Sunday afternoon fire heavily damages home in Finksburg

Sunday afternoon fire heavily damages home in Finksburg

Sunday, March 24, 2019 by Kevin Dayhoff, kevindayhoff@gmail.com

The recent arrival of spring has kept Carroll County firefighters and emergency responders busy with a number of recent serious house fires in the area. On Sunday

Firefighters from Westminster, Reese, Pleasant Valley, Gamber, Hampstead, and Sykesville companies were dispatched to the house fire in the 2800 block of Armacost Avenue in Finksburg Sunday afternoon, March 24. Kevin Dayhoff photo.

the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal reported, “Deputy State Fire Marshals … stay busy Saturday with a total of three investigations in less than sixteen hours…”

That was before yet another house fire occurred on Sunday afternoon. Firefighters from Carroll and Baltimore Counties responded to a report to the Carroll County Emergency Communications Center of a house fire in the 2800 block of Armacost Avenue, off of Old Westminster Pike and Route 140, in Finksburg, at approximately 2 o’clock.

Over 50 firefighters from Westminster, Reese, Pleasant Valley, Gamber, Hampstead, and Sykesville companies were dispatched in addition to firefighters from Reisterstown, Owings Mills, Franklin, Chestnut Ridge, and Glyndon in Baltimore County according to Gamber Fire Company assistant Chief Alan Barnes. The Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal and Baltimore Gas and Electric also responded and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office provided assistance.

It was reported that the smoke from the fire was visible from as far away as across the reservoir in Baltimore County. Upon arrival, Barnes discovered active fire coming from the rear of a two-story single family home with a basement.

The family was home at the time. According to Gamber PIO Clay Myers, the family was in the basement at the time of the fire and managed to safely escape.

Firefighters secure a ladder to the roof at a house fire in the 2800 block of Armacost Avenue in Finksburg Sunday afternoon, March 24. Photo courtesy of the Westminster Fire Company.

A rapid intervention dispatch and a water tanker taskforce was immediately requested by Barnes. Myers reported that “Tankers from several companies set up a water shuttle and a draft site was established at Dede Road.”

The fire quickly spread throughout the house. The fire was brought under control 45-minutes later at approximately 2:45 p.m. No firefighters were injured fighting the fire. The fire remains under investigation by the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal.

The fire is estimated to have caused $250,000.00 worth of damage to the structure and another $125,000.00 damage to the contents of the house. Observations from the street indicate that the house is a total loss. Friends and neighbors gathered quickly to assist and support the displaced family.

“This is about the third house fire in the Finksburg – Gamber area in the past several days,” said Barnes during the extensive cleanup after the fire. Fire crews stayed at the fire ground for about two-hours assisting the homeowners and the fire marshals; and cleaning-up and putting away equipment.

Other recent fires include a garage fire in the 1000 block of Cindy Lane in Westminster on March 23. That fire caused an estimated $25,000.00 in damage Approximately 40 firefighters fought the blaze. The lead fire company at that fire was the Gamber and Community Fire Company.

On March 20, a fire occurred at a two-story vacant home in the 2900 block of Hughes Rod in Finksburg, causing approximately $60,000.00 in damage. Again, the Gamber fire company was the lead agency fighting that fire. About 30 firefighters responded. It took over 30-minutes to put out that fire.

Many folks on social media have been alarmed by the recent number of fires. One comment, “omg what is causing all these fires,” was reflective of many of the responses to the recent house fires. All the recent fires remain under investigation by the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal. Firefighters at the fire on Sunday afternoon, who have responded to all the recent fires, said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment, that all the fires appeared to be vastly different in origin and no pattern could be detected. It just seemed to be a statistical anomaly – a coincidence. No one seemed alarmed – just very hungry, dirty, and tired.

Westminster fire company firefighter EMS Sergeant Emily Morris on the left, and Lt. Kim Zepp Darby carry equipment back to the Tower 3 after exiting from an interior fire suppression attack at the house fire in the 2800 block of Armacost Avenue in Finksburg Sunday afternoon, March 24. Kevin Dayhoff photo.

“The fire service reminds folks to stay vigilant about fire safety and be sure that your smoke alarms are properly functioning,” said Barnes as he was leaving the scene. A point that was reinforced in a phone interview with Gamber PIO Bruce Bouch, who wanted to remind citizens that you can never let your guard down when it comes to fire safety. Westminster fire company officials also cautioned folks to stay fire safe as the weather gets warmer and people get busier outdoors.

Times correspondent Kevin Dayhoff is also the chaplain, assistant secretary, and PIO for the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1.

Related: Family displaced following Finksburg fire by Catalina Righter March 25, 2019

Over 50 firefighters from Carroll and Baltimore County took 45-minutes to fight a house fire in the 2800 block of Armacost Avenue in Finksburg Sunday afternoon, March 24. Photo courtesy of the Westminster Fire Company.

A family escaped from a blaze that seriously damaged a Finksburg home on Sunday, March 24. No injuries were reported to civilians or firefighters.

“This is about the third house fire in the Finksburg–Gamber area in the past several days,” said Gamber Fire Company Assistant Chief Alan Barnes during the extensive cleanup after the fire. Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said that the fires are completely unrelated and are being investigated separately.

Read more here: https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/news/crime/cc-armacost-fire-finksburg-20190325-story.html

https://www.facebook.com/kevindayhoff/posts/10216075876023260

 

John H. Cunningham was a charter member of the Md. State Fireman’s Assoc.

John H. Cunningham, from the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1, was a charter member of the Md. State Fireman’s Association and served on the Executive Board and Officers Committee from1898 – 1899. Courtesy of the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1.

John H. Cunningham was a charter member of the Md. State Fireman’s Assoc.

At the time of his death, Cunningham “was believed to be McDaniel – Western Maryland College’s oldest living alumnae… and the State’s only living charter member of the Maryland State Fireman’s Association

When John Cunningham died, he was America’s Oldest Banker in Years of Continuous Service. He was a lifelong member of the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose co. No. 1.

February 24, 2019 by Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No 1 Chaplain Kevin Dayhoff

It is only fitting and appropriate that from time to time we take a moment to remember some of the many great Carroll Countians that have gone before us.

On December 31, 1965, John Cunningham passed away within a few hours of 99th birthday. Local historian Jay Graybeal wrote of “his rich life, including his interests in bicycling, walking and poker,” in a March 16, 1997 column in the Carroll County Times.

An earlier shorter version of this story appeared in the Carroll County Times on January 13th, 2019. Please find the article here: https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/columnists/features/cc-lt-dayhoff-011319-story.html. This version of a story about Mr. Cunningham is the long version with all the edits restored.

Finding a picture of Mr. Cunningham has been nearly impossible – except, I did finally find a picture of him at the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1 – although the picture was damaged by the April 6, 1906 H. H. Harbaugh’s Palace Livery Stable fire. The livery stable and residence was located next to the Fire House on East Main St in Westminster. The fire, which destroyed the huge building, also burned a portion of the Westminster fire station and the Westminster city offices that were located on the second floor of the station.

To put 1965 and the mid-1960s into some perspective, our country was just beginning a new phase of the Vietnam War; with the introduction of the first combat troops on February 9, 1965. Before we had, “advisors” engaged in the conflict. Later in the year, on November 14, the Battle of the Ia Drang began in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It was the first major engagement of the war between regular American and North Vietnamese forces. Shortly afterwards, the pentagon told President Lyndon Johnson that the number of troops needed to be increased from 120,000 to 400,000.

John H. Cunningham, from the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1, was a charter member of the Maryland State Fireman’s Association and served on the Executive Board and Officers Committee from1898 – 1899. Please note that the picture was damaged by the April 6, 1906 H. H. Harbaugh’s Palace Livery Stable fire. The livery stable and residence was located next to the Fire House on East Main St in Westminster. The fire, which destroyed the huge building, also burned a portion of the Westminster fire station and the Westminster city offices that were located on the second floor of the station. Courtesy of the Westminster Fire Engine and Hose Co. No. 1.

At home, the Civil Rights movement was on the forefront of many as around 1965 was the last year that restaurants and such were segregated in Westminster. Malcolm X was assassinated in New York at the Audubon Ballroom on February 21.

Bloody Sunday had occurred on March 7 as 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state and local police with billy clubs and tear gas. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr. civil rights marchers were finally successful, after three attempts, to walk from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. On August 6, President Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

It was 1964 that Carroll County administrator George Grier went to New York to begin negotiations with Random House to build a book distribution center in Westminster. At that time in the negotiations, adequate supplies of water was a sticking point, among many issues that were subsequently ironed out before the facility opened on July 14, 1967, according to “From Our Front Porch,” a history of Carroll County from 1900-1999, by Jim Lee.

And oh in 1964 ice cream cost 89 cents per half gallon

Graybeal shared with us Cunningham’s obituary, which appeared on January 1, 1966, in an unidentified newspaper. The obituary began: “John H. Cunningham, believed to have been the oldest banker in the United States, died yesterday at his home… His wife, the former Mary Irwin, died in 1949… He was a past master of the Masonic order and was a member of the Westminster Church of Christ.”

Cunningham was born on New Year’s Day in 1867. According to his obit, “On January 1, 1885, while a senior at Western Maryland College, Mr. Cunningham began his banking career as a clerk with the Farmers and Mechanics National Bank, [at 105 E. Main St. in Westminster] following the footsteps of his father William, who was a clerk there.”

He worked in the same office, with the same employer for his entire life – from 1885 until when he passed away in 1965. “Many days he walked the mile to work from his home at 95 West Green Street.”

Graybeal reported; “His long career in banking was recognized by a telegram from President Kennedy in 1963.”

The telegram said: “Congratulations on being named by your friends and associates in Westminster and Carroll County as “America’s Oldest Banker in Years of Continuous Service.” Your 77 years record as a banker is certainly an impressive one and you deserve all the honors, which have been given you…”

He was well-known for his punctuality and folklore attests that “fellow employees reportedly set their watches by him,” as he would arrive at his desk “every working day promptly at 9 a.m. and would not leave until 3 in the afternoon…” It was also noted “that Mr. Cunningham had not missed a town meeting in Westminster since 1883, the year he became old enough to vote.

Cunningham played poker every Tuesday night between 7 and 11 p.m. sharp, at “Thelma Hoffman’s restaurant at 216 E. Main Street [later known as Cockey’s Tavern] in Westminster.” Among his partners were Ben Thomas, Paul Whitmore, Miller Richardson, Ralph Bonsack, Frank Leidy, Theodore Brown and Norman Boyle.”

Cunningham was also well known for his New Year’s Day tradition of an all day poker game, “that began promptly at 11 a.m., broke for dinner at 5 p.m., then resumed until 11 p.m.”

At the time of his death, Cunningham “was believed to be Western Maryland College’s oldest living alumnae… and the State’s only living charter member of the Maryland State Fireman’s Association.”

The January 1, 1966 obituary reported that: “Cunningham’s interest in politics was rewarded during the Coolidge Administration with his appointment in 1923 as Surveyor of Customs at Baltimore, a post he held for nine years. In 1911, Mr. Cunningham ran unsuccessfully for State Comptroller.”

“Beside politics and poker, Mr. Cunningham loved walking. On weekends as late as 1964, he hiked along country roads, a white handkerchief tied to his cane, for safety.”

When he was 97 years old, he explained in a November 1964 interview: “I only walk half as far and about half as fast as I used to… It’s a strain to walk more than 4 or 5 miles…”

“In his earlier days… [he] was a bicyclist of renown… According to a banker’s association bulletin, in 1898 he bicycled 200 miles from Westminster to Atlantic City, N.J…” He waited to give up driving until he was approximately 92 years old.

An earlier shorter version of this story appeared in the Carroll County Times on January 13th, 2019. Please find the article here: https://www.carrollcountytimes.com/columnists/features/cc-lt-dayhoff-011319-story.html. This version of a story about Mr. Cunningham is the long version with all the edits restored.

In full disclosure, I met Cunningham in the early 1960s upon the occasion of one of his visits to City Hall to talk with City of Westminster Mayor Joseph L. Mathias who served on the Westminster Common Council May 1927 to May 1937 and Mayor from May 18, 1942 to December 3, 1963. To the best of my knowledge, I have only written about Cunningham a couple of times. Most notably, a portion of this column was previously published in 2006.

Carroll County is fortunate to have many great community leaders still with us. We should all take time to pause and thank them for their service to our community – whether we agree with them or disagree.

Every one of them is working hard to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. In 2019, may we all work hard to rekindle a renewed sense of civility and have as full and vigorous a life as Mr. John Cunningham – playing poker, bicycling and walking many four or five miles is optional. God Bless and Happy New Year.

https://patch.com/maryland/westminster/cunningham-was-charter-member-md-st-fireman-s-assoc