The Kentland Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD) was founded on February 3, 1951 when it was decided that there was not adequate fire protection for this, at the time, rural area minutes from Washington DC. Ten neighbors; Harold Anderson, Bob Baeschlin, Hugh McNeely, William Pearce, Walter Shea, Maurice Sullivan, John Wilding, Charles Weaver, Desmond Wonch and Steve Yuhacz of the newly constructed Kentland Community met at the home of Bob and Elaine Baeschlin. At this special meeting around the Baeschlin’s kitchen table The Kentland Volunteer Fire Department was born. The group appointed Bob to be the first President, John Wilding to be our Chief and Steve Yuhacz Treasurer. The KVFD was now on its way to becoming one of the best fire departments in the world.
By collecting donations in the area through newspaper ads and a second mortgage Steve Yuhacz’s home the Department purchased its first pumper from Riverdale Heights Co. 13. A 1931 Ford/Buffalo Type 50-B open cab 500 Gallon Per Minute (GPM) pumper with 200 Gallon Water Tank (GWT) that came fully equipped and ready for operation; it was the core of the new department and pride of the neighborhood. The engine originally belonged to Riverdale Company 7 who, to not pay a $100.00 shipping fee, stole it from a flatbed railcar. Riverdale eventually sold to it to Riverdale Heights in 1947. Riverdale Heights then loaned it to Chillum Engine Company 44 until Kentland purchased it in early 1951 and put it in service as Engine 1. The engine was kept in Bob’s driveway at 7135 East Inwood Street, where people would call to report a fire. Bob would crank up the siren to tell all the volunteers in the community there was a run. Ever since then, the KVFD has followed the simple value of “Always do whatever is necessary to get a fire truck, with firemen ready to do a job, to the fire.”
Kentland, through the years, has not, by any means gone without setbacks. The department, averaging only 50 calls a year from the beginning responded to primarily brush fires, one of which the pride of the young department, (the original 1931 pumper), flipped over on Columbia Park Road, after only 5 months of operation with Kentland. Walter Shea became the first Kentland Fireman to be injured in the line of duty. Miraculously, he was not hurt seriously and nor has anyone else in the history of Kentland; however Engine 1 was a total loss.
Not giving up, the department reacted in a way that established a standard for the following generations. They rose what little money they could and for $100.00 bought a 1928 American LaFrance Metropolitan #2505 and assigned it Engine 2. The 1000 GPM/ 100 GWT pumper came from the city of Hyattsville, who had originally paid $13,000 and nicknamed it the “Red Devil”. The pumper featured a right-hand, chain power drive; something like what you would see on a bicycle today. Hyattsville won many awards with the Red Devil; her 1000 GPM rating was far superior to anything in the region at the time. That summer we put a charter together and became a Corporation on July 11, 1951 as “The Kentland Volunteer Fire Department of Kentland, Maryland”.
In 1952, The Department put a fund drive together, to build a garage at the Baeschlin residence for the “Red Devil”. The West Brothers Brick Company was impressed with the determination and ambition of the membership and donated land at 2626 76th Avenue, now the Mount Zion Church at 2626 Kent Village Drive, for the KVFD to build itself a much needed station house. The department did not have any kind of budget or account at the time so it relied on donations and newspaper collections.
The Men of Kentland built the new station block by block with technical support from the West Brothers. The station featured 2 bays just long enough for a card table and a fire truck in one bay and a watch office and fire truck in the other. At this time the department consisted of about 25 members, most members of the Kentland Men’s Club had joined and brought with them the tradition that new members were placed on 90 day probation. During their “probie” time new members were not allowed to participate in card games in the rear of the apparatus bays or drink on the property. Rummy was the game of choice for the men.
With the Pumper and building this new corporation met the requirements of the Prince Georges County Fireman’s Association so we submitted an application along with the $5.00 Membership Fee. In PG County, each new fire department gets the proceeding number from the last established department and Kentland was in line for 32. Bob fought for the # 33 for the department and it was taken in front of the PGCVFA council. 33 was the number of Bob’s favorite football player Sammy Baugh who played for the Washington Redskins, the team coincidently now playing in Landover, down the street from today’s firehouse. The number 33 was awarded to Kentland as long as we waited to join the Association until after the next organization. Not long after with help from Kentland members and $5.00 for their fee, Allentown Road Volunteer Fire Department submitted paperwork. In 1953 Kentland 33, Allentown Road 32 and Chillum-Adelphi 34 all joined the Association which represented 33 Engine Companies, 8 Truck Companies and 4 Rescue Squads answering 2,572 fire calls countywide. With membership to the Association Kentland was connected to the Fire Control Board in Hyattsville.
After using up all of the funds building the new firehouse and buying the American LaFrance, some of the firemen of 33 put their houses up as collateral for a loan from Citizens Bank in the amount of $24,000 to finance the purchase of a new fire engine in 1954. Our first Seagrave #N-3455 was a 750 GPM pump with a 300 GWT and Canopy Cab that was painted red and put in service as Engine 331 in early 1954. The pumper featured a split hose bed walkway and top mounted booster reel.
Just two years later in 1955 we purchased another Seagrave #H-8150 for Engine 332 almost identical to the ’54. The only difference was the nose of the new piece was chrome and there was a wagon pipe at the rear of the hose bed. This new pumper cost $36,000, much of which was raised through the new Ad-Valorem Fire Tax that was enacted in early 1953. The taxes collected in our district paid for $25,000 of the new pumper. Though the Ad-Valorem tax allotment was well spent, it was not sufficient to maintain the operations of the growing Kentland Volunteer Fire Department. The Major fund raising activity during this time was the annual carnival. Begun in 1952 and continued each summer until 1958, the carnivals were a source of fun, friendship and funds.