Richard Fulton

The Emmitsburg Vigilant Hose Company (VHC) offers Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) students, and other area residents, a rare opportunity to train for fire and rescue services while residing in an actual firehouse.

The opportunity, known as the Live-In Program, allows for up to five individuals to participate at a time. Participants must pre-qualify by having completed basic training before they may become firehouse residents.

Also, as a part of their residency requirements, participants must invest an agreed-upon amount of time in the service of the fire company, either as firefighters or ambulance medical technicians, as well as participate in other company administrative and fundraising activities. Participants are not charged rent for their firehouse residency.

MSMU students must maintain a certain number of credits while participating in the program, while non-students must be gainfully employed. The program was launched by VHC in 2019. 

Assistant Chief Joshua “Josh” Brotherton told The Catoctin Banner that eight to ten individuals have participated in the Live-In Program since its inception.

Charlie Rustigian, from Boston, Massachusettes, is a senior Criminal Justice major with a minor in cyber security at MSMU.  He started volunteering with the Vigilant Hose Company during his freshman year. He said, “I wanted to be a firefighter since I was three years old.”

Within the volunteer co-op that even allowed him to live at the fire station, Rustigian has become a firefighter and was the #1 Top Fire Responder in 2021 with 353 calls. “Being able to live in at the fire station and learn true responsibility while working with others and the community has been great. We’re making a difference,” he shared.

Patrick O’Hanlon (Class of ’21), from Wheaton, Maryland, majored in Public Policy and Emergency Management, and Sociology and Criminal Justice with minors in Business History and Human Services. From that large course load, one may surmise that he’s an over-achiever. We joked that he’s about 80 years old, disguised in a twenty-something’s body. It is only fitting that O’Hanlon was a Top EMS Responder for 2020, coming in at #3.

O’Hanlon started volunteering when he was 16 in Wheaton. When looking for colleges, the volunteer opportunities with the Vigilant Hose Company were important. He started volunteering the summer before his freshman year and he’s been an active member ever since.

O’Hanlon was a live-in at the station as well.  He explained, “It really helped me grow as an individual. I learned a lot about myself. Working as a team member, we really are a good family.” He explained that there were good fires that provided good learning opportunities and that he’s met and learned from “a lot of really good people.” He added, “The Vigilant Fire Department – It really is a family. You feel a part of the community from doing the bingos and events, too. Back home, it was a city department where we run a call and then we’re off calls.”

Elizabeth Beaton (Class of ’21), from LaPlata, Maryland, joined the VHC program during her sophomore year at the MSMU.  She joined to become an EMT while considering med school. One of the first calls she responded to was a house fire.  She was able to observe the fire calls and found she was eager to respond. She started fire and rescue classes.

In 2021 Beaton was #10 in the Top Ten Responders even though she only lived at the station from January to May during her senior year. “It was really cool to see how much the Vigilant Fire Department does for the community. A lot of times people just call the station number and we go out to help [on non-emergency calls]. You really get to know people in the community. It seems everybody knows everybody.”

Other participants include Rachel Wheeler and Deysie Diaz.  Wheeler, who met her requirements in December 2021, will be graduating in May. What’s interesting about Rachel is that she applied to the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. Diaz, a health science major in the MSMU’s Class of 2022, has become EMT-certified.

Luke Hoenig, from Essex, Maryland, a criminal justice major in the MSMU’s Class of 2023, is presently undergoing basic training which will allow him to qualify as a Live-In participant.

Thus far, Brotherton said, “The company is extremely happy with how the program is working and hope it continues over the years.”

Individuals interested in participating in the Live-In Program may contact VHC via their website at

Pictured from left are Luke Hoenig, Deysie Diaz, Charlie Rustigian, and Elizabeth Beaton.

Pictured from left are Charlie Rustigian, Patrick O’Hanlon, and Elizabeth Beaton during the annual VHC Banquet in January 2022.

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