As Daniel O. “D.O.” Baker Jr. explained, despite having some 60 years of volunteer firefighting experience, the annual Maryland State Firemen’s Association Convention and Conference was not on his June schedule.
“I was not planning on going this year,” said Baker, who added it took two people — his son, Danny, and St. Leonard Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ricky Weems II, to persuade him.
“My son said, ‘you are going to Ocean City. You have to be there on Tuesday.’ I still didn’t know what was up.”
The June 18 session of the annual convention finally revealed the reason for the mandate for Baker to attend the event.
During the awards ceremony, Baker was announced as one of 13 inductees into the Maryland State Firemen’s Association Hall of Fame.
“They kept it a secret,” Baker said. “It was a surprise, a very humbling surprise.”
When looking back at his time as a volunteer for four companies, Baker describes himself as “lucky. I’ve had good people around me.”
Baker first became a volunteer at age 16. “A couple of my friends were talking about it,” he said.
He decided to sign up and started with the Woodland Beach Volunteer Fire Department, which serves the community in northeast Anne Arundel County and is located on Rock Creek.
Baker drove apparatus vehicles of all sizes.
Although the statewide qualification for driving apparatus is, in Baker’s opinion, “lenient,” he was well qualified since he was certified to operate a farm vehicle utilized for hauling grain. “I was motivated to get a license for other reasons,” he recalled.
As an adult, Baker joined the Maryland State Police, and in 1966 he requested and received an assignment in Calvert County.
After a 13-year career with the MSP, Baker owned an electrical construction business. He is now retired.
Once he arrived in Calvert, Baker first joined the Solomons Volunteer Rescue Squad and Fire Department and later became a member of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department.
In December 1987, he joined the newly formed St. Leonard Volunteer Fire Department (Company 7).
Since he resided in the Port Republic subdivision of Western Shores, St. Leonard became his “first due” company, so he transferred to St. Leonard.
Company 7 has seen a rapid rise in its calls for service during the past 32 years.
Baker said in the late 1980s St. Leonard volunteers were averaging 300 calls annually.
So far in 2019, Company 7 has received around 1,450 calls for service.
“It has just blossomed,” Baker said. “It didn’t take long. The members of St. Leonard are fantastic. I can’t give them enough accolades.”
Three generations of Bakers have been active with the St. Leonard company.
In addition to his volunteering with Company 7, Baker is also a longtime member of the Calvert County Board of Appeals.
“D.O. has been active with our department and instrumental in the growth, improvements, and advancements we’ve made,” St. Leonard VFD Safety Officer Norman Bauer Jr. said. “He has held the position of chief, president and has served as chairman of our board of directors for several years.”
Baker is now the 11th Calvert County resident to be inducted into the MSFA Hall of Fame since it was established in 1979.
Baker is the second St. Leonard member enshrined after George Anderson of Company 7 was inducted in 1997.
Calvert’s other hall of fame honorees include Louis L. Goldstein (inducted 1981), Vernon D. Horsmon Sr. (1983), Wilbur O. Marshall (1995), Doyle Cox (2004), Donald F. Hall (2012), Joseph Wayne Hardesty (2013), Robert L. “Bobby” Hall Jr. (2014), Warren D. Gott (2015) and Thomas W. Scott III.