The new 18,000 square foot White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company station on the 10000 block of Philadelphia Rd. officially opened on Saturday, October 6. At the dedication ceremony, a crowd of over 250 community members and local officials gathered to celebrate the completion of a project that was decades in the making.
“This is the ultimate statement of state-of-the-art fire, rescue, and EMS services,” said the event EMCEE and WMVFC member, Richard Brooks. “What a wonderful day this is.”
The new space was designed and constructed with the area’s current and future needs in mind, Brooks said. New special features include a fitness center and training mezzanine and six other dorms capable of sleeping 18 volunteer personnel and a more modern kitchen and conference room.
“The location and building will include all necessary space and features to function as a volunteer fire and EMS company for the next 50-plus years,” states the WMVFC website.
The history of the WMVFC dates back to World War II when a volunteer “Civil Defense” unit was created to service the White Marsh-Cowentown community. Once the war was over, this unit was turned into a permanent volunteer fire department, residing in a building on the 5000 block of Ebenezer Rd. for 68 years following its completion in 1947.
During the ceremony, the organization’s former location was decommissioned. The flag was lowered a transferred to the new building where it was raised by some of the WMVFC’s longest-serving members.
“Just around the corner on Ebenezer Rd., stories were told, people grew, they were nurtured by their brother and sister firefighters and EMTs. We protected a vast community,” Brooks added.
The old property is now owned by the state of Maryland and will be used as open space once the fire station is torn down.
WMVFC operates two fire engines, an Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance/medic unit, a four-wheel drive brush fire response unit, two EMS first response and support units, a canteen vehicle, and a rehab bus, and as more and more equipment was added to service the growing White Marsh population, the space in the facility became inadequate. Along with cases of flooding and issues due to Ebenezer Rd. traffic, the need for a new station was great.
The major starting point for the project began in 2016 when General Motors donated 6.4 acres of land on Philadelphia Rd. to the organization. Originally the WMVFC had sent a letter to GM requesting a land swap, their property for the Ebenezer Rd. property.
“However to our great surprise, GM actually donated the land without asking for any monetary or property exchange. This was our first big win,” said Rick Blubaugh III, captain and vice president of operations since 2010.
However, this was only the first step of a years-long process to secure the funding needed to turn an empty parcel of land into a fully functional station that would serve the needs of thousands of residents.
First Baltimore County announced it would contribute $3.7 million toward the project which was about half of the new station’s total cost. In addition to giving White Marsh a $1.7 million grant, the County will make all payments on a $2 million, 30-year loan.
“The White Marsh VFC is one of our top performing volunteer companies, but more than that, it’s a model for volunteer companies everywhere,” Preis said. “Its members understand that in the 21st century you have to run a company like a business while retaining a role as a valuable member of the local community.”
Another $500,000 came from a loan fund established decades ago with county dollars to support the volunteer fire service with low-interest loans and grants. The fund is administered by the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association (BCVFA)
The White Marsh company raised the remaining funds through a capital campaign asking for private and business donations. For example, a mailer was sent out to White Marsh residents asking for donations. This eventually raised $9,000 alone.
Kevin Palmer, the WMVFC president, thanked all the donors and supporters for taking the “leap of faith” and putting their dollars and support behind making the station a reality.
For more information on the White Marsh Volunteer Fire Company and its new building, visit www.wmvfc.org. The station can be reached at 410-933-0100 or 410-887-5770.