Steve Pope

September 30, 2017 Events  No comments

It is with deep regret that we announce the sad news of our friend Steve Pope passing away. Steve’s illness came on suddenly in July which surprised all who knew him. Sadly the cancer spread quickly and he was unable to recover.

Below, is a brief overview of how the FFD and I became friends with Steve and recipients of a piece of our heritage.

The Frostburg Fire Department was organized in 1875 following a devastating fire that burned half of the downtown business district to include 40 buildings. Officially, the Frostburg Fire Department, No. 1 (FFD) was chartered on March 18, 1878. The department at one time had four fire houses around the town, which housed seven hand-drawn hose reels. Following the purchase of our first few motorized apparatus in 1916 and 1922, the hand reels were slowly phased out. A few were donated to neighboring startup fire departments and others just disappeared; so we thought!

In the ‘50’s, Steve’s Father Claude, purchased one of the remaining 1880’s, 4-man, hand-drawn, hose reels from the FFD for the purpose of reclaiming old fence on the family farm. Instead of fire hose loaded on the reel, it was now wrapped with barbed wire. Steve remembered the reel being used for years in this capacity. When the reel had finally outlived its usefulness in the ‘70’s, it was disassembled and stored in the back of the barn. In later years, now and again, Steve would come across different parts of the reel, had brief thoughts of restoring it but could never locate the axle; until 2013.

That’s when I received a call from Frostburg native Bob Lemmert informing me that he had a lead on one of the long lost reels; located in a friend’s barn in Somerset County, PA. Bob and I traveled to Somerset and I had the extreme privilege to meet Steve Pope. He had all of the pieces of the old hand reel in his barn and we verified its existence and I heard the story of how it came to end up in Steve’s barn. It was like I was 10 years old opening gifts on Christmas morning. Keep in mind that the FFD had only one picture of these reels and never imagined we would ever see one again.

With all of the parts now located, Steve said he wanted to find it a good home. He and his family agreed to return the reel to the FFD on the condition; that it will never leave our possession. Next, Steve announced that he and his family wanted to finance the full restoration of the badly deteriorating hose reel. The wheels were sent to Weavertown Coach Shop near Lancaster, PA for new wood and spoke refurbishment, while some local businesses donated their expertise to the cause. After more than two years of painstaking restoration efforts by many, reassembly of the reel took place in July 2015 in preparation of it being “returned home” to Frostburg.

The reel was pulled by FFD members down Main Street in a vintage-only fire truck parade on Saturday, October 3, 2015. When the procession reached FFD’s headquarters on Water Street, the reel was handed off to Steve and his family for them to pull it the rest of the way to the firehouse. Following the parade, an official public re-dedication ceremony and open house was held and Steve couldn’t have been more proud. The hose reel remains on permanent display at Frostburg’s Price Station fire house, 75 S. Water Street, where it will be enjoyed by future generations.

I only knew Steve for a short four years but I have never met a kinder or more generous man. The FFD is very grateful to Steve and his family for reuniting us with this magnificent piece of history. Whenever the FFD loses a member, we change our Facebook “Cover Picture” to one with black bunting on one of our trucks. This is reserved for members only, which we consider Steve part of the FFD family! Like for a passing brother/sister, the picture will remain for thirty days to show our respect and appreciation to Steve.

We ask that you keep Steve, his wife Donna and the entire Pope family in your thoughts and prayers.


J. Matthew McMorran II
FFD Public Information Officer (PIO) and Historian

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