The coming of World War II would see a heavy burden placed on the fire company. Like most fire companies across the nation, men were leaving, either volunteering or being drafted, for the armed services. This put a serious burden on the available volunteers. During these years elections of officers were suspended and the current officers at the time would continue until further notice. During the war years the fire company would lose more than 40 members to the military service, employment on government posts, or at war plants.
One of the first acts in January of 1942 was to establish a twenty-four hour guard at the fire house. This came as a response to an act of presumed sabotage that occurred at the Elton Fire Department on January 10, 1942. Alleged to have been perpetrated by saboteurs, 600 to 700 feet of fire hose was found in the Elkton fire house dowsed with sulphuric acid, rendering it unfit for use. In Bel Air each fireman would take his turn as “guard” at night. Everyone was expected to help and they did with few excuses.
During these years, the fire company was also used as a “blackout” shelter and for personal first aid drills for the public.
In April 1943 a public meeting was held in the Harford County Court House to discuss the dangerous firemen shortage problem in the county. At the meeting representatives from the Bel Air, Aberdeen, Havre De Grace, Jarrettsville, Abingdon and Delta-Cardiff companies declared that they faced a critical manpower shortage, especially in the daytime hours. They indicated that one full-time, paid daylight member would go far toward solving the problem. It was emphasized that this system would be temporary in nature and end at the termination of the national emergency and the volunteer members in the armed forces and war industries returned home. Bel Air Company President and Harford County Fire Coordinator Frank L. Hiser was instructed to survey all the fire companies in the county to determine the cost of a paid fireman for each county company. The issue of paid firemen would come up again at a public meeting on April 23, 1944. It is not known whether any firemen were ever paid by the county to staff the fire houses.
Bel Air would pay some engine drivers during the day to man the equipment. The company would use funds provided by the Town of Bel Air for this purpose. Among those members paid were Joe Gray, H Amig and Frank E. Hiser.
One action the fire company did to help alleviate the manpower shortage was the “Auxiliary Firemen” concept. This was implemented in 1942 and basically was that men who were not actually members of the company and were still at home and not in the war would hear the siren and respond to help the firemen on the call. The men would come to the station, wait by the roadside to be picked up by the engine if it was responding that way, or meet the engine at the scene. They worked under the command of the company member on the scene and through the years provided a valuable service. Many went onto join the company in the years during and after the war. Since manpower was scarce, a few ladies also responded to help and drove the ambulance although they were never actually members. The fire service at that time was restricted to all male membership!
Even though the fire company was short of members and help they still responded to grass and field fires. Sometimes, only one or two members responded to the alarm. They would pick up the Indian tanks and rakes at the fire house and respond in their cars to the scene of the incident. These men would travel as far as Towson or Middle River to assist the State Forestry. The state paid the fire company 80 cents for the first three hours and 20 cents for each additional hour. In return, the fire company paid the firemen.
In 1943, the State Office of Civil Defense had offered to furnish free of charge to fire companies a 500 GPM Fire Trailer Pump unit. Harford County applied and was approved for seven of the units. They would be given to Aberdeen, Havre de Grace, Edgewood, Abingdon, and Jarrettsville. Bel Air would receive two of the trailers. The trailers were designed to be hooked up to the back of automobiles and were modeled after similar units used during the London Blitz. The original intent was to use them for possible air raids, but with that threat eliminated, the use will be as supplementary equipment for regular fire-fighting. The trailers consisted of a motor, a 500 GPM pump and the necessary suction hose. They also had some small tools mounted on the outside of the trailer for use in fire fighting operations. The two trailers arrived in March of 1944 and served the fire company for several years. The disposition of the trailers is not known.
In 1943 the fire company erected a new flagpole in front of the fire house. The flagpole contained two flags, one being a large American flag and the other a service flag. The service banner contained a large blue star in honor of the 30 fire company members who were in the service and a gold star in memory of the late Sergeant Meredith Chambers, the first fireman to make the supreme sacrifice.
In 1944 the fire company purchased a 1939 Dodge 4 x 4 2 ton World War II surplus chassis. A 660 gallon tank was donated by the Corbin Fuel Company, where it had been used on a horse drawn kerosene tank wagon. The fire company members did all the work on the unit, including mounting the tank. When first placed in service, it towed a 1944 Civil defense trailer that was equipped with a 500 GPM pump. Eventually the company members would modify the tanker to include a 500 GPM Front Mount Pump. It carried very little equipment besides a few hand tools, hard suction hoses and rolled sections of 2 ½ inch hose. The unit was placed in service in late 1945 and on November 15, 1945, responded to its first alarm for a fatal house fire on the Hughes Property near Darlington. The unit served the fire company until March 24, 1953, when it was sold to the Level Volunteer Fire Company. They were a new fire company in the county and this was the first piece of fire apparatus they owned.
In 1947 the company again was looking at the need for a bigger and larger pumper. On January 24, 1947, the fire company once again signed a contract with the Mack International Motor Truck Company for a new pumper at a cost of twelve thousand two hundred and seventy five dollars. The unit arrived in Bel Air in March of 1948 and ran its first alarm on March 19, 1949, for a fire at the Hitchcock residence near Fallston. The pumper was equipped with a Hale Two Stage Class A 750 GPM pump, 400 gallon booster tank, booster reel of 250 feet of ¾ inch hose mounted in the rear of the unit, 1200 feet of 2 ½ inch hose, 600 feet of 1 ½ inch hose, a 24 foot wooden extension ladder and a 14 foot wooden roof ladder. It also carried all the necessary appliances and tools. After its arrival, it was also equipped with the special ladder rack over the hose bed that carried the 35 foot extension ladder. This is the hose rack that had been removed from the 1938 Mack when it was sold.
In 1947 the company was again looking for more space as it now had four pieces of apparatus. In November of 1947 the fire company sold the part of the station that bordered his property to Louis Hollander (who had purchased the Main Street station years before). This sale would help finance the renovation and expansion of the rest of the fire house. Up until this time the apparatus would exit the fire house into an alley between Bond Street and Main Street for alarms. With the expansion and renovation, the building would have a bay for each piece of apparatus and the exit from the fire house would be reoriented onto Bond Street. The hose tower would not be moved a second time. The hose tower would be demolished and a new tower constructed during renovations.
In June of 1948 renovations began on the fire house with the construction of the new hose tower. After that was finished, the old tower was demolished and work on the building began. The renovations would continue until December of 1948. The finishing touches were applied in January of 1949 and an open house for the public to come and see the new firehouse was held on February 22, 1949. Included in the renovation project were individual bays for the apparatus, new offices, shower stalls, space for gear racks and a recreation room. The reorientation of the apparatus bays facing toward Bond Street would allow for a more efficient exit for the apparatus. The previous station had its apparatus bays facing into the alley beside the station that ran between Bond Street and Main Street. An asphalt apron would extend from the front of the apparatus bays all the to way Bond Street.
August of 1948 brought the innovation of two-way radio communications to the fire companies of Harford County. The companies had the radios installed in its apparatus. The radios were tuned to the same frequency as the receiver at the County Jail and the county’s police cars. This would allow the companies to maintain direct contact with other emergency units in the county. Before this installation, once a piece of apparatus left the station, it had no way of communicating with either the company fire house or other units. Many times the engine would be flagged down while enroute to alarms, only to be told by the person that they had received a call from the fire house and told to tell the engine it was not needed and it could return.