Your Ott House Pub stories: Firefighters reflect on the informal learning locale

Members of the FireRescue1 community share their stories, photos and reflections on this iconic Emmitsburg institution

The Ott House Pub in Emmitsburg, Maryland, has been the socializing spot for National Fire Academy visitors for decades. As Ben Thompson detailed in his article “The Ott House Pub: The kitchen table for America’s firefighters,” firefighters transition from the superb daytime learning opportunities at the NFA to the more informal nightly learning moments at the Pub.

If these walls could talk, they would surely have some great stories to share. We’ve got the next best thing – firefighters from around the country share their stories and insights about this iconic fire service institution, currently marking its 50th anniversary.

Thank you to all the members of the FireRescue1 community who shared your stories, photos and reflections with us on Facebook, LinkedIn and via email. If you have an Ott House Pub story to share, email

From the Administrator himself

You know the Ott House Pub has been legitimized as a secondary NFA learning spot when the NFA superintendent himself jumps into the discussion.

Chief Eriks Gabliks posted to the Fire Chief Officer Network on LinkedIn:

The National Fire Academy appreciates the many decades of support and hospitality that the Ott House has provided to students, instructors, staff, and family members. The Town of Emmitsburg and Frederick County provide great hospitality year-round, and we are very thankful for the many partnerships we enjoy! Happy 50th Anniversary to our friends at The Ott House.

[Listen next: Superintendent Eriks Gabliks shares what's ahead for the National Fire Academy]

Photos from the Ott House Pub

Joe Holomy shared: Our EFO class spent the weekends during the four-year program at the pub. Our final year (2015) is this pic. Officers from across the country who remain friends today.

The Facebook page "Brotherhood, the Fire Officer and the Senior Man" posted: Ott’s was a nightly event and this picture was taken on Friday after a long week of class. Good group of firefighters right there!!

Photo/Ben Thompson

Fire Chief Henry Posey of Tennessee shared this picture with Bobby Ott.

Ott House stories

Some of our FireRescue1 community members shared personal stories from the Pub.

Christopher E Black from Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont, Maryland, shared these stories:

My mom grew up with the Ott family, living two doors down from them, and I am the third generation of my family to still be close friends with them. 

My beautiful wife Kiona Black (Crum) is the third generation of her family to be a firefighter at Walkersville VFC Station 11. She is a top-notch MFRI Instructor and now currently works for MDEP (Maryland Department of Emergency Management) and well as continuing to teach for MFRI.  

Her mother, Winona Lee Crum, was a LODD on 04/02/1987 in Fredrick County, and her name is adorned on the Memorial at NETC. When we stop by the Ott House for a good meal and tasty beverages, we often talk with the visiting firefighters from all over the country and my wife tells them the story of her mom. The response from the Firefighters is always ‘We will definitely stop by and pay respect to your mom.’ We then continue with story after story of fire-related incidents. This shows the Brotherhood that is involved in the FD. And thanks to The Ott House, we fortunate enough to get to meet so many from all across this great nation. 

Maggie Lonergan shared this family connection to the Pub:

My husband Mike and I are both basketball coaches who met at the Ott House. We were working the Mason Basketball Camps and would go to Ott’s in the evenings after we worked all day.  

Now my oldest son works there, and both he and my daughter attend the Mount and frequent Otts!

Many, many awesome memories with so many great basketball coaches in the summer and classmates throughout my 6 years of school there.  

Lee A. Cahanin, Opelousas fire chief (ret.), offered this glowing review of the Pub:

The Ott House Pub is truly an icon of America's Fire Service. First responders from firefighters to Chiefs, EMI and OEP directors to arson investigators, code enforcement officers, and class instructors all are represented on the walls of the Ott House.

Susie and Bobby, along with the rest of the staff, work tirelessly to accommodate both local and NFA attendees. It has been said many times that the development of relationships by the NFA attendees in the relaxed environment of the Ott House is invaluable to the experience.

The menu brings many choices, from buffalo wings to clam chowder, chili made daily or my favorite, the crab cake dinner – all treats to your taste buds! Not to mention the cocktails and concoctions of which are readily available.

There is another Anniversary being celebrated at the Ott House that should not go unnoticed. Larry and Susie Glass also marked their 50th Wedding Anniversary this year! Congratulations!! (Again)
The Ott House Pub is a very welcoming place to relax and meet with friends. Anyone traveling in the area would not regret stopping in for a good meal and a friendly smile!

Mike from Raleigh, N.C., shared this story:

As a family escort for the National Fallen Firefighters memorial weekend, I can tell you the Ott House is packed with men and women from every corner of our country as they gather to pay their respects. 

You don't know fun until you hear more than a dozen pipe and drums playing on that tiny bandstand.

My first year escorting, I was taken to the Ott House by a multi-year veteran who took me under his wing for the entire weekend. (Thanks Tom) I couldn't buy myself a beer or anyone else for that matter as soon as everyone in there found out I was making my maiden voyage to the Ott House.

I continued to family escort for 8 more years, always looking for that lost soul who was in Emmitsburg for the first time so I could buy all their beer.

We loved the place so much, we named our puppy Emmit for the town and how nice everyone is there to the firefighting community. 

Emmit was named after Emmitsburg, home of The Off House Pub.
Emmit was named after Emmitsburg, home of The Off House Pub.

Social media reflections

Here are some of the many reflections about the Ott House Pub shared on FireRescue1's social media pages:

  • While the lessons learned in class are great, it's inside the Ott House and the Command Post where the real learning takes place! Thanks to Bobby and family and all who make this home away from home possible.
  • I was fortunate to attend NFA in September and even more fortunate to dine here and meet Bob the owner who gave us a ride back to campus because it was raining. Awesome place, great food and awesome owner!
  • The time spent learning from your peers at the Ott House is just as valuable as time spent in the classroom. It's a wonderful place to decompress, share a meal and forge relationships that in many cases last a lifetime.
  • Had a great time there in Oct. They had a Halloween Party and some of the firefighters even dressed for the party.
  • Many memorable trips to the Ott House, taking the "drunk bus" driven by Bobby Ott from the Command Post Pub. Most memorable has to be my birthday party with my Community Education Leadership class in May of 2000.
  • I have experienced this beautiful pub and wish to visit it again sometime.
  • I think I quaffed my first beer and ate my first bowl of Crab Soup there around 1972, so I've seen the place pretty much from its inception. And Bobby and Susan are true, 'salt of the earth' people who never forget a face and will always welcome you back. If you travel to the NFA or EMI, make sure and visit the Ott House.

  • Love that place!
  • Must-see place during the Memorial Weekend.
  • Been there. Great people and great food and drinks!
  • I don’t think they have met anyone they didn’t like or make feel welcome.
  • The best place to unwind after class each day!
  • Good to see Bobby Ott & the place getting some recognition. What a great atmosphere to spend some evening hours while at the NFA.
  • The Ott House is an institution in its own right!

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