By Stewart Dobson, Editor
(Nov. 2, 2023) There’s no denying the respect firefighters have for each other and anyone who has ever been involved in the fire service, judging from the reverential ceremony last week honoring a former Ocean City fire chief who died in the line of duty … 86 years ago.
Chief Ralph R. Dennis, who lost his life on July 24, 1937, fighting a fire at the George Washington Hotel in Ocean City, was recognized at Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company Station 5 in West Ocean City where Engine 701 was rededicated in his memory.
The half-hour ceremony last Tuesday recalled more than the circumstances of the chief’s death, which was caused by his inhalation of smoke and fire-fighting chemicals used to extinguish a chimney fire at the six-story hotel.
Chief Dennis was one of the founders of the company and was its first assistant chief in 1905. He also served as a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly from 1918 to 1920, and again from 1931 through the 1937 legislative year, and was principal of Ocean City High School.
“We don’t give up and we don’t back down, current Fire Chief Richie Bowers said of firefighters in general and of Chief Dennis in particular. “He was that chief who stood up and stood out.”
He also credited Chief Dennis as being “a visionary” for his role in building the foundation on which the volunteer company and fire department were built.
Representing the family at the ceremony, Chief Dennis’ granddaughter, Mary Adeline Bradford of Ocean City (and chair of the city’s Board of Election Supervisors) commented on how much she appreciated the recognition of the chief’s devotion to duty.
A longtime supporter of the company, Bradford said, “I think the fire department is a special place.”