Volunteer groups are always in need of two things: money and more
volunteers. This is especially true of all the volunteer groups
associated with the local fire departments and rescue squads.
So, when the Hollywood Volunteer Rescue Squad Company #79 was awarded a
$52,106 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Assistance
to Firefighters Grant Program (AFGP) everyone was very pleased because
what is good for one is good for all. Due to the efforts of the grant
writing team of the Hollywood Auxiliary, the grant will provide more
than 90 percent of the funds for changes the Hollywood Rescue Squad
would like to implement.
Many of the fire and rescue volunteers remember a time-in the not so
distant past-when monies to run the fire departments and the emergency
medical squads were only available if the auxiliaries went out and got
it. Quite literally, the members of the auxiliaries would go
door-to-door to ask for money. Make no mistake-they sometimes still do!
Barbara McWilliams, former president of the Avenue Firefighters
Auxiliary and a member for 48 years, recalls selling black pepper and
vanilla door-to-door to buy the first coffee pot for the firehouse.
When the fire department in Avenue was just beginning, the American
Legion had donated land and a building for the new firehouse. But much
more was needed to put out fires and rescue people. All the firefighters
and their spouses pitched in to do fund raisers until they were able to
buy their first boots, gloves, hats and gear. The ladies auxiliary made
all the payments for the first fire truck, which, by the way, was a used
fire truck, purchased from Mechanicsville.
Those first years were filled with needs for very basic and essential
equipment that the firefighters needed to fight fires. Crab feasts, card
parties, and chance books (raffle books) were just some of the inventive
methods of "enhancing the revenue stream"…in other words, collecting
money to buy needed items.
The local auxiliaries in all three counties have helped to furnish the
fire departments and rescue squads with everything from furniture,
including chairs, tables and couches, to coffee pots and septic systems.
These volunteers are "ordinary" folks-farmers, builders, mechanics,
hairdressers and businesspeople-who come together to keep our homes,
schools and communities safe. When the firefighters are out fighting
fires, auxiliary members will bring food and refreshments to either warm
them up in the winter or cool them down on hot, sticky days. This is
necessary as much for the firefighters' physical well-being as for their
Many people in St. Mary's County can still remember the huge fires on
Queen Tree in Mechanicsville and in Compton. These fires burned for
days. Additional units had to be called from as far as Chevy Chase. The
ladies auxiliary kept food and drinks coming for all those that were
fighting the fires.
As firefighting became more sophisticated and technical, so did the
rescue mission. As technology has improved our ability to fight fire, so
has technology improved the techniques and protocols that the Emergency
Medical Technician (EMT) has at his or her disposal to treat the
wounded. Sophisticated treatment has become more mobile and
instantaneous than ever before.
As the mission of the fire and rescue departments became more complex,
the need to have them separate became clear. Eventually, the two
entities split and each one developed their own auxiliaries.
The fire departments respond to and fight fires and the rescue squads
respond to and care for emergency medical situations. But today, this
has further morphed into the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units and
the Advanced Life Support (ALS) squads. The ability for these units to
respond separately or together is due to the network capability of the
In the tri-county area almost all of the fire departments have separate
EMS and auxiliary units. Each is committed to helping the unit in any
way they can. In the past, most of the auxiliary members were women, but
now, that is not so much the case.
The need for competent, capable firefighters has blurred the gender
requirement just as the need for committed and creative volunteers has
encouraged men to join the auxiliaries. The Mechanicsville fire chief is
a female and there are a number of men in the various auxiliaries. All
these fire departments, rescue squads and auxiliaries are
volunteer-based-no one gets paid.
Even Dr. John Roache, the chair of the St. Mary's County Fire and Rescue
Squad, is a volunteer and gives freely of his time. Within St. Mary's
County there is one paid fire department funded by the federal
government, operating to protect the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River.
There are some positions in Charles County that are paid, although the
greatest majority of fire and rescue people are not paid. Calvert County
is the last totally volunteer fire and paramedic department in the state
These many volunteers do this because they like the feeling they get
when they help others. Allen Enfield of the North Beach Fire and Rescue
said, "Honestly, I joined because as clichéd as it sounds, I always
wanted to help. And the whole squad is like an extended family." Others
have found niches where they can make a difference, where their
contribution is totally personal and unique.
Mary Jane Scully has been involved in the Leonardtown Fire Auxiliary for
more than 55 years. Her brothers were firefighters and she got "hooked"
through them. Hundreds of fund raisers, catered dinners, basket bingos,
and bake sales are a part of what is done to get the money to purchase
the needed items and equipment. Though Scully certainly made her share
of sandwiches and brought coffee and cold sodas to those on the line
fighting fires, her pet project and concern was fire prevention. She was
inducted into the Maryland Hall of Fame for her efforts in the field of
fire prevention and she has also won the Silver Spring Award and the
Honey Award given to citizens for their efforts in fire prevention and
These auxiliaries have come a long way from buying gloves, hats and
boots for the men and women who rush out to save the rest of us. They
are still doing the bake sales or whatever else it takes, but now they
are buying "jaws of life" and high-tech infrared cameras. Emergency
medical equipment is not bought at yard sales-state-of-the-art hydraulic
stretchers save time and the backs of volunteers. Automated external
defibrillators (AEDs) save lives and keep families whole. These
"ordinary" men and women become extraordinary keepers of our
communities. The debt we owe all of them is priceless.