On June 23, 1899, the Town of Laurel was devastated by a disastrous fire that destroyed much of the downtown area. Legend has it that an argument between two gamblers led to the fire when one threw a kerosene lamp at the other. Since no firefighting equipment was available locally, firefighters responded from Wilmington, Delaware, Salisbury and Pocomoke City, Maryland.
As the smoke cleared more serious conversations took place regarding organizing a Fire Department. In October of 1899 the Laurel Fire Department was organized. The beginning years were very humble. Money was scarce, but the members did the best they could. The fire department progressed and in 1915 an American LaFrance Fire Engine was purchased. The first fire house was on Poplar Street across from Centenary Church.
At a company meeting in 1922 a member asked “Are we doing all we can for those who support us?”. At that time it was decided to organize a Fire Department Band. Practice was held every weeknight and before long the Laurel Fire Department Band was one of the premier Bands on the Eastern Shore. The band existed for fourteen years and in 1936 when it was disbanded the instruments were donated to the Laurel High School Band. To this day, Fire Department support continues as each year a music key is given to the outstanding senior band student.
| 1925 |
In 1921 Fire Departments from across the state sent representatives to Milford, Delaware to discuss forming a statewide association. This was done and on July 1, 1921 the first Delaware State Firemen’s Convention was hosted by Laurel. Since 1921 LFD is very proud to have five individuals to have served as president of the DVFA, Elbert C. Bailey (1933), Granville White (1957), David Joseph (1972), Clifford F. Lee (1987) and Elmer Steele (1993).
In 1924 a second motorized piece of equipment was purchased when an order was placed with Ahrens-Fox, of Cincinnati, Ohio for the purchase of a 1000 Gallon Per Minute Fire Engine. “The Old Fox” is still a part of the Fire Department today.
Laurel again hosted the DVFA Convention on September 20th and 21st of 1933. In April of 1934 a motion was passed at the company meeting to send Chief W.T. Bennett to a meeting that would form the Delaware State Fire Chief’s Association.
In late 1934 members it was decided to ask all eligible ladies to organize a Ladies Auxiliary. In the months that followed work was done to complete this and on January 5, 1938 the Laurel Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary became a reality. Throughout the years the hours of service and financial support this group has given the Fire Department could not be measured.
| 1936 |
In 1936, members of the Laurel Lions Club met with Fire Department members and asked that if they purchased an ambulance would the Fire Department be willing to run the Ambulance Service in town. The Fire Department agreed. In the early years the Fire Department ran about sixty ambulance calls per year. This year we will run about 1,200.
On April 26, 1936 two very important events occurred at the company meeting. First, the Fire Department voted to officially accept responsibility for the town’s ambulance service and secondly, a motion was passed to build a new firehouse on Poplar Street, south of the original one.