From the Harford County Volunteer Fire Company and EMS Association:
(February 22, 2010) Saturday, February 19, 2011 will long be remembered as one of the most challenging days of the Maryland fire service. The National Weather Service forecast on Friday advised of the potential for low relative humidity, low fuel moisture content and winds out of the west/northwest at 20 to 30 miles per hour gusting to as high as 60 miles per hour. These conditions were to start as early as Friday evening and continue through Saturday night.
By 2200 hours (10:00 P.M.) on Friday, February 18, Harford County Volunteer Fire companies were responding to several wind related calls involving wires, trees, and utility poles throughout the county. Baltimore Gas and Electric crews were also already mobilized in an attempt to restore power and eliminate hazards as quickly and safely as possible. The first of several large fire incidents to occur in the Central Maryland area over the weekend to affect the member companies of the Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Association was reported around midnight on the 18th of February in the Lutherville area of Baltimore County.
This fire, in an assisted living facility, escalated to three alarms. Due to this fire the Jarrettsville (JVFC-Co. 7) and Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Companies (JMVFC-Co. 8 ) re-located engines at the request of the Baltimore County Fire Department to their Texas (Station 17) and the Perry Hall (Station 55) fire stations. As the units from Harford County were arriving at their destination stations, another fire was dispatched in the Nottingham area of eastern Baltimore County. JMVFC Engine 814 was responded on the first alarm assignment of this incident. This was a working fire in a multi-family dwelling which was immediately upgraded to a second alarm. During this time the Fallston Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Co (FVFAC-C0. 13) was requested to maintain standby crews at their station. At 0400 hours (4:00 A.M.) on the 19th the Harford County Volunteer units were released by Baltimore County.
As Saturday morning progressed the day started out relatively quietly. However, by 1000 hours (10:00 A.M.) neighboring jurisdictions were experiencing multiple developing fires involving open wildlands, woods, and structures. The Norrisville VFC (Co. 10-Tanker 1025) was dispatched to assist in York County, Pennsylvania on a fire involving a vehicle that extended to a wooded area. At 1036 hours (10:36 A.M.) the Jarrettsville VFC (Co. 7) was dispatched to a request from Baltimore County for an engine to a woods fire on Wesley Chapel Road. Engine 711 responded to this fire in the Hereford area and assisted Baltimore County units on the scene.
Around 1045 hours (10:45 A.M.) the Bel Air VFC (Co. 3) was dispatched to the Marywood community north of Bel Air after a live electric line came down. The live wire caused a fire in the grass and leaves next to a fence that along Drexel Drive. The wind swept the flames along, causing the fire to extend to a wooden stockade fence. BAVFC firefighters responded and extinguished the fire.
The Jarrettsville VFC was then dispatched to the 19900 block of Gore Mill Rd in the Parkton area of Baltimore County for a dwelling fire which had spread to the woods and open land adjacent to the dwelling. Before this fire was controlled many volunteer and career fire companies from Baltimore, Harford, and Carroll Counties in Maryland as well as York County, Pennsylvania were at work extinguishing a well involved dwelling and the extensive woods and brush fire. While “officially” designated a 2-alarm fire, there were numerous special requests for additional units on this fire including large capacity tankers for water shuttle, brush units for off road firefighting capability, engines for equipment and personnel, and drafting units for water supply. Harford County Volunteer Fire units on the scene of this incident included Engines 711 and 712, Air Unit 761, Special Unit 781, Brush 742 (JVFC), Engine 1013 (Norrisville VFC), Tanker 1321 (FVFAC). Also as a result of this fire the Whiteford VFC (WVFC) re-located Engine 613 to the Maryland Line VFC and Engine 1311 (FVFAC) was re-located to the Cockeysville VFC, both in Baltimore County.
The afternoon saw sustained high winds continue throughout the area. As Harford County units were clearing the Gore Mill Rd. scene, another fire was reported in the Parkton area in the 19000 block of Eagle Mill Road. First arriving units from Baltimore County Fire Department found a large fire involving a wooded area which was progressing towards and threatening homes in the area. JVFC Engines 712 and 711 were then dispatched on this assignment. As Jarrettsville units arrived, Engine 712 established a water supply site and provided water for brush units and tankers for over three hours. Engine 711 also supplied water for brush units operating on the scene. Also on this incident was Engine 613 (WVFC) which was re-located to the Maryland Line VFC station and Brush 1041 (NVFC). In addition Tanker 1321 (FVFAC) re-located at the request of Baltimore County Fire Department to the Hereford VFC station to provide coverage in the area. The Harford County Volunteers on this fire assisted firefighters from Baltimore, York, and Carroll Counties in controlling the woods fire and ensuring that no homes were lost.
While the Eagle Mill fire was occurring, Harford County was experiencing several wind-related incidents within our own border. The Bel Air VFC (BAVFC), Jarrettsville VFC, and Fallston VFAC were dispatched to a report of a dwelling fire in the 400 block of East Jarrettsville Rd. A large woods and brush fire on Bush Ct. in the Harford Town area of Abingdon was extinguished by units from the Abingdon VFC (AVFC) and surrounding Harford County Volunteer Fire Companies. The Darlington VFC responded to a woods and brush fire in the Ady Road area which also required resources from neighboring Volunteer Fire Companies to control. Several calls for poles, wires, and transformers on fire were handled throughout Bel Air and other areas. A major power outage occurred due to one of these incidents on Baltimore Pike in Bel Air.
Late in the afternoon, the Baltimore County Fire Department once again requested Harford County Volunteer Fire Companies to respond to incidents in their jurisdiction as they were struggling to simultaneously battle a three-alarm commercial building fire in the Golden Ring area, additional large woods fires in the Long Green and Loch Raven Reservoir areas, and dwelling fires in Parkville and Perry Hall. The Perry Hall dwelling fire, on Roxburgh Court resulted in the response of apparatus from several jurisdictions including Baltimore County, Baltimore City, as well as units from the Bel Air and Fallston Volunteer Fire Companies in Harford County.
As these incidents were brought under control and our personnel and apparatus were being released from the scenes a request was made through official channels for engines to re-locate to Anne Arundel County to supplement their fire department’s efforts in combating several large fires in that region. The Level VFC (Co.1- Supply 181), Aberdeen VFD (Co.2-Engine 214), Susquehanna Hose Company (C0.5-Engine 515), Whiteford VFC (Co. 6-Engine 613), and Joppa-Magnolia VFC (Co. 8-Engine 811) each re-located an engine to Anne Arundel County. Harford County units covered areas in Anne Arundel County from stations in Glen Burnie, Linthicum, Harmans-Dorsey, Brooklyn Park, and Waugh Chapel. These units responded to several incidents while in Anne Arundel County, and were returned to Harford County Saturday night and early Sunday.
As the weekend continued, so did the need for fire service mutual aid throughout our local area. At approximately 0300 hours (3:00 A.M.) on Sunday February 20 another dwelling fire in the Perry Hall area of Baltimore County occurred, resulting in the response of an engine from the Joppa-Magnolia VFC on the first alarm assignment. This working fire also saw additional units from Harford County Volunteer Fire Companies requested as the incident escalated. Joppa-Magnolia VFC Truck 831 and Bel Air VFC Air Unit 361 were dispatched to the scene. In order to provide coverage to the area, JMVFC Truck 831 was re-located to the Fullerton Station (Sta. 8), Bel Air Engine 315 re-located to the Perry Hall Station (Sta. 55), and Fallston VFAC Engine 1311 re-located to the Kingsville VFC (Sta. 48). At approximately 0745 hours (7:45 A.M.) Sunday a dwelling fire was reported in the 3100 block of Jarrettsville Pike in Harford County. The Jarrettsville VFC (Co. 7), Fallston VFAC (Co. 13), and Jacksonville VFC (Baltimore County-Sta. 47) were dispatched and quickly extinguished a fire involving a wooden deck that extended to the wall of the dwelling.
Shortly after 1800 hours (6:00 P.M.) a request from Cecil County resulted in the Susquehanna Hose Company (Co. 5) responding to a dwelling fire in the Perryville area. Engines 512, 513, and 515 responded to the working fire involving a manufactured home on Frenchtown Road and assisted units from Perry Point (Veterans Hospital) F.D. and Cecil County Volunteer Fire Companies in extinguishing this fire. The Aberdeen Volunteer Fire Department re-located an engine to cover Havre de Grace (Co. 5) during this fire.
Throughout the weekend, all Harford County Volunteer Fire and EMS Companies maintained response and stand-by crews to provide coverage throughout Harford County and the entire region. Harford County Volunteer Firefighters worked tirelessly and professionally alongside career and volunteer fire and emergency services personnel from Cecil County, York County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Federal Fire Departments from APG and Perry Point, and other jurisdictions. The dispatchers at 911 Centers throughout the area also were tested to the extreme this weekend. Insuring that units were dispatched appropriately, tracking those units as they moved between jurisdictions, and locating needed resources that were requested by emergency scene incident commanders was extremely difficult at times. The development since 9/11 of interoperable emergency service provider radio systems was very beneficial to the success of the weekends’ emergency responses and the re-locating of apparatus. Previously arranged Mutual Aid and Automatic Aid policies between jurisdictions worked seamlessly. Every Harford County Volunteer Fire Company was involved in the regional effort that was required to insure the safety of our citizens and the preservation of property throughout this weekend.