In October of 1922, a group of citizens gathered at the home of Melvin Bowers to discuss a crucial need for a growing community: fire protection. In 1922, the closest established fire companies were in Riverdale, four miles to the south, and Laurel, ten miles to the north, leaving much of Branchville and surrounding cities relatively unprotected, should a fire occur. Recognizing this need the Branchville Improvement Association was formed, with Mr. Melvin Bowers as President, pledging to provide much-needed fire protection to the area.
In 1923 the young fire company was formally organized and officially became Branchville Fire Company 11 of Prince George’s County on September 20th, 1925. Branchville served from the culvert on Rhode Island Avenue to Route 1 on the west and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad tracks on the east as well as the Daniels Park area from Rhode Island Avenue and Fox Street up to the Hollywood Road. The company regularly held strawberry festivals, dinners, concerts, and carnivals both to bond with their treasured community and raise money for this new company. This blooming relationship between Branchville and their “first due” was strong as everyone would pitch in to repair roads, crossings and move fallen trees.
Branchville’s first piece of equipment was a Ford “T” chemical truck, painted barn red and costing $2,200.00. Rather than housing the engine in an established firehouse, as is commonplace today, engines were previously housed on member’s properties. This first engine was run out of Chief Al Johnson’s garage at Branchville Road and Rhode Island Avenue. Fires would be reported to the phone company operators, who would call Chief Johnson at his home. He would race upstairs to his bedroom and yank on a rope which would rock a fire bell mounted on a pole outside his house alerting the men, and the rest of the area that a fire was happening.
On December 2, 1925, Branchville Volunteer Fire Company bought a parcel of land on the southeast corner of 49th and Branchville Road. Built entirely by volunteer labor and men working far into the night, excavating, mixing concrete, laying cement blocks and doing the hundreds of other jobs that were necessary, the Branchville Fire Station was established.
In June of 1939, Branchville decided to purchase and place in service an ambulance to meet the medical needs of the community. The new 1939 LaSalle could carry three patients and served from Paint Branch Road on Baltimore Boulevard south, to and including all of Laurel on the north, Montgomery line on the west to Telegraph Road on the cast as Rescue Squad Unit 6. Quickly growing, more land was purchased to accommodate the modern by American LaFrance pumper purchased in February of 1929. Added to this fleet in 1931 was a Chrysler Roadster serving as a chief’s car and a new Diamond “T” brush truck in 1937.
In June of 1940, with World War II taking many of the men to fight for our country, Branchville began to allow women to join the station as operational members. The first female crew consisted of Dorothy Stauffer, driver, Mae Duvall, Blanche Longanecker, Kitty Fortner; Cathy Kirkpatrick, Alma Caudell, Helen Longanecker. These women served their country at home while the Branchville boys served overseas, including 18 members who died in serving our country.
After the war ended, Branchville began plans for a new two-story firehouse to replace the one currently on the property. With six bays on the ground floor, the new firehouse would provide ample room for current and future apparatus. The second story banquet hall was designed to be a community gather place, capable of accommodating over 300 people. This new firehouse was dedicated on Saturday, October 2, 1954, and has stood the test of time, as it is still our current home.
In 1983, the station underwent a major renovation involving the creation of new bunkrooms, offices, boardrooms and the refurbishing of the kitchen, Rec room, and upstairs hall. These new facilities allowed for female-specific areas to be created, better-equipping women to also be included and serve at Branchville. In 1994 Branchville began to host our leading Bingo games, which to this day draw individuals from all over Prince George’s County to play six times a week.
The current Branchville Fire Station is the result of a nearly million dollar renovation that began in 1994. The four-year project provided new living quarters, separate showers and restrooms 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.
In 1994 the vacant Berwyn Elementary School, at which many current and previous members were educated, was purchased to create the C. Harry Huth Annex. The building was demolished with the exception of the auditorium, now fitted with two garage doors. A children’s park, new parking surface, and a general overhaul of the appearance of the school lot were completed in 1998. “The School” as it is affectionately known still serves as a location for general and apparatus storage and maintenance as well as the location of many drills for both Fire and EMS members.
We are proud of what we have and continue to accomplish in this community. We remain, active members of the community, donating to local charities such as the Boys and Girls Club, City of College Park Memorial Fund, DARE Programs, Prince George’s Hospital Center, Bonnie Johns Foundation and Children’s Hospital as well as local schools and churches. In this new millennium, we proudly support many University of Maryland college students, many of whom continue on to become career Firefighter in the tri-state area or become health care professionals. Staffed by an extremely diverse group of men and women of all ages and backgrounds, we stand proud as a group. This new image of membership was formed by our history, giving us much to be proud of and to look forward to.