In the post-World War II era, Cecil’s fire departments ramped up services, reacting to the rapid growth in the county and the changing nature of emergencies.
The Charlestown Volunteer Fire Company was one of those units, working to strengthen public safety. As the river community saw increased use of beaches and the inevitable water emergencies, the department got busy, working to establish a marine unit.
In the spring of 1958 the company deployed two boats. One, used primarily for rescue work, was equipped with a resuscitator, grappling hooks, first aid supplies and life preservers. It had a “large flat deck to allow for artificial respirator while the water accident victim” was taken ashore, the Cecil Whig reported. The other, for firefighting, carried a 15 pound CO-2 extinguisher, a fire pump, and various small firefighting tools.
Both were interchangeable, and they were equipped with two ray radios. They had been built through the generosity of William Thorn, Jr., the owner of the C.W. Thorn boatyard.
As the boats floated on the North East River that spring day in 1958 tourists and residents were a little safer while swimming, boating, and splashing around. No longer would the men have to stand on shore, waiting for someone to give them a ride so they could reach a stricken vessel.
Now the Charlestown firefighters could speed to medical emergencies, water rescues or blazes without waiting precious minutes. It could be that this was the first dedicated water unit in the county and if not it was certainly one of the first.
Earlier that year, 26 firefighters from three companies met weekly at the Charlestown station to take a course in Advanced Red Cross First Aid. It was taught by Chief D. B. Smith of the Aberdeen Fire Department. Chief Nelson McCall of Charlestown, Chief Pierre Le Brun of Water Witch (Port Deposit), and Chief T. K. Blake, Jr. had men there learning the latest lifesaving methods, including pulmonary resuscitation.
As the summer season got underway in Charlestown in 1958, tourists and residents knew that the boats were standing by waiting for a call to go into action on the North East River. Additional photos