OOn the night of March 23, 1922, a store on
Bladensburg Road -- directly opposite the present fire station -- was
completely destroyed by fire. A small group of visionaries recognized
the need for fire protection in their community. On the following evening
twenty-seven men sat down to organize the Cottage City Fire Company and
elected Mr. Charles Barrick as its first Fire Chief.
With the aid of $144.50 from the Cottage City Citizens
Association, the founding members of this fire company purchased a hand-drawn
hose reel, several lengths of hose, a nozzle and a small electric siren.
Since there was no station, the equipment was stored at several different
locations around town. In April of that year, Chief Barrick resigned for
personal reasons and Mr. T. W. Scott, Sr. was elected the department's
second Fire Chief, serving until 1927.
The drive that began the organization never died out
and in January of 1923 the company's first capital campaign was under
way to purchase motorized apparatus. It was so successful that by April
the company was able to buy and place in service a fire engine. 1923 was
historic for another reason as well. In January, Cottage City joined with
three other nearby departments to organize the Prince George's County
Volunteer Firemen's Association. Cottage City was designated Company 2.
In May, Company 2 also joined the Maryland State Firemen's Association.
In 1924 the company purchased
a plot of land on Barney Street, now called 38th Avenue. With their own
hands the members of Company 2 built a firehouse on that spot. Construction
was not completed until 1926. The building still stands and serves as
a local landmark. In the fall of 1924, T.W. Scott, Sr., was installed
as President of the County Firemen's Association and in December 1924
the Ladies Auxiliary was organized.
Despite the general prosperity of America in 1925, neither money
nor supplies were plentiful in the Cottage City Fire Company. Nonetheless,
second fire engine was purchased to meet the needs of the local community.
This also made the department the equal of any other in the county. In
August of that year, the company hosted its first county convention. And
though the company was still quite young, a new engine was purchased in
1926 to replace an aging vehicle. On May 1, 1926, the company formally
incorporated and became a private non-profit. And though the general citizenry
continued to support the volunteers with donations, welcome aid was forthcoming
when the state legislature and the voters of Cottage City approved a town
fire tax in 1929.
With the expansion and growth
of Cottage City and of Colmar Manor as well as the surrounding area the
need arose for ladders. To meet this need, Company 2 purchased a cities-service
ladder truck in 1931. This was one of the first ladder trucks in the Washington
metro area and in its day ran emergency calls throughout the county and
into neighboring jurisdictions.
But as we all know, with success comes paperwork.
The crushing weight of administrative business led the company to create
business officers to assist the Fire Chief. As a result, in 1938 Mr. Donald
Pitts was elected the department's first President.
1939 was a time of progress
and setbacks. While that year saw the Ladies Auxiliary disbanded, it also
saw some progress. The company approved plans and authorized the construction
of the present Bladensburg Road Fire Station. Once again most of the labor
was performed by the men of the department. On February 22, 1940, the
building was dedicated by Dr. "Curly" Byrd. At the same time
the company put a new Seagrave 500 gallon pumper into service.
During the 1940s the volunteers of Cottage City went
to war. To fill this manpower shortage the company admitted auxiliary
firemen for the first time. These became the forerunners of today's Junior
firefighters -- teenager boys and girls who train and drill so that they
too can one day be volunteer firefighters. As the war ended, construction
boomed. To fill the new specialized needs of the post-war world, Cottage
City Fire Company purchased a new hydraulically operated 65 foot Seagrave
aerial ladder truck in 1945. In June, 1948, the company took delivery
of its first 1000 gallon pumper, one of the first of the large capacity
fire engines in the area. In 1953 the company purchased a second modern
pumper giving Cottage City/Colmar Manor and Prince George's County one
of the best fire suppression attacks in the metropolitan area.
In 1953 the old '39 pumper was
converted into a heavy duty rescue squad. The combination of a modern
ladder truck and heavy rescue squad responded to all areas of the county
in its service to the public. The Ladies Auxiliary was re-established
in 1954 with Mrs. Ethel Beck as its president. It continues to this day
as a valued part of the station.
In 1955, keeping with a tradition
of maintaining the finest equipment to protect the area, the volunteers
purchased a new Seagrave rescue squad to replace the aging converted truck.
The company also purchased and placed in service a 16' motor boat for
rescues during flooding along the Anacostia River. These expansions came
at a hefty cost. To support its growing budget, the company held numerous
The building boom in the early sixties created the
need for bigger and more modern ladder equipment. In March 1961 the department
took delivery of a new Seagrave 85' aerial ladder truck. The new economic
realities of the workplace also brought about another change.
Gone were the days when the
volunteers could drop their work and run back to the fire station in an
emergency. To augment daytime response, the department hired its first
paid firefighter in July, 1964. September and December of 1967 brought
two more and in January, 1968, the department placed its first paid fire
officer on duty. A combination volunteer/paid system continues to this
day to provide the highest quality fire protection at the minimum possible
cost. In October 1967 the department accepted its first 750 gallon cab
1972 was a year of tragedy. George "Buster"
Duvall III was killed in a tragic accident while serving in the line of
duty. He remains the only Cottage City volunteer to make the ultimate
heroic sacrifice while protecting his community. In 1976 the officers,
members and Ladies Auxiliary of the Cottage City Fire Company dedicated
the station to his memory.
The 1970's also saw two significant
mile-stones. In 1975, under the direction of Don Catts and Terry McGuire,
the station received its first license to start bingo. Bingo is still
our main source of income. In 1978, Cottage City Fire Company purchased
its first $100,000 piece of equipment when it placed in service a new
Seagrave 100' rear mount aerial ladder. This ladder truck is still in
Over the years the volunteers of Cottage City have performed
admirably in protecting the surrounding community. The extraordinary devotion
and service of Vincent A. Simmel and T.W. Scott Sr. was recognized in
1981 when they were elected into the Prince George's County Volunteer
Fire and Rescue Association Hall of Fame. The 80's saw movement into the
future as well as the recognition of past courage. It was in this decade
that the first female firefighter joined the Cottage City Fire Company.
Another step forward occured in 1989, when the company took delivery of
a new Seagrave fire engine. Capable of pumping 1500 gallons of water per
minute, this pumper rivals most engine companies in the area. It is still
in service today. Also in 1989 the company started hosting Vegas/Casino
Nights as fundraisers. While this proved a great money raiser, changes
in state law forced them to end as quickly as they began.
The 1990's continue to forward
trend of the 80's. In 1990 George P. Duvall Jr., at times Chief and President
of the Company, was elected into the Prince George's County Volunteer
Fire and Rescue Association Hall of Fame. The company also continued the
modernization of its equipment in 1992 by taking delivery of a new Ferrara
Rescue Squad to replace the 1962 Seagrave. 1992 also saw another landmark.
In that year the members of the Ladies Auxiliary also became menbers of
the Fire Company. To continue the tradition of providing the best and
most complete emergency protection possible for the community, an ambulance
was added to the station's stable of equipment in 1995.
Now on the cusp of a new Millenium the Cottage City/Colmar
Manor Fire Company continues to look forward. We are in the process of
to purchase an aerial platform to replace our aging
ladder truck. Our volunteers continue to protect the citizens of our towns
and the neighboring areas as needed. Our units continue to respond to
emergencies throughout the county. Units from Cottage City were among
those that responded to the tragic Fort Lincoln fire in Washington, DC,
in which two DC firefighters lost their lives. Our service was recognized
by the DC Fire Chief with letters of commendation. We have served the
community for most of this century and plan to do so in the next as well.
Photos courtesy of the Cottage City Fire
Company Archives and Lt. Ronald Smith.