When a terrible fire struck the DuBois Planning and Sash Mill, the largest industry in Havre de Grace, one June day in 1883, men rushed the town’s small Holloway Chemical Engine to the factory. Once on the scene, they worked frantically trying to check the destructive advance. But the “ruthless flames” turned the factory and nearby buildings into a mass of blazing ruins as the conflagration spread to large piles of nearby lumber.
The small stream from the soda and acid engine, which wasn’t designed to suppress a large industrial fire, was totally ineffective for this growing inferno so officials telegraphed nearby fire departments, asking that special trains be commandeered to rush steam engines to the stricken community. Hastily in Port Deposit, Wilmington, and Baltimore the P.W. & B Railroad assembled a locomotive and flat car and cleared the road for quick, emergency runs to the river town.
The Water Witch Fire Company of Port Deposit apparatus was on the grounds first, going right to work to prevent the advance. “The Port Deposit boys displayed themselves to good advantage and worked with a zeal and skill that would have done credit to a more experienced force,” the Havre de Grace Republican remarked about the three-year old firefighting organization.
Just over an hour later a second pumper, the engine from Baltimore, shrieked into town, the engineer laying on the whistle warning unsuspecting people to clear the tracks. No. 11, from Baltimore, showed from whence the well-earned reputation of the Monumental City Fire Department was derived, the paper remarked. It was supervised by Chief Engineer George W. Ellender. The Reliance Engine from Wilmington, Delaware, under direction of Chief Engineer Murphy, went into action about forty-five minutes later.
With three powerful steam pumpers playing large streams of water on the blaze, the “fire ladies” from neighboring places finally subdued the inferno, with the help of the citizens.