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The 2nd Annual Gateway To The Cure Zumbathon was held on Sunday, April 7, 2019, at the Thurmont American Legion.

Zumba lovers of all ages came out to show their support for Gateway To The Cure, the Town of Thurmont’s annual fundraiser. Thurmont Zumba Instructor Kellie Bevard organized the entire event, with the assistance of four other Frederick County Zumba instructors.

The Zumbathon raised $900 in just two hours! Proceeds for Gateway To The Cure are donated to the FMH Hurwitz Breast Cancer Fund at Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Thurmont’s 6th Annual Gateway To The Cure will be held the entire month of October. Proceeds from the Zumbathohn will be included in the October month-long fundraiser.

The 2nd Annual Gateway To The Cure Zumbathon fundraiser, held April 7, 2019, raises $900 in two hours.

James Rada, Jr.

When Bob Black of Thurmont heard that he had been named the Maryland Economic Development Association’s (MEDA) Volunteer of the Year, he asked the woman who nominated him, “What did you tell them?”

Katie Albaugh with the Frederick County Office of Development told him, “You don’t realize how much you volunteer.”

Among the organizations that Black volunteers with are: Maryland Horticultural Society; Agricultural Business Council; Frederick County Farm Bureau; Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention; International Fruit Tree Association; Guardian Hose Company; Guardian Hose Company Fire Police; Thurmont Ambulance Company; Frederick County Tourism Council; Catoctin Tourism Council.

“I don’t think about the number,” Black said. “I volunteer out of habit.”

MEDA is a nonprofit organization of economic development professionals. Established in 1961, MEDA members promote the economic well-being of Maryland by working to improve the state’s business climate and the professionalism of those in the field of economic development.

The Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA) recently announced the recipients of the 2019 MEDA Awards, which celebrates the people, programs, and projects that are transforming lives across the State of Maryland.

MEDA Awards showcase efforts to attract new businesses, assist existing businesses, redevelop business districts, market communities, and support economic development throughout the state.

“We are pleased to recognize all of the MEDA Award winners,” said Pam Ruff, MEDA executive director. “We applaud these exceptional projects, programs, and campaigns— as well as the people behind them—that show how dedicated our members are to economic growth across the State of Maryland.”

The MEDA chose Black because: “As president and co-owner of Catoctin Mountain Orchard, Black has supported economic development throughout Maryland. Black’s volunteerism reaches back to the late 1970s: member and past president of the Agricultural Business Council; served on the Visit Frederick Board of Directors; member of Thurmont Economic Development Committee; longtime member of the Frederick County Farm Bureau Board of Directors. Black was involved in the creation of Frederick Farm Guide. He has been at the forefront of pest research, and devotes his time to developing new apple varieties.

Black is the second generation farmer, with two more generations following behind him. His father bought the Kelbaugh Farm in 1961, and the Blacks have been working it since.

Black said he wouldn’t have been able to volunteer so much if his family hadn’t been there to support him. He knew he could depend on them to do the work that he should be doing but can’t because he’s volunteering or attending organization meetings.

To learn more about the awards and these outstanding projects, visit www.MEDAmd.com.

Bob Black is shown in Catoctin Mountain Orchard.

Putting into action the organization’s motto of “We Serve,” members representing several Frederick County Lions Clubs recently came together on a county-wide service project when approximately 220 students at Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg received vision screenings performed by Lions members on two dates in March.  Over 42 Lions service hours were spent on this effort.  This was the fourth consecutive year for the joint screening effort.

The children were brought to a non-invasive testing station utilizing PlusoptiX S12C eye-vision technology to capture an image of the children’s eyes and automatically determine whether a vision impairment, such as near- or far-sightedness or astigmatism, was present.  The tester holds the unit approximately one meter from the child and asks the child to focus on the smiling face on the front of the camera.  At the completion of the testing, younger children received a Lion sticker to indicate they had completed the screening process.

The parents/guardians of all children tested received written test results to indicate whether their child was recommended to see a vision professional for a potential problem or was unable to be screened.  While the vast majority of children passed, readings obtained by trained Lions indicated that some of the children needed to be seen by vision professionals for potential vision anomalies.  The advanced technology of the PluxoptiX camera provides readings that are printed out either on a label which is attached to the letter for use by the vision professional of the parents’ choice. Lions members participating in the screenings included:  Sharon Hane, Clifford Sweeney, and Bill and Rachel Wivell from the Emmitsburg Lions Club; and John Aulls and Lynn Stimmel from Francis Scott Key Lions Club.

Child care centers or organizations that want to learn more about the Lions pre-school vision screening program or to schedule a screening should contact Region III Lions Saving Kids Sight Coordinator, Lion John Aulls at aulls2@comcast.net or 301/662-2360.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s largest service club organization with almost 1.45 million members in approximately 47,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.  Since 1917, Lions Clubs have assisted the blind and visually impaired and made a strong commitment to community service and serving youth throughout the world.  Lions Clubs are comprised of individuals who identify needs within the community and work together to fulfill those needs. The two clubs involved in the screenings have long histories of community service:  Emmitsburg since 1982, Francis Scott Key since 1959.  If you want to help your community and have a roaring good time doing it, consider becoming a Lion.  There are a number of Lions Clubs in the Frederick County area; for information on becoming a Lion, contact the Emmitsburg Lions at www.emmitsburg.net/lions or Francis Scott Key Lions at www.fsklions.org.

Lions participating in the recent vision screenings of Mother Seton School students included: Lions Clifford Sweeney and Bill Wivell of Emmitsburg Lions, Lynn Stimmel of Francis Scott Key Lions, Rachel Wivell and Sharon Hane of Emmitsburg Lions, and John Aulls of Francis Scott Key Lions.

The Thurmont Grange #409 hosted it’s annual “Antique Roadshow” fundraiser on Monday, March 25, 2019.  Many Grangers and community members brought their antiques, family heirlooms, and keepsakes to be evaluated by local experts, David Hunt, Denny Black, and Larry Hauver. Everything from clocks to baseballs and toy trains to silver tea sets were held up for everyone to see. This event is always enjoyable and interesting, as attendees hear the history behind cherished items, as well as their potential value. 

The funds raised from the Antique Roadshow are always donated to a local individual or family in need of community support. This year, the Grange was proud to make a $500 donation to Kinna Strong, through the Patty Pollatos Fund, Inc.  Kinna Strong is a fund which lends support to the Kinna family, a Thurmont family who has always been very active in the community, despite their own medical challenges. Melissa and her son, Nolan, are both battling life-threatening illnesses. It was such an honor to have the entire Kinna family join the Grange for the event. One can definitely gain a sense of strength from this family and their positive outlook. Kinna Strong is really the best way to describe them!

If you are interested in learning more about the Grange or about becoming a member, please contact Rodman Myers at 301-606-9221 or Niki Eyler at 301-471-5158. 

Pictured from left are Grange President Bob Wiles, Grange Lecturer Niki Eyler, Melissa Kinna, Wyatt Kinna, Nolan Kinna, and Nick Kinna  (back row).

McKenzi Forrest, Rocky Ridge 4-H Reporter

Rocky Ridge Progressive 4-H Club is always extremely active, and March and April were no exception.

We had our annual Sandwich Sale fundraiser, where we made over 2,000 sandwiches. Even with so many sandwiches to make, our club showed awesome teamwork and really had a good time making them. Thank you to all of our continued supporters for making our fundraiser so successful.

Our Community Service projects consisted of making St. Patrick’s Day notes for all of the residents at St. Catherine’s in Emmitsburg, as well as collecting supplies for the Thurmont Grange. We had several club members challenge their knowledge by participating in a Skill-A-Thon; they did a great job and look forward to more opportunities to broaden their knowledge.  

Kudos to the Rocky Ridge Progressive 4-H for serving our community so well—keep up all the hard work! Also, good luck to everyone participating in the Will’s Fair at Howard County Fairgrounds in May.

The Rocky Ridge Progressive 4-H Club collects supplies for the Thurmont Grange.

The award-winning documentary Heroin’s Grip is scheduled to be shown at Catoctin High School, located at 14745 Sabillasville Road in Thurmont, at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. This free event is open to the public and is sponsored by The Town of Thurmont, The Thurmont Addiction Commission (TAC), and FUSE Teen Center.

 Heroin’s Grip tells the story about the heroin and opioid epidemic from the viewpoint of those on the front lines of this national crisis. The film features a Thurmont family and other Frederick County families whose lives have been affected and forever changed by addiction, and includes stories from those currently using, people in recovery, as well as perspectives from law enforcement, healthcare workers, judges, prosecutors, and others who deal with people in this crisis every day. Ultimately, the film gives hope for the user and for the families who’ve been affected.

The film is produced and directed by Emmitsburg resident, Conrad Weaver.  The first lesson Conrad Weaver learned about heroin, as he worked to produce his new film Heroin’s Grip, was that no one is immune. Addiction captures rich and poor alike.

As one reviewer writes, “This movie is so relevant to what families are experiencing across our country. Anyone with a child should see this film. How do we keep our kids from falling into addiction? Heroin’s Grip will put it into perspective for you.”

Maryland currently ranks as the sixth deadliest state for drug overdoses.  During 2018, there were 55 fatal opioid-related overdoses, and 279 non-fatal overdoses in Frederick County alone. Within the United States, there were over 72,000 opiod-related deaths in 2017.  This is an epidemic that spans across all ages, races, and economic groups. This film gives the viewer a view of the crisis from all perspectives. 

All ages are encouraged to attend. Donations of canned foods will be accepted for the local food bank.

For more information about Heroin’s Grip, visit www.heroinsgrip.com. Follow us online at www.facebook.com/ThurmontAddictionCommission/.

James Rada, Jr.

At the beginning of the school year, staff at Thurmont Middle School noticed that the boys’ bathrooms smelled fruity, which is not a smell most people associate with boys’ bathrooms.

That was when the staff realized that e-cigarettes and vaping had become a problem with middle-school students.

The Thurmont Middle School PTA and Thurmont Addiction Commission sponsored “Teens and Vaping: What Every Parent Needs to Know” at Catoctin High School on April 8. Stephanie Kimble, Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program manager with the Frederick County Health Department, gave about three dozen parents and students an overview of vaping.

Vaping is the use of a small electronic device that aerosolizes nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals that the user inhales. The devices are often called e-cigarettes or e-pens, but the most-popular device is a JUUL, which looks like a flash drive. A small JUUL pod is inserted into the JUUL, which has the equivalent nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. It also has a variety of other chemicals.

“Kids call it the iPhone of electronic cigarettes,” Kimble said.

The FDA does not regulate these devices, and they are often marketed to youths. For instance, you can purchase skins to decorate a JUUL, just as you can purchase skins for smartphones.

JUUL, because of its small size, presents a challenge for parents and educators in part because it is easy for teens to hide. Many students also falsely believe that JUULs don’t contain nicotine.

“JUUL does not sell a device that does not contain nicotine,” Kimble said.

Besides nicotine, Kimble said JUULs contain benzoic acid, glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, and extracts.

“Glycerol is found in foods,” Kimble said. “The stomach can digest it. The lungs can’t.”

Among the risks of vaping are: (1) Exposure to nicotine, which is addictive and can hinder brain development in youths, which continues until age 25; (2) Exposure to toxic substances; (3) Increased likelihood to smoke; (4) Injuries from malfunctioning vaping devices; (5) Poisoning from direct exposure to some of the chemicals used; (6) Exposure to heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead that the aerosol picks up from the metal coils.

While tobacco usage among students has been trending downward for years, health officials worry that vaping usage will show an upward trend. Right now, the data for the devices, which have only been around since 2015, is still being collected.

If caught vaping, students can receive a citation, just as they would if caught with alcohol.

Kimble said parents need to learn what vaping devices look like and what the risks of vaping are. They should talk to their children about the risks and set a positive role model by not vaping themselves.

James Rada, Jr.

Cunningham Falls State Park is a Thurmont treasure that all of Frederick County appreciates. This can be seen in the fact that the park recently won Best Place to Camp (Regional) and Best Place for a First Date (Non-Food) in the Frederick News Post’s annual “Best of the Best” contest.

During a March town meeting, Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird called Cunningham Falls State Park “a great attraction for a lot of people who come to our community.”

The park isn’t resting on its laurels, as Park Manager Mark Spurrier told the Thurmont Commissioners during a recent meeting.

“We have a whole bunch of construction going on,” he explained.

The park has 300,000 to 400,000 visitors each year, with most of them coming to the lake to swim during the summer. Because many of the projects are targeted to improving the visit for these people, some inconveniences could happen during construction. The park service is trying its best to complete as much work as possible during the off season.

Some of the projects have already started. For some, it may be two years before they are complete. Many of the upgrades are needed since the park is over fifty years old.

Here are the improvements the park is making:

•    Dual lane entry and new contact station. Since nearly all of the visitors to Cunningham Falls head to the lake, the line to enter the park often backs up. Adding a new entry lane and pay station should speed things up.

•    Rehabilitated picnic pads. Forty picnic pads will have new tables and a grill all on a concrete slab. Some of the pads will be enlarged to fit more than one table.

•    Nature center. The former beachfront store, which had originally been a bathroom, will now become at 334-square-foot nature center with a canopy that will allow for classes to be taught in warm weather.

•    New bathroom. The bathroom near the boat rentals will be demolished and replaced with an entirely new facility. This project could cause headaches for visitors this summer because the materials being used in the new construction are taking up parking spots, which can be scarce in the summer.

•    New beach. The south beach will have a new beachfront that will be designed to better hold the sand on the beach and not have it wash away. This will also include better stormwater management for the area.

•    Museum of the Iron Furnace. The collier’s house at Catoctin Furnace will be rehabilitated and turned into a museum, with the help of the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society. The museum will tell the story of the community built up around one industry.

•    Stabilization of the Iron Master’s House. The work to stabilize the Iron Master’s house has been going on since 2014. The work is being done as grant funding is available. So far, $75,000 has been raised.

•    Renovated camp store.

•    Smaller projects. Smaller projects, or projects not so obvious to visitors, include a new storage shed, new water plant, sewer line repair, minor dam maintenance, and replacing the culverts along MD 77.

Blair Garrett

Through rain, shine, sleet, or snow, first responders will be there in our time of need. The Thurmont Guardian Hose Company’s Annual Banquet was no exception, with several of the featured volunteers called away to combat a house fire on the Catoctin Mountain.

But, the show must go on, and the banquet didn’t miss a beat. 

The food was served, memories were shared, and the banquet got underway to celebrate and recognize all of the hard work the men and women of Guardian Hose Company puts forth day after day. 

A moment of silence and recognition for the dedication and accomplishments of five members of the Guardian Hose Company was held, whose passing in 2018 was felt by each member of the area’s fire and EMS community. Diane Oxendale, Elwood Riffle, Richard Kaufman, Marion W. “Bill” Rice, and Gloria Clabaugh were honored through their families with the lighting of a candle and Reverend James Hamrick’s blessing.

Guardian Hose Chief Chris Kinnaird was responsible for the minutes of the banquet, informing the public on the past year’s events and statistics, accolades for administrative and operational officers, and future plans for the fire company.

The Top 10 Responders for the year were highlighted for their loyalty and service: Larry Duble (102), Michael Beard (124), Stacy Stackhouse (147), Steve Strickhouser (163), Christopher Kinnaird (194), Terry Frushour (200), Mike Duble (254), Jared Snyder (261), Wayne Stackhouse (271), Brad Weddle (421).

The officers who were inducted for 2019 are Lieutenants Chad Brown, Brian Donovan, Will Gue, and Kevin Welch; Captain Blaine Schildt; and Assistant Chief Charlie Brown.

“I’m sure they will support me throughout the year, as they have done in the past. I thank them for stepping up to the plate and taking these positions,” Chief Kinnaird said.

It was a tremendously busy 2018 for the Guardian Hose Company, running nearly 700 calls in just twelve months. As a company that is depended upon day in and day out, entirely functioning on the efforts of volunteers, the dedication of the operational and administrative officers doesn’t go unnoticed.

“It’s amazing that you’re an all-volunteer fire company,” Mayor John Kinnaird said. “There are very few communities like ours that have all volunteer companies, and we really appreciate your service.”

Volunteer fire companies thrive on the shoulders of invested community members who aim to support and protect the public. The communication and teamwork among local departments is paramount to maintaining the safety of the Catoctin area.     

“I’d like to thank our neighboring departments who helped us out throughout the year,” Chief Kinnaird said. “We can’t do this job by ourselves. It’s not a one-company operation anymore. The whole department relies on everybody, and everybody always lends a hand.”

As President Wayne Stackhouse continued to acknowledge each member and their years of service and membership to the fire company, a few stood out among the crowd.

Donald Stitely and Richard Wilhide joined the sixty-year club, putting in more than a half century of service to Guardian Hose Company.

“I want to make note that William “Bill” Rice was our oldest member on record before his passing last year, and he had completed seventy years,” Stackhouse said.

President Stackhouse’s next award put a smile on everyone’s face in the room, but none bigger than the smile on committee member Linda Davis’ face. “This next award is kind of a special award,” Stackhouse said. “Linda is one of those members in the activities committee who goes way beyond what she needs to do, but she’s always there.”

Davis was presented with a framed certificate and a huge bouquet of flowers, and the emotion on her face was immediately apparent. The gifts weren’t done yet for Davis though, as she also received a lifetime membership, certifying that she will receive membership benefits and privileges for her hard work and dedication to the Guardian Hose Company.

The banquet ended with the official installation for the 2019 officers by Director of Volunteer Fire Services Director, Chief Kevin Fox: President, Wayne Stackhouse; President Emeritus, Donald Stitely; Vice President, Terry Frushour; Secretary, Lori Brown; Assistant Secretary, Tisha Miller; Treasurer, Chad Brown; Assistant Treasurer, Beverly Frushour; Trustees, Brian Donovan, Jared Snyder, Joe Ohler, Steve Yuengling, and Christopher Kinnaird. Operational Officers: Chief, Chris Kinnaird; Assistant Chief, Carroll Brown; Captain, Blaine Schildt; Lieutenants, Chad Brown, Brian Donovan, Will Gue, and Kevin Welch; and Chaplain, James Hamrick.

The Installation of Officers puts the Guardian Hose Company and its supporters in a position to be successful for yet another year. As a volunteer fire company, Guardian Hose is always looking for more help and dedicated volunteers.

For more information, contact one of the company’s officers or visit www.guardianhose.org for more information.

President Wayne Stackhouse (center) acknowledges Richard Wilhide’s (left) and Donald Stitely’s sixty-years of service.

Vice President Terry Frushour is shown with Linda Davis, who receives a beautiful bouquet of flowers, as well as a lifetime membership.

The Town of Thurmont was recently recognized by the Maryland Recreation and Park Association (MRPA) and was presented the Best Program Logo award for populations serving under 50,000 people.

In the summer of 2018, the Town of Thurmont offered its inaugural summer parks and recreation program, based out of the Thurmont Community Park. The two-week program was entitled “A Day in the Park” and was a huge success. 

At the request of Park Program Coordinator Deb Abraham Spalding, Gracie Eyler from E Plus Graphics, Printing & Promotions, came up with an original logo that was used to brand the park program.

The logo was an immediate identifier for the program and was easily recognizable. It captures some of the activities provided during the two-week program, and also displays a large deciduous tree as the central focal point, reminding us that natural resources are vital to park programming. 

“This logo is a great resource used in branding our successful summer park program,” stated Mayor John Kinnaird. 

The award was presented to Gracie Eyler, Deb Abraham Spalding, and Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick at the Celebrating Excellence Marketing and Communications Awards Luncheon on February 28, 2019, in Laurel, Maryland.  This is the second consecutive year that Thurmont has received a Marketing and Communications Award from MRPA.

Jim Humerick, Town of Thurmont’s CAO; Deb Abraham Spalding, Day In The Park program coordinator; Gracie Eyler, E Plus Graphics graphic designer; and Carolyn Ryan, MRPA president.

National Make a Difference Day (MaDD) is an annual community service event that is held every year on the fourth Saturday in October. MaDD was created in 1992 by USA WEEKEND magazine and joined by Points of Light.  Together, they have sponsored the largest national day of community service for more than twenty years.

The Thurmont Lions Club (TLC) has been supporting the national day of community service since 2006. The Lions Club’s MaDD projects have been small to large, and the dedication of some major projects very close to the club member’s hearts. A list of projects were: (1) 2006—Collected food and monetary donations for various community needs (raised $10,000); (2) 2007—Recognized and honored businesses and projects in the community; (3) 2008—Collected food for Thurmont Food Bank and monetary donations for Ministerium, Clothes Closet, Operation Second Chance; (4) 2009—Supported our Troops with a huge military celebration with notable speakers; (5) 2010—Supported “Finding a Cure for Cancer” with a huge celebration with notable speakers; (6) 2011—Supported “We Help our Kids,” supporting Catoctin High and all feeder schools (raised $12,266); (7) 2012—Literacy Project; (8) 2013—“Beautify our Town” – Painted the old trolley car and unveiled a mural by Yemi; (9) 2014—Installed a kids water fountain and bench in the town’s Community Park; (10) 2015—Worked with other organizations to sponsor a clothing and food drive; (11) 2016—Planted three Wye Oak seedlings in a garden area along Park Avenue, planted thirty-six associated perennial flower plants and mulched, and planted fifty ground cover Vinca plants; (12) 2017—Variety of projects (collected blankets for the homeless, clothing for Clothes Closet, and food for Thurmont Food Bank.

In 2018, the TLC held a bake sale at the Tractor Supply in Frederick. Lion Melanie Keating presented a check to Rachel Hubbard to benefit the “Music is Medicine Foundation.” This organization provides resources and support to addicts and their families. The Lions Club, as well as many other organizations, work with a single purpose to improve the lives of others. The Thurmont Lions Club will continue supporting the annual National Make a Difference Day each October.

Sam Zanella (pictured right) is a 2014 graduate of Catoctin High School and the FCPS Career and Technology Center’s TV Multimedia Program. Sam is an employee with Creative Technologies, Inc. in Los Angeles, California.

Sam recently worked as an Audio Technician in the Press Room at the 2019 Oscars, working along with press from throughout the world and the 2019 Oscar winners. Sam now resides in Burbank, California.

Hayden Hahn of Thurmont (pictured above) has earned the National Junior Angus Association’s (NJAA) Bronze and Silver awards, according to Jaclyn Upperman, education and events director of the American Angus Association® in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Hahn is the ten-year-old daughter of Chad and Nikki Hahn. She attends Thurmont Elementary School and is a member of the NJAA and the Maryland Junior Angus Association.

She has participated in local, state, regional, and national shows and showmanship contests. At the National Junior Angus Show (NJAS), Hahn participated in the photography, livestock judging, skillathon, quiz bowl, and poster contests. She also participated in the mentoring program in 2016.

She has submitted weight data to the Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR®) and consigned cattle at the Maryland Angus Event.

The Bronze and Silver awards are the first two levels of the NJAA Recognition Program that began in 1972. Junior Angus breeders must apply for the awards, then meet point requirements in many areas of participation before receiving the honors. Applicants are evaluated in areas of junior Angus association activities and leadership, participation in showmanship, contests and shows, using performance testing to improve their herd, and their progress in producing and merchandising Angus cattle.

The NJAA promotes the involvement of young people in raising Angus cattle, while also providing leadership and self-development opportunities for the nearly 6,000 active members nationwide.

Blair Garrett

In a town entrenched in fire history, training, and safety lies a facility dedicated to the preservation and protection of valuable fire information and memorabilia.

Between the vintage fire trucks and hand-pulled hose wagons, the development in fire protection has come a long way over the past century. 

The advances in sprinkler technology, in particular, have revolutionized the way homes are protected, and often times prevented from extensive fire damage.

There are a few different types of sprinklers that have become popularized for residential and industrial use over the years. The pendent sprinkler, similar in appearance to a pendent necklace, hangs down from the ceiling to disperse water across the room, dousing flames and giving civilians ample time to safely escape.

The sidewall sprinkler, true to its name, fights fires in a wall-mounted position.

The upright sprinkler, fit with a design to avoid being knocked around or damaged by ladders or moving parts, is commonly found in industrial workplaces and is fit with a dry system to prevent the water from freezing in a time of need.

All of these different, but necessary, designs operate similarly, but are uniquely fit to provide protection in all sorts of situations. Several of these sprinklers are on display inside a built-to-scale model home in the Vigilant Fire Company. 

The importance of the sprinkler system has been cemented in the history of fire safety, but it has never been more prevalent in society and more important than it is today. With the apex of technology at its peak, there are more fire hazards in residential and industrial settings than ever before. 

“Everything inside of an office or a home is all extremely combustible and very toxic when it burns,” National Fire Heritage Center Historian Wayne Powell said. “Today, everything is basically gasoline in a solid state.”

Fortunately, the advances in technology have left us with a virtually fail-proof way of protecting the lives of citizens, as well as firefighters arriving on scene to battle flames. “There has never been a sprinkler system that has failed if it was properly designed, properly installed, and properly maintained,” Powell said.

While fire protection and prevention laws are not perfect, much has been done over the years to implement life-saving utilities, particularly in Maryland. “If you were to buy a home in Maryland, you would have to put in a fire sprinkler system,” stated Powell.

The same goes for new businesses, which have regulations set in place to protect workers, with functional, monitored sprinkler systems; because, without them, first responders cannot always arrive on scene before the real damage occurs.

“Sometimes in a fire, the people are dead before we even get the call,” Powell said. “You’ve got alarm time, response time, and set up time to attack. So, it can be a long time before we’re actually able to make an attack on the fire, and people will perish in the interim.”

The hope for the near future is to have legislation to ensure buildings are fitted with operational sprinklers and maintained to a standard suitable for the protection of residents inside. The use of combustible lightweight materials for the structure of buildings is also a concern with modern architecture. 

However, it is possible sprinklers are moving in a new direction, possibly away from the standard ones found throughout the United States. Though water damage from a pendent or sidewall sprinkler is not ideal, there is nothing to save if fire is allowed to run rampant through a home.

“This is a mist head sprinkler,” NFHC Archivist Frank Schmersal said. “This is the future of sprinklers. It sprays a mist that disperses across the flames, doing less damage than the water and giving people a chance to escape.”

Although sprinkler development has been rapidly growing over the past few decades, there are still great improvements that can be made. Decade after decade, the designs and efficiency of sprinklers get better and better. One thing is for sure, while there is still work to be done, firefighters will be able to rely on sprinklers to provide them valuable rescue time for years to come.  

Wayne Powell explains the intricacies of commercial sprinkler systems.

A piece of The National Fire Heritage Center’s evolution of the sprinkler.