Volunteers Find Group System Useful
Down in southern Maryland. Charles County covers many miles of rolling, wooded country dotted with small villages and farms. The entire county has but one fire department located at La data, the county seat. Eighty-five per cent of the fire alarms received by the volunteers send them on runs of from ten to twenty-five miles.
The firemen have two 500 gpm engines, one of which is required to be kept m town, and an active membership of about twenty-eight men. About eighteen of these men have completed basic and advanced training courses offered by the Fire Service Extension Department of the University of Maryland.
Since forest fire seasons, or times when chimney or lightning fires are numerous, frequently cause two or more alarms to be received at approximately the same time, and since every good fireman wants to go when the first alarm is received, means had to he found to insure a reserve of trained men available at all times. To meet this need, the firemen were divided into two groups, the Hosebenders and the Salamanders. These groups answer all alarms, hut only one group goes out on the first call for an out-of-town fire. The groups alternate in answering these calls. With the exception of certain key men, the reserve men fill in when there are not enough men available in the group whose turn it is to go out.
It was found that this insured a few experienced men available at all times, but not always sufficient man-power for the second emergency. To meet this difficulty, the Chief organized a Junior Firemen Company of boys between sixteen and eighteen. These young men have shown promising ability to absorb instructions in fire fighting technique. They handle hose and other equipment well, and, most important, are amenable to discipline. These boys, like their seniors, are divided into two groups under Captains elected in each group. Like the regular firemen, the groups take turns in answering alarms, so carrying out the reserve idea.
A test of this system occurred on May 1. At 1:00 p. m. an alarm was received for a wods fire fifteen miles away. There were only six regular firemen in town when this call was received. Four of the regulars and six Juniors went on this call with the only out-of-town engine. At 1:35 p. m. another woods fire alarm was received, and several more regulars and six Juniors loaded water cans, rakes, etc., into cars and made a twenty-mile run to fight for two hours a blaze that threatened to spread through pine woods to a nearby village At one time on the afternoon of April 20, when calls were being received faster than they could be answered, three groups of firemen and Juniors were operating on woods fires in three counties, Charles. Prince Georges and St. Mary’s, isn’t this some kind of a record?
Needless to say. it is a source of great relief to the Chief when out on an alarm to know that if another fire breaks out before return to quarters, there are trained firemen ready to handle it, and if the fire should demand it. a reserve engine fully equipped.