History of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Co.
1975 to Present
Written for the 1998 PGCVF&RA Convention Handbook - Items in () added by web page author
In 1979, A motion was made, seconded and passed at a regular monthly meeting to accept a Prince George's County-owned ambulance, this was due to the rising maintenance cost and upkeep of a Company-owned ambulance. A 1980 Grumman Ambulance was placed into service and was subsequently replaced by other County-owned and maintained units until 1995.
The Company's annual "Squad Drive", used to solicit donations from the community for ambulance upkeep was replaced by the "Truck Fund". Donated proceeds from this drive enabled the Company to purchase a 1980 1250 GPM Pirsch Pumper. This unit was designated Engine 111. The previous Engine 111, the 1963 Ford, was refurbished in station and was sold to the County as a reserve pumper. The "Truck Fund" was renamed in 1990 as the "Fund Drive" and is now performed in December of each year. Proceeds from this community solicitation are placed into the General Fund of the Department.
In 1979, the Company re-created the position of Assistant Chief and Ronald Leizear, Sr. was elected into this position. This year was also the 50th Anniversary of Richard Hughes as an active member of the Company. In 1981 the 1969 Peter Pirsch Pumper, Engine 112, returned to the station after having been rehabbed by Mt. Aetna Body Works. The Superintendent of Machinery, Dana Burrier, supervised the work. Engine 112 went on to win the Best Appearing Pumper award at the 59th Annual Prince George's County Volunteer Firemen's Association Convention in Upper Marlboro later that year.
Open House activities were also rejuvenated in October of 1981 as over 450 citizens visited the Fire House and participated in Fire Prevention activities. This tradition has continued as nearly 1,000 people attend the day long activities every year. Life Member Steve Wiseman is credited with providing the hard work and commitment to ensuring that each year's Open House is successful.
October of 1981 was also the start of fund raising dances again at Branchville. After many successful years of "The String Alongs" every Saturday at Branchville we decided to take a chance with an upstart "oldies" band called "The Hubcaps". As history goes, "The Hubcaps" went on to become a very popular local band and we earned the nickname of "The Home of The Hubcaps". 1981 continued to be a very busy and productive year. A Charter Amendment was proposed and passed; increasing the number of the Board of Trustees from 5 to 7. The two additional Board Members would be the Chief and President.
In 1983, the station underwent a major renovation. A portable school building was acquired and converted into sleeping quarters, the previous bunkroom was converted into the Board Room, and the previous Board Room was made into office space for Officers and the Career Fire Fighters. The Rec Room was gutted and refurbished including moving the kitchen from the rear of the fire house to become part of the Rec Room. The old kitchen was converted into a bunkroom for our female members. The Hall upstairs was given a facelift with a new stage in 1982 and a new kitchen was added in 1984. The renovation of the Hall was completed in 1986 with new paneling, floor, ceiling, and lights.
Prior to 1987, Branchville financially survived on community donations, county budgeted money, dances, hall rentals and bingo's. Thoughout the years the Company has been able to periodically replace support vehicles, enjoy annual banquets and holiday parties. In May of 1987 the Company ventured into Charitable Gaming, better known as "Vegas Nights". The Company started to raise funds at a rate that was unsurpassed by any previous fundraising efforts. Charitable Gaming continued for ten years and provided Branchville with a unique opportunity to become financially stable. Charitable Gaming ended county-wide in 1997.
In addition to our Charitable Gaming, Branchville ventured back into Bingo in 1994. Life Member Bob Grieashamer spearheaded this effort. Branchville is now a leader in Bingo in Prince George's County as we hold three events each week at the firehouse and three events at the American Legion.
Apparatus replacement was a priority in the early 1990's. We purchased a 1990 state of the art Simon Duplex Salisbury Pumper for $270,000 and quickly ordered two additional pumpers which we "housed" in 1995. It was then that the Ladies Auxiliary, through their fundraising efforts, initiated the purchase of a new 1996 Ford F350 Econoline Superduty Ambulance. This new ambulance cost $100,000 and increased the moral and pride of the Company since we were once again operating a Company-owned unit. Chief's vehicles, Chevrolet Tahoe's, were purchased for all three chief officers.
After many years of planning and discussion about a fire house addition a Building Committee was formed in 1994 and the next major renovation began later that year when our Company undertook the largest Capital Improvement Project ever. The nearly one million dollar renovation was financed by County and Branchville funds. The four year project provided new living quarters, separate shower and rest room facilities for male and females, locker rooms, new office space, a renovated Rec Room and kitchen, and a completely renovated Hall with additional storage space, ceiling, and paneling. The entire Fire Station was brought up to code with a sprinkler system, fire alarm system and additional means of egress for our Hall patrons. Also in 1994 the vacant Berwyn Elementary School was acquired from Prince George's County. The school building was demolished with the exception of the auditorium. This auditorium was fitted with two garage doors and was transformed into a storage/mechanics garage. A Children's Park, new parking surface, and general overhaul of the appearance of the school lot were completed in 1998.As with any organization that has existed as long as we have there comes a time when bits of history are passed on. We must make the most of our opportunities to listed and record these bits of history whenever possible. Several of our members have recently passed away and with each of them, bits and pieces of the History of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad, Inc., pass with them. Richard Hughes, Eddie Roberts, and Richard Culbert each played a role in the history of this Company and we thank them for the opportunity for the stories they often relayed to the younger membership. What member can ever forget "The Last Man Club" or Uncle Dick Culbert's cigars and Eddie Roberts trips from the Wonder Bread Store or Pizza's at the Company Meetings.
In addition to having all loans paid up, a station of apparatus that had been paid for, a nearly one million dollar station renovation and money in the bank, we are proud at what we accomplished in the community during this time period. Donation to many local charities included the Boys and Girls Club, local schools and churches, City of College Park Memorial Fund, DARE Programs, Prince George's Hospital Center, Bonnie Johns Foundation and Children's Hospital to name a few organizations that also benefited from our success.
Branchville also provided assistance to several fellow Volunteer Fire Companies during this time. Our 1980 Pirsch pumper was donated to the Culberson Volunteer Fire Company in North Carolina after their station was destroyed by a fire. A $10,000 donation was made to the Waterwitch Volunteer Fire Company in Northern Maryland after their community and fire station were devastated by floods during the Blizzard of '96.
As we enter the new millennium, we stand proud as a group, a new image of membership that was formed by our history. We have much to be proud of and to look forward to.