The Wise Avenue Volunteer Fire Company, Incorporated is located at 214 Wise Avenue in Dundalk, Maryland a community in Southeast Baltimore County.
The Fire Company was organized on Sunday February 22, 1942 at the regular meeting of the Rosewald Beach and Inverness Air Raid Wardens, and was held at the Inverness Warden's Post located in the basement of Mr. Francis H. Henry of 3 Seabright Ave., one of the Fire Company's Charter Members. The reason for its organization was that the United States had just entered World War II and like all the communities across the nation, there was a concern for possible enemy air attack. As in the rest of the nation, the communities of Inverness and Rosewald Beach took this seriously. Separated by Wise Avenue, Rosewald Beach to the North and Inverness to the South, these fairly new community developments were concerned about fire protection. The closet career Fire Company to them was the Dundalk Fire Station #6 located on Shipping Place, and if not available, the communities would have to wait for the North Point Edgemere Volunteer Fire Dept. (Organized in 1936) to respond from North Point Road in Edgemere. Both of these fire companies were several miles away from the Inverness/Rosewald Beach area. During the first meeting, over twenty five men volunteered their services for the new Company. The biggest problem that the Company had was to secure fire fighting equipment, this took almost a year. The Company held many fund raisers during this time and also organized their Ladies Auxiliary one month after the Company was organized. The Company became members of the Baltimore County Firemen's Association in 1942 and the Maryland State Firemen's Association in 1943.
Sometime in late 1942 or early 1943, the Company was allotted a skid mounted trailer pump from the Civil Defense, pulled by the first member available with a vehicle. The unit was kept in the yard of the Company's first Captain, Mr. George W. Harris which was located at 510 Bayside Drive and later by the second Captain, Mr. George Pueschel. Later the Company purchased a circa 1937 Studebaker truck, which was reportedly an old garbage truck, and received permission from the Civil Defense officials to mount the pump on the truck. This became Wise Avenue's first piece of motorized apparatus. The Company was able to purchase their present property at 214 Wise Avenue in June of 1943. The property was purchased from the Holding Company of Baltimore, Inc., for $466.88. After the sale was completed, the Company purchased an 18 x 20 foot Ideal metal garage in October, 1943, for $390.00 from the Phillips Engineering Company in Baltimore.
The Company built a new building that was completed in 1948 and bought a used 1928 American LaFrance/GMC engine from a department in Pittman, New Jersey later the same year. Until this time, the Company ran few, if any calls because of the Studebaker truck not meeting County standards and the Company not receiving any County funds until that time. In September of 1948 with the addition of the LaFrance, the Company started to run on calls with the County and from September 1948 to January 1949 ran 17 calls. After six years, the Company became a true Fire Company, but not without any ill effects. Early on Christmas Day, the Company was requested to assist Dundalk Engine 6 with a house fire. While in route, the LaFrance engine was involved in an accident that seriously injured three of the crew members. Two of the men were released from the hospital within a week, the last man remained in the hospital for sometime, receiving ten blood transfusions. Neighbors in the community placed donation jars in local businesses to aid the injured firemen.
In 1949, a new post of Chief was created and Mr. Louis G. Hush was elected as the Company's first Chief. Another event in 1949 was the purchase of the Company's first new piece of apparatus, a 1949 engine built by the Oren/Roanoke Corporation on a Dodge chassis. The new engine had a 500 gpm Hale pump and 300 gallon water tank, and the unit was painted red with the ladders mounted on the roof. At the end of 1950, the Company ran the second highest amount of calls in the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen's Association (112). Rosedale volunteers were first with 167. In 1952 the Company decided to no longer use the LaFrance due to expensive repairs necessary every time it was used. With the LaFrance gone and the Studebaker disposed of when the Oren was purchased, the Company was running only one piece until they bought a used 1951 Ford pick up truck to use as a utility vehicle. Indian Cans and a booster reel were later added to extend the line off of the Dodge Otren engine.
In 1956 the Company purchased a second engine, a 1956 Mack open cab with a 750 gpm Hale pump, 300 gallon water tank, with separate foam and wet water tanks. This was the first red and white unit that the Company purchased and became the standard color scheme for all their major apparatus thereafter. The Company went into the Floodlight business when they purchased a 1952 Dodge stakebody truck and a generator from the government surplus in 1959. This unit ran its first call before it was even placed in service when a Capital Vicount Airliner exploded in midair over the Middle River and Chase area of Baltimore County in May of 1959. The Floodlight was requested for its lighting along with other rescue units so rescuers could locate the bodies and body parts which were found in trees and wires in the area.
In June of 1962, the Firehouse was destroyed by a two alarm fire that was set by a member who was alone in the building at the time. The damage to the building was in excess of $30,000 but the engines and floodlight were saved when two of the members risked their own lives to go into the burning building under cover of hose streams and drive the equipment to safety. None of the Wise Avenue equipment was used to extinguish the fire in their own building. The Company was able to serve the community again after moving into an empty Cities Service gas station at the corner of Wise Avenue and Pinewood Road.
The Company built a new three bay station on the original lot and moved into it on November 13, 1962. A week later they received a 1963 Maxim engine that had been ordered two months before the fire. The open cab Maxim had a 750 gpm Hale pump and 500 gallon booster tank, and sported the red and white color scheme of the Company. This unit replaced the 1949 Dodge/Oren. In 1967, the Company replaced the aging Floodlight unit with a 1967 GMC truck. Members built the body on this unit just as they had done on the first unit. It reportedly was the first piece of equipment in the County to have twin beacon rays. When it responded on its first call, the career Companies thought the Wise Avenue units were drag racing down the street.
In 1971 the Company added a hall and hose tower to their building. This wasn't done after the fire due to the cost and commitment to the new engine. The Wise Avenue VFC, Inc. again purchased new engines in 1974 when they bought two new Hahns; each had a 1000 gpm Hale pump, 500 gallon booster tank and the traditional red and white colors.
In July of 1979 the Company purchased a new 1979 Mercury Zephyer station wagon to be used as a utility to transport members to meetings, trainings, and relief on the fire ground. This unit was designated as Utility 277 and was later equipped with lights and siren to be used as a medical response unit to assist medical units when needed.
In 1979, the Company placed in service in 14 foot aluminum boat and trailer for water rescue, since most of the surrounding community was waterfront properties. Initially a boat and trailer were donated to the Company but the wooden boat proved to be too heavy for its purpose, so the Company purchased an aluminum boat from government surplus along with a 10 hp motor. The members put over 200 man hours into the boat to make it suitable for its job. The yellow boat with white trim was kept in service for a few years and then disbanded when the neighboring North Point Edgemere VFD placed a boat in service. In 1981 the Company started their Annual Christmas Garden after the Dundalk Fire Station discontinued the tradition after 35 years and gave the equipment to the Wise Avenue Station. The first display covered an area of 10 ft. x 32 ft. with four Lionel trains and 100 animations. Over the years and through the determination of a few members, the display has grown in size. From 1981 to 1991 an estimated 325,000 people have enjoyed Maryland's largest animated train garden. It has been expanded to over 600 square feet running 10 Lionel trains on four elevations with more than 200 animations.
In 1992, the Company carried out its fiftieth year of service to the community from their expanded Station that was constructed in 1986. Several celebrations were held during 1992 including a dance, a bull roast, a large parade and muster. On Friday, September 18, 1992, the Company hosted the 85th Annual Convention of the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen's Association as part of its Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration. Additionally, the Company for the first time in its history had a representative in the Maryland State Firemen's Association with Mrs. Janet H. Pfeiffer serving as President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Maryland State Firemen's Association for 1992-1993.
During the 50th Anniversary the Company was operating two 1985 twin Pirsch pumpers (Engine 271 and 272). Both have a 1000 gpm Hale pump and 750 booster tank, are diesel operated with automatic transmissions, Floodlight 273, a 1983 GMC Ford/EVP, Special Unit 27, a 1986 GMC four wheel drive pickup truck that carries a 3 inch supply line and attack lines and Utility 277, a 1989 GMC four wheel drive crew cab pickup. All of the present units are painted the Company's red and white colors.