If you heard a horn blare from the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Company at dusk Wednesday, know that it didn't signal an emergency.
Rather, it was sounded in celebration during a ceremony to put the company's new $800,000 heavy rescue squad into service.
"The ceremony is the completion of the largest undertaking this fire company has taken on its 114-year history," Captain Glenn Resnick said proudly after the ceremony.
Not only is it the most expensive piece of equipment the company has purchased, but "we put in many hours designing it and writing the specifications," Resnick said.
"We made [several] trips to Minnesota," where it was assembled, he added.
During the ceremony, volunteer firefighter John Berryman Jr. and Resnick's son Danny, 8, hosed down Squad 322, following a tradition that was done when trucks were pulled by horses. Then, during the "push-in," about 30 firefighters pushed as Lt. Larry Burgan, the company's engineer, steered the 41-foot 3-inch long, nearly 11-foot tall vehicle into its center bay.
The "push-in" is symbolic of the old horse-drawn steamers and hose carts that were pushed in firehouses before teams of horses were attached, according to a fire company press release. The horses would be ceremoniously hosed down as well.
Afterward, Squad 322's horn blared, its Roto Ray warning lights spun, and Squad 322 made its first official journey out of the bay.
The squad is a sleek, sturdy and precise piece of equipment assembled at the Rosenbauer factory in Wyoming, Minnesota.
"Rosenbauer is the world's largest fire apparatus manufacturer," Berryman said. He is an active volunteer firefighter, former captain of PVFC, and co-chairman of the committee that worked to acquire and design the vehicle.
Also on the committee were Burgan, Resnick, Lt. Justin Schumer and Lt. Adam Goodman.
Squad 322 carries specialized rescue equipment, including a hydraulic rescue system known as "Jaws of Life," generators, winches, hi-lift jacks, cranes, cutting torches, circular saws, airbags and other forms of heavy equipment not usually found on fire engines or ladder trucks.
It will be used to help with any kind of entrapment, including those involving auto accidents, building collapses and confined space rescues—a PVFC specialty.
The company is the only volunteer fire company in Baltimore County with an active Confined Space Team, and Squad 322 is the team's primary response vehicle, said Michael Schwartzberg, company spokesman.
Otherwise, it's one of nine heavy-duty rescue squads in the county. The squad's primary response area will include Pikesville, Brooklandville, Randallstown, Woodlawn, Westview and part of Owings Mills/Garrison. It also covers the beltway (I-695) from I-83 to I-70, and part of I-795.
"The Squad also responds countywide if special called to a certain scene," Schwartzberg said. "For example, we operated at a in Bowleys Quarters in 2009."
Getting the new apparatus took 5 1/2 years, Berryman said, because of delays with the original manufacturing company. That company went bankrupt while the first vehicle was being completed.
So, the company canceled that contract and worked with Rosenbauer.
Fundraising helped pay for Squad 322, Schwartzberg said.
"The truck is largely financed by community donations," he said. For example, funding came from Honorary Membership donations and the company’s regular Fill The Boot drives at the intersection of Park Heights Avenue and Old Court Road.
Recently, about two weeks ago, more donation letters were mailed, he added.
Editor's Note: Squad 322 was taken on its first call Sunday, June 12. For more info on that call, read the full story.