting more volunteers more rapidly. By 1949, the community was beginning to grow and the company decided the 1935 Ford engine was not really adequate for fighting building fires. A more modern fire engine with a larger pump and capable of carrying more water was deeded. A 1949 International engine with a 500-gallon per minute pump and a tank capacity of 500 gallons was delivered in August 1949. Foreseeing the need to house this new, larger vehicle, volunteers erected a 2-stall addition to the firehouse while awaiting delivery of the new engine from American Fire Apparatus Company of Battle Creek, Michigan.
From 1949 on, all apparatus was equipped with 2-way radio services enabling vehicles to be in communication with the Fire Board while en route to an emergency, on the scene, and returning.
In 1950, the need for ambulance service became apparent as the suburbs extended and traffic congesting on Indian Head Highway caused an increase in serious accidents. The first ambulance was a used 1941 Buick which arrived in Accokeek in September 1950. This ambulance served for 2 years and was replaced in 1953 by a 1948 Cadillac which was in use for approximately 3 years. A 1953 ambulance was purchased in 1956 and served until 1960.
Another service added by the department in 1958 to accommodate the emergencies resulting from boating accidents and drowning on the Potomac River. A 16-foot aluminum boat, equipped with an 18-horsepower Evenrude outboard engine and carried by trailer, was acquired and put into service. At the same time, a pick-up truck (U-24) was purchased to meet many miscellaneous needs which included towing the boat and responding on brush fires.
A 1946 Mack Pumper (241), with a 750-gallon per minute pump was purchased through Government surplus in 1959. Its tank of 150-gallons was replaced by on of 400 gallons. This now allowed the department to convert the 1944 Ford (246) from a pumper to a brush truck and to retire from service the much used 1935 Ford. Attention was again directed to the updating of ambulance equipment in 1960 with the purchase of a new Cadillac. This ambulance replaced the 1953 Cadillac which had locked an engine and was no longer serviceable. The new ambulance was widely admired and won many trophies for best appearing and best equipped ambulance at parades in the Washington area.
1960 was a very big year for the department in many ways. In this year, the department purchased an Amphibious Duck for $200. This proved to be an outstanding piece of water rescue equipment. It rolled over the highway at 50 mph and could be driven directly into the water, propelling itself as a rescue boat. Its large and powerful search lights and other rescue apparatus contributed to its versatility in serving water bodies in the southern area of the county. This unit also was used for our annual Santa Claus parade hold on Christmas Eve.
The acquisition of so much equipment, combined with added growth in this ounce rural community, soon made it apparent that a new and larger facility was necessary. A new building would not only assure proper housing of the equipment, but would also provide space for fund raising activities, so essential in maintaining the standards of modern day equipment to protect area property. A building committee was formed, plans were finalized and ground breaking ceremonies were held at the annual July 4th parade in 1961.
Sadness gripped the department in November 1961 when the 1960 ambulance was struck broadside by a tractor trailer and damaged it to such an extent that the insurance company ruled in beyond repair. The Board of Directors carefully studied the current needs of the community and the resources available. They determined that increases in population, growth, and accident rates warranted the purchase of 2 ambulances in order to meet these community needs. Two new 1962 International ambulances were delivered in February 1962. They were fully equipped for any type of emergency and were kept busy meeting the many rescue needs in our area.
Meanwhile, the new building was completed and formally dedicated on July 4, 1962. The larger, modern facility, with its surrounding 6 acres provided ample space for holding carnivals, bull roasts, and other fund raising activities.
An accident in October 1962 again created a crisis for our department. The main pumper (243), a 1949 International, equipped with a 500-gallon per minute pump was wrecked while responding to an alarm. Finances were extremely limited. The only alternative was to purchase used equipment in order to protect the property of the community. Two 750-gallon per minute Seagrave pumpers were purchased, one 1959, and the other a 1955. These were put into service in the latter part of 1963. Regular and rapid growth in the Accokeek area prompted the members of the department to once again access the needs. They decided more modern fire fighting equipment was essential in order to contend with the communityâ€™s present and projected growth. A committee was formed to make some firm suggestions on the purchase of 2 new pumpers. After much discussion, investigation, and dedication, a decision was finally made. On May 18, 1965, a unanimous vote was cast by all members to accept the specifications and contract offered by the Young Fire Fighting Equipment Company of Buffalo, New York for 2 750-gallon per minute pumpers mounted on 1965 Ford C-1000 chasses. The new pumpers were to have 500-gallon capacity water tanks. Cost for both pumpers was to be approximately $55,000 to $60,000, depending on the equipment included. Delivery was projected for October 1965.
Meanwhile an all-out program of fund raising was initiated to pay for the new equipment. Citizens of the area rallied behind this drive, donating funds via coin cards distributed to all homes by members of the department. The Ladies Auxiliary contributed $1000 toward the truck fund. Numerous fund raising drives continued to pay for the purchase of needed equipment for the 2 new pumpers. Just prior to the delivery of the new engines, a progressive step was taken by the department when parking lot was paved. This not only contributed to cleanliness, but also eliminated parking problems around the station when fund raising events were held. This action also improved the appearance of the station, making it an accepted landmark in the community and in keeping with the continued cultural and civic organization of the area.
This department, in May 1965, inaugurated a new program to further serve the community by organizing all-night, stand-by crews in the fire house to be readily available between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This procedure greatly benefited the residents by assuring the firefighters would be ever ready at all rimes of need, as provided by the code of the Accokeek VFD and Rescue Squad, Inc.
Following the July 4, 1965, parade a ground breaking ceremony was held for the proposed memorial to be dedicated in the mane of the deceased fireman of the department. State Senator Fred Wineland was present and assisted in turning the first spade of dirt in preparation for memorialâ€™s construction. An ongoing program of community awareness to fire prevention is another service of this department. Each year during Fire Prevention Week in October, the department participates in distributing fire prevention flyers to families in the area via the school children. An open house is held annually to familiarize residents with the many services performed by their volunteer fire department.
February 12, 1966, was a joyous day for the department and the community. The 2 new C-1000 Ford fire engines rolled into the fire house at 11:30 p.m. This was a great step forward for the department in its continuing effort to provide the best in equipment and service to protect the citizens of its community.
The County Commissioners adopted a paid firefighter policy on June 1, 1967. This provided 2 paid professional firefighters in the fire house to serve during daylight hours, thus giving the residents of the community full fire protection, both day and night. These firefighters served under the County Merit System with their salaries paid by the county. This service was broadened in December 1967 when the county assigned an additional firefighter raising our total paid staffing to 3.
As the years rolled on the department continued to be ever aware of providing for the needs of the community by striving to update and replace its equipment. In 1968, 2 new International ambulances were purchased in an effort to furnish efficient and necessary ambulance service. A 1969 Ford brush truck was purchased and delivered on June 1, 1969. This was a badly needed piece of equipment to respond to our many field and brush fires.
Since 1969, the department has purchased a vehicle to be used as the chiefâ€™s car. The chief used this car to respond to fire calls ahead of the equipment, assures the needs of the emergency and prepares to direct the firefighters as they work to save lives and property. The chief is also in contact with the Fire Board at all times via radio and is frequently able to report many emergencies before they are detected by anyone else.
It became necessary to retire one of the International ambulances in 1972. At that time, a new Cadillac ambulance, featuring the newest in emergency equipment, was purchased. The Ladies Auxiliary purchased a 17-foot Sports Craft boat and trailer with a 65-horsepower Evinrude motor as a gift to the department in 1973. This replaced the boat which had served well since 1958. The other International ambulance had to be retired in 1976. It was replaced with a 1971 Chevrolet van-type ambulance purchased from a neighboring county.
In late 1976, a Ford station wagon was equipped, converted for fire department use, and donated by one of the volunteers. It was used as a highly serviceable utility vehicle until February 1978.
On April 7, 1977, the members of the department voted to admit women to membership. Six women made application and were accepted within the first month. The women are required to take the same training as the men and are fully qualified to perform all rescue and firefighting operations.
Weekly bingos were resumed in October 1977 in an effort to establish a regular and dependable fund raising project. In the 80's and 90's, Vegas nights were held weekly as a fund raiser until the county decided it was no longer allowed by volunteer departments within Prince Georgeâ€™s County. We currently hold bingo twice weekly, yard sales, dances, boot drives, fund drive letters, breakfast with Santa, etc. to continue our much needed fund raising efforts enabling the department to purchase and pay for fire suppression equipment to properly serve and protect the community. In the early 90's, our Activity Hall was built behind the fire house. This enables further fund raising by facility rentals such as wedding receptions, dances, community meetings, etc. One of the events we are still most known for is our annual Santa Claus run which is held on Christmas Eve. To date we have 2 1994 Pierce Lance engines (241 and 242 â€“ better known as Pride and Joy), 2002 Sutphen Aerial (Tower 24), 1987 American Eagle (Mini-Pumper 24), 2000 Ford Crown Victoria (chief's car), 2006 Freightliner American LaFrance Ambulance (249 â€“ county owned), 1985 Chevrolet Pick-up (BX 24), and a 2007 Chevrolet Impala (utility 24 â€“ county owned).
Many great volunteers have come and gone through this department and are greatly missed. The current department membership owes so much to our founders for setting the foundation to which we continue to build on today and for that we say thank you.