With World War II casting a dark, threatening shadow over the nation, the urgent need for additional fire protection in Cecil County suddenly emerged. Until those troubling days in the early 1940s, seven volunteer fire companies provided all the security needed for safeguarding life and property against the threat of a blaze.
But after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor an Elkton fireworks manufacturer, Triumph Industries, grew into a massive wartime production complex employing 11,500 workers. That large scale industry in a quiet, tranquil town of 3,500 people completely transformed the area. Before the war, the manufacturer of Chinese firecrackers, employed 211 people, but as war expanded around the globe Triumph stated filling orders for signal flares, detonators, and land-mines. After Pearl Harbor incendiary bombs and antiaircraft shells rolled off those hazardous production lines in Elkton.
That large complex of over 1,000 small buildings generously spaced throughout many acres helped contain the risk of explosions as workers performed extremely hazardous tasks, but it still required a dedicated fire department with specialized training. So the government hastily assembled a paid unit, purchasing apparatus, hiring firefighters and providing training. As munitions production expanded the Triumph Fire Department grew from a force of four on duty responders a shift in June 1942 to twelve by 1943. It started with a Navy fire pumper and an ambulance, but additional units were soon assigned by the U.S. Government.
Several times during the war years, devastating explosions rocked Triumph. One blast in 1943 took at least 15 lives and injured approximately 100 people. It was dangerous work and rapid, on-site emergency response was critical for containing the emergency.