In April 1942, less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, a group of Elkridge residents established a new volunteer fire department. The new fire department was one of many initiatives in U.S. cities and towns encouraged by the Office of Civilian Defense at the outset of World War II. Elkridge residents worried that their town’s location between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, as well as the town’s proximity to several wartime industrial sites, made them a possible target for an aerial bombardment.
The founding of the department was a grassroots effort from the beginning. A group of local women led the initial fundraising campaign. The B&O Railroad Company donated the fire bell. Using second-hand parts and donated equipment, volunteers took a dilapidated 1934 Brockway Ford (dilapidated from years sitting idle in a cow pasture) and transformed it into a fully operational fire truck for just $500.
Operating out of a one-bay garage in a former Ford Automobile dealership, the first few road tests for the new truck did not go smoothly. A tire blew out on the first trip and the engine dropped a rod on its second trip. Nonetheless, the volunteers managed to get the truck fully operational just seven months after the formation of the department. The volunteers named the truck “Daisy.”
The Federal Civilian Defense Organization officially recognized the department as part of national preparedness and declared Daisy the “best homemade fire truck in America.” The volunteers’ efforts were even dramatized and broadcast live on a national NBC radio show.
It was a challenge to fully staff the department during World War II because so many local men were fighting overseas. To compensate, the department struck a deal with the local high school. The school agreed to allow the older boys who maintained at least a C grade average to skip class in order to help fight fires.
While only men and boys were allowed to fight fires, women volunteered as dispatchers during the department’s first few years. Women volunteered on the ambulance from the beginning and, in the early 1970s, the department changed policies to allow women to enlist as firefighters as well.
The original building underwent several renovations over the last seventy-five years. The fire hall on Old Washington Road was renovated and expanded in 1948. Today, the Elkridge V.F.D. operates out of a new, larger location, built to accommodate the growing needs of the community. Built in 2014, the new facility on Rowanberry Drive encompasses more than thirty-five thousand square feet, houses twenty-three firefighters—both paid and volunteer—and cost more than sixteen million dollars. The department’s original building is currently being repurposed as a community center.