Throw Back Thursday - The Winter of 1976 - 1977
By Vice President Michael (Mike) Roberts
March 4, 2023

The winter of 1976-77 was extremely cold and harsh. For those of you not old enough to remember, although no major snow storms had occurred up until New Years, that was the year the upper Chesapeake Bay froze over, and supply ships were unable to get into the port of Baltimore. Some days recorded temperatures down in the teens, with wind chill factors much lower. Around here, everything was locked up frozen solid. The watermen were unable to get out, and I remember we couldn’t go duck hunting. Extreme, prolonged cold is also usually accompanied by an increase in home structural fires. Residents are using their furnaces more, and alternative sources of heat such as kerosene and electrical heaters, as well as wood stoves are being used more to keep warm. The possibilities of dwelling fires increase dramatically in these conditions. Additionally, due to the increased and prolonged use of these heating sources, the building materials and dwelling contents become extremely dry, like a tinder box. Once a fire starts, this combination results in extremely rapid, sometimes explosive fire spread and extraordinary heat production within a structure.
Thus, conditions in St. Mary’s County were ripe for structural fires to occur. And they did! There were many working fires in St. Mary’s County during this time, many of which we responded to. Many of those responses became painful lessons to us all about the dangers that firefighters face every day. Here in the Second District, starting on December 30, 1976 through January 17, 1977, we had a rash of structure fires that killed one citizen and seriously injured several firefighters from our own company, as well as others from mutual aid companies that were assisting us. Several of our firefighters were burned seriously and put out of action for several months. I was able to retrieve the following articles from the St. Mary’s County Library Enterprise Archives detailing 3 separate fires that occurred during this time frame. Those of us who were here at the time remember the circumstances, and how extremely lucky we were on these particular incidents.
Enjoy the read!

News Articles courtesy of St. Mary’s County Library Enterprise Archives
Thanks to Mike Wilson for his technical assistance.