AMERICA’S VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS have a rich history of service to their communities. Very few
realize that the first volunteer fire brigade was formed by none other than Benjamin Franklin. Perhaps
his studies regarding lightning gave him the idea, but the truth is, after an extensive fire in Philadelphia in
1736, Franklin created a fire brigade called The Union Fire company with 30 volunteers. The first full-
fledged volunteer firefighter in America was Isaac Paschall. The idea of volunteer fire brigades gained
popularity. Not wanting more than 30-40 men per company, additional companies were formed in
Philadelphia. Imagine that, approaching 300 years hence, we still see those volunteers answering the call
to help their community and neighbors here at home. Today, there are nearly 30,000 such volunteer
organizations, mostly serving communities of less than 25,000 citizens. I would like to share with you the
story of my local volunteer heroes who have a rich history as well, and it doesn’t stop with putting out
fires and rescuing neighbors at the worst times of their lives.
The Susquehanna Hose Company is responsible for the fire protection services for the City of Havre De Grace, Maryland. Havre De Grace is located along the Susquehanna River as it enters into the Chesapeake Bay. The City of Havre De Grace has a population of around 16,000 people and is famous for its waterfront, decoys, and the Concord Point Lighthouse. The Susquehanna Hose Company consists of five firehouses that operate 5 Engines, Tower, Quint, Rescue, Mini-Pumper, 3 Boats, Dive Unit, Swift Water Unit and 4 Utility Vehicles. The Hose Company has responded to each and every call alerted for over the last several decades and is known as “The Fastest Volunteers in the Nation” because of its extremely fast response times. The Susquehanna Hose Company consistently responds 7-8 pieces of fire apparatus on calls. Routinely, we average 2 engines in response within 3 minutes of the initial alert!
Certainly, the age and history of our city, located between Philadelphia and Washington DC, deserves a long-time team of volunteers in the fire service. The Hose Company was formed in 1902 and has maintained its own rich history of service to its fellow citizens. Our equipment is state of the art and our firefighters, many of them who work professionally as firefighters on Federal Military installations in the area and in paid departments in larger Cities and Counties close by. Their skills and knowledge coupled with an unending schedule of training and exercises locally make them the pride of the community and an unequivocal example for departments across the nation to emulate.
One would think that this as much as a community can expect from its volunteers, but that is not the end all for this Hose Company! Over the past six years, Susquehanna Hose has been committed to the fight against childhood cancer. Through participation with the St. Baldricks Foundation, annually the members solicit community and family support to raise funds to fight this child killer. Under the leadership of firefighter Billy Berg, they have made this a community-wide event and our citizens have gladly signed up to support their firefighter who agrees to have his or her head shaved to support these kids. Today, Saturday March 30th 2019 was the most recent event. During the preceding five years, over $400,000.00 was raised for the Foundation. Today, our Hose Company and Chair Billy Berg are truly celebrating. Final totals are not all accounted for, as yet, but we know that the total for 2019 exceeds $100,000.00!
Are we proud of our Volunteers? You bet. Saving our community and its citizens during the worst experiences in their lives is amazing. But raising over one half million dollars to fight childhood cancer in just six years is something else altogether. We salute America’s volunteers in emergency service every day. In Havre de Grace, MD., we have a special pride in The Susquehanna Hose Company!
Fred Packard has chosen to honor the Susquehanna Hose Company
for going above and beyond in their service to his community.
This article was entered in the PICC PHASE IV – PICC-A-First Responder challenge. Fred emerged as a clear winner of this competition having more than 400 viewers. Here is a letter accompanying the check to Susquehanna Hose Company, addressed to Bill Berg.
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