The Eastport Volunteer Fire Company is in danger of disbanding after 126 years of service in Annapolis.
"We've just turned gray," President Al Kirchner said. "We’re dying off, and we really need help in the community."
Neighbors on Horn Point founded the group in 1886—one year before Eastport established itself. It has served as a physical and financial support team for the Annapolis Fire Department ever since.
In the early 2000's, a lack of volunteer firefighters reduced the group's role to financial support only. Now, a lack of volunteers has left Kirchner acting as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
"What we need now is just some administrative support," Kirchner said. "We are really in trouble."
Annapolis Fire Chief David Stokes said losing the Eastport Volunteers Fire Company would make his job more challenging because the group has consistently fundraised to fill equipment shortfalls when the city lacked funds.
"They own a lot of equipment that we could not afford to buy," Stokes said. "From an economic standpoint they are very beneficial to us ... no doubt they save the city taxpayers a lot of money."
The city honored that fundraising ability at its Dec. 10 City Council meeting. Mayor Josh Cohen presented Kirchner with a citation recognizing the group's donation of more than $600,000 worth of equipment in the last five years, including a pumper, a snow plow and a 100-foot ladder truck.
For Stokes, the loss of the volunteer group would mean more than the loss of equipment. It's personal.
"I actually started as a volunteer firefighter in Eastport in 1972," Stokes said.
His father also once served as chief of the station and his family has "deep roots" in the Eastport firefighter community.
The group has no initiation fee and annual dues are just $1 per year. Kirchner said volunteers do not need to be Eastport residents, and the group meets once a month at the Fire Hall at 914 Bay Ridge Ave.
Administrative duties like secretary and treasurer would take up two to three hours a month per volunteer.
Kirchner said he is also open to hearing from people who might want to become a volunteer firefighter. The group provides training free of charge, and members are eligible for college scholarships.
"None of this is a big lift," Kirchner said. "If people can donate two to three hours a month, we will be able to pull it off and save it."
You can keep up with the activities and needs of the Eastport Volunteer Fire Company, by "liking" them on Facebook.