The Hagerstown Fire Department is saying goodbye to a downtown station that has been operating for more than a century.
Pioneer Hook & Ladder, or Truck 1, as the firefighters call it, has long protected the streets of downtown Hagerstown. But after all this time, it’s being phased out because of a poor location and cramped space.
“When this station was completed, horses pulled fire trucks,” said Chief Steve Lohr. “Franklin Street was a two-way street. A lot of things have changed.”
And yet, a lot of things have stayed the same. For Rodney McCoy, Pioneer itself is in his blood.
“My dad worked here for 34 years, I’ve been a volunteer here for 36 years,” said McCoy, who is the president and former volunteer captain. “Of course, I wanted to grow up like dad. My career…I wanted to be a paid firefighter.”
In the halls of the station, you’ll find various historic items that indicate its age. One of them is a fire pole, which were designed so that if a call rang out in the middle of the night, crews wouldn’t waste time running down the stairs. The thinking is that you can save precious seconds when a life is on the line.
McCoy remembers sliding down that pole very well – especially on May 17, 1986.
“When we went through the square of Hagerstown, we could smell it,” he remembers. “When we hit Bester school, we could see the flames.”
It was a house fire on South Potomac Street that killed three children. McCoy broke his back on the call, after saving the mother. The injury prevented him from reaching his life goal as a career firefighter, but he doesn’t have any regrets.
“The woman is alive, and that…I don’t want to say it kind of makes it worth it, but it was just a bad fire,” McCoy explained.
These memories, good and bad, stay with him and the other 100-or-so volunteers. They are getting shifted to a station on Eastern Boulevard, along with a new ladder truck.
“From an emotional standpoint, it’s very difficult,” Chief Lohr added. “From a business standpoint, it makes pretty good sense.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to accept change,” McCoy said. “But in the long run, I think the outcome…it will work out better for everybody.
Volunteers at Pioneer Hook & Ladder may still be able to buy the building from the city. They are meeting on Thursday night to decide if they’re interested in doing so.