On January 15, 1923, a meeting was held in the Masonic Temple. The purpose of the meeting was to reorganize the fire company. There was much discussion and finally the vote was unanimous that the style of the new organization would be as previously worked out and it would operate under the old constitution and bylaws. Under the constitution and bylaws of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, its affairs are controlled by a board of directors elected for a year, with the board consisting of seven members. The seven members are to be three representatives of the property owners, two of the active firemen and two of the town board. Under the constitution and bylaws, the Chief has command of the fire fighting apparatus and forces and he shall direct all operations at fires.
The Board of Directors elected for that first year were:
The officers elected that first year were:
The members were:
During this time and for years before, the company had been referred to as the Bel Air Fire Company and \ or the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and not its true incorporated name of the Bel Air Fire and Salvage Company, Inc. On March 21, 1924, The Articles of Incorporation were filed with the clerk at the Harford County Courthouse and the BEL AIR VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY, INC., was finally official.
The first recorded alarm answered by the new company was on March 3, 1925, for a chimney fire. In its first year of incorporation, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Inc. would answer 53 alarms.
On April 10, 1923 a fire company meeting was held for the purpose of acquiring additional apparatus; as well as, ways and means of raising the necessary funds. While the present apparatus serves the purpose quite well for work in the Town of Bel Air, it was not of sufficient size and speed when called to answer alarms from outside the town limits. The members hoped to obtain a more powerful piece of apparatus equipped with a pump and other improved features. With the Ford American LaFrance hose wagon equipped for carrying hose always left in town for its protection, the other piece of apparatus equipped with pump and hose could respond to alarms from outside the town.
A campaign to solicit funds for the purchase of a new piece of apparatus was begun. On August 14, 1923, the fire company answered the alarm for a fire at the Worthington Estate. The residence was a large three story structure build in 1886. Members of the Worthington family were awakened by the sound of breaking glass and discovered that part of the residence was on fire with flames shooting up to the third floor. All of the family members escaped the house, but some difficulty was experienced in telephoning in an alarm. The fire company arrived in a very short time, and after turning on the hose the blaze seemed to be under control. Then the fire hose burst and valuable time lost in changing sections of hose the fire was again under control. Repeated hose failures eventually resulted in the loss of the house and most of its contents. After the fire, a neighboring fire company, the Susquehanna Hose Company of Havre de Grace, loaned Bel Air four hundred feet of hose until new hose could be purchased and delivered. Within a week, five hundred feet of new hose had been purchased and delivered to Bel Air, much to the relief of the town citizens.
The Worthington Estate fire brought to the attention of the town and the fire company that its present equipment was no longer adequate. On August 29, 1923 another fire company meeting was held at the Masonic Temple. The decision was made to immediately launch a campaign to raise $8500 dollars for fire equipment. Since the officers and men had previously been investigating various types of apparatus, had obtained prices and gathered useful information, the type and size of the apparatus required was discussed in great detail. The vote was unanimous that the new apparatus would be equipped with a 58 HP motor, a 40 gallon chemical and booster tank combination, a 350 gallon a minute rotary pump and have the capacity to carry 1000 feet of hose. It was also decided that 1000 feet of new hose be purchased to properly equip the new apparatus.
On November 7, 1923 the fire company signed the contract and placed the order with The Seagrave Company of Columbus, Ohio, for a Model 560 Triple Combination pumper at a cost of eleven thousand five hundred dollars. The unit was equipped with a 500 gallon a minute pump, a hose bed capable of holding 1000 feet of 2 ½ inch hose and a 40 gallon chemical tank with 200 feet of ¾ inch chemical hose. It also was equipped with a connection from the pump to the chemical hose so that water could also be pumped through the chemical hose. It had solid disk wheels; was painted a light cream color, and for several years was the largest and most powerful pumper in Harford and Cecil Counties. The Susquehanna Power and Light Company paid an annual fee to the fire company so that they could be assured of the services of the “mighty” pumper if needed at the Conowingo Hydroelectric Dam. According to old records, the power company had numerous occasions to call upon the assistance of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company.
The engine was delivered to Baltimore on February 26, 1924, by rail. A Seagrave factory man drove the new engine to Bel Air from Baltimore for final delivery. Upon delivery the unit had to be stored temporarily at the Harford Garage because the fire house on Main Street was undergoing renovations so that the new engine would actually fit in the station. It was moved from the Harford Garage to the Main Street Station on April 30, 1924.
During this time, the fire company realized that it was outgrowing the Courtland Street firehouse and would need more room to house both the current Ford American LaFrance hose wagon and the newly ordered Seagrave pumper. In December of 1923 a deal was finalized with the Whitaker Estate for the property located at 34-36 North Main Street in Bel Air. The property consisted of a store and the adjoining house. The purchase cost was five thousand dollars. The fire company took possession of the Main Street property on February 1, 1924, and immediately began to renovate the structure. The front of the store was torn out and the floor lowered to street level. A concrete floor was laid and two large inward swinging doors installed so that the two pieces of apparatus could stand side by side in the bay. The renovations were finished on April 30, 1924 and the Seagrave pumper was moved from its temporary location at the Harford Garage to its new home at the Main Street station.
In 1924 the fire company had taken on quite a bit of debt with the purchase of a new pumper and the purchase and renovation of the new firehouse. New ways to raise funds had to be found. For years the fire company had relied on “Honorary Member” subscriptions, minstrel shows, dances, raffles, etc. for its funding. The idea of a fireman’s carnival was brought before the company and approved. Mr. Charles D. Campbell was engaged to take charge of the carnival organization. The fire company received approval from the Town of Bel Air to hold a street carnival on Pennsylvania Avenue between Main Street and Bond Street in the center of town. The carnival would be held from July 26th to August 2nd. There was also a large parade to start the carnival. As this was the fire company’s first large fund raising event, there was much trepidation over the outcome. Fears were allayed at the close of the event as it was deemed a roaring success from start to finish by the attendees and members of the fire company. The fire company took in proceeds of $5200 dollars; slightly over $2000 dollars was expected to be net. The success of this event determined that the fire company would expand and hold the firemen’s carnival as an annual event for years to come.
On February 20, 1925, a meeting was held in the Red Cross room at the Armory for the purpose of organizing a fire company band. The officers who were elected to head the band were: Dr Frank Swartz, President; Henry Tarring, Secretary and Treasurer; and Irvin Smith, Leader. The primary purpose of the band was to accompany the fire company to conventions, parades and other events. It was also determined that if all went well concerts would be held every two weeks in the town and the band would also be available for other events. Many members of the fire company were members of the band and the first practice was held on February 26. In May the band had scheduled a series of concerts to be held each Wednesday evening from 7 to 9 o’clock on the Courthouse plaza during June, July and August. The first concert was held on June 6, 1925, and continued through August. Unfortunately, there is no more mention of a fire company band after 1925 and it is assumed that the band was disbanded at that time.
In early 1929 the wear and tear on the Seagrave pumper was beginning to show. The rough rural roads of the county and the increase in alarms each year were causing breakdowns. Finally on October 28, 1929, while responding to a alarm on Chestnut Hill Road, the engine in the pumper failed while enroute. The point had been reached where the pumper would need a complete overhaul and was sent to the Relfanider machine shop in Baltimore County. Because of the advance work that had been done in researching a new unit, when the Seagrave was placed out of service; the fire company Board of Directors immediately acted and on October 30, 1929 purchased a 1929 GMC American LaFrance Type 199 pumper. The unit was actually sitting on the showroom floor of the Elmira, New York, headquarters of American LaFrance. The pumper cost five thousand nine hundred dollars. It was driven to Bel Air by an American LaFrance factory man and arrived on November 2, 1929, where it was immediately placed in service. The American LaFrance factory man provided the training on the new unit and remained in town for a week or two to ensure all the firemen were fully trained on the pumper.
The pumper came equipped with a 6 cylinder GMC engine, 500 GPM rotary pump, 100 gallon water tank, left hand drive, hard sleeves, a 24 foot extension ladder, 14 foot roof ladder and numerous small tools and appliances. The unit had an electric siren and a spot light mounted in the middle of the cab. The cab of the unit was also completely open, and did not even have a windshield. The pumper was painted fire department red, so the fire company had the Seagrave pumper (undergoing an overhaul) repainted from a cream color to red to match the new unit.
At this very time, the citizens of the nearby community of Jarrettsville were organizing and starting their own fire company. For years, they had relied on the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company for fire protection. This had proven adequate, but with expanding populations and businesses and the extended response time from Bel Air to Jarrettsville it was deemed by the local citizenry that a fire company was needed. In late November of 1929 the Ford American LaFrance hose wagon was sold to the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company for six hundred dollars.