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Welcome to Stoystown Volunteer Fire Company

History of the Stoystown Volunteer Fire Company (Organized December 26, 1924)

By: Christian Boyd

August 2007

The history of the Stoystown Volunteer Company has never been extensively researched and is somewhat vague. Information related to the fire company has been gathered through research of old written ledgers and by speaking with longtime residents of Stoystown and local townspeople.

Some of the historical contributors include:

David Johnson (current Fire Chief)   Charles Deaner                       Larry Barnhart

Donald Deaner                                    Claudia Boyd                          Kathryn Phillips

David L. Fox                                       Wilma Manges                       Margaret Mong

Brian Johnson                                     William Boyd                         Bob Shaver    

Elaine Zimmerman   

On April 9, 1928 at 10:00 AM, the written certificate of incorporation was filed through John A. Baker, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The certificate stated that the application was “an act to provide for the incorporation and regulation of certain corporations” and that this charter was intended for this corporation to be called “The Stoyestown Fire Department” (note town spelling).

The object of the fire department, according to the original Charter Notice, is “ to extinguishing fires and protection of life and property in the borough of Stoyestown and vicinity”, according to the charter.

The original charter lists the names below as directors, which, according to the charter, is fixed at five members. The five founding members / directors were:

 

W.K. Walker              Homer Schwartz        Daniel Swank

Joseph "Bucky" Metzgar     Herbert Zimmerman

 

The names of the original members or “subscribers of this charter” are found below:

Thomas Stackem        Harry Swank               Charles Shank             F.C. Zimmerman

Fred Koontz                Robert Barnhart          Dewey King                R.A. Hummel

William Findley         Lyman Croyle             Fred Shaffer                K.A. Lohr

Milton Weimer           Eugene Lohr               J.B. Gardner                I.A. Shaffer

Regis Canivan            Dean Keith                  R.S. Shaver                 B.F. Specht

Charles Christ             Lewis Spangler           C.C. Lease                  Don C. Specht

Harold Swank             Charles Swank            H.W. Blanset              Clyde Miller

James Canivan            Lloyd Specht              C.F. Schrader              H.L. Horner

Raymond Beistel        Ellwood Mong            Joseph Spangler          F.O. Lease

The first fire station was built on the 200 Block of West Main Street in the Borough of Stoystown. The land was purchased through an agreement between Stoyestown Borough and the Johnstown Trust Company, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Before the station was built, it was used by the Reformed Church (denomination unknown).

This building had one apparatus bay that stored two fire engines. According to Mr. Barnhart, the engines were open cab engines, gas powered and chain driven. The engines were built by American LaFrance (1928 and 1932 models). As a child, he recalls the difficulty the firemen had when trying to back the engine into the station and the noise the chain drive engines made. He also remembers the engines being used for the parades after World War II when The United States of America declared victory over Germany (V-E Day-May 8,1945) and Japan (V-J Day August 15, 1945).

As a child, Elaine Zimmerman recalls the telephone that was installed in her parents bedroom on the 200 block of their West Main Street house. This telephone was used for fire alarms only, and when it would ring, her father (Earl Smith) would answer the telephone and run to the fire station. He activated the house siren and waited for the firemen to run to the station. This telephone was used for actual fires calls only and served no other purpose. The fire company did not handle all of the type of calls it does today.

In the 1930’s, most of the men worked around Stoystown and would run to the station to respond on calls. No one drove personal cars to the fire hall. Elaine also recalls that the fire company had one open cab engine and the men “hung on” the back. Her father always drove the fire engine to the call. The firemen then did not wear any protective gear, just the clothes they were wearing.

Elaine mentioned that Howard Horner owned the local garage where her father was employed as a mechanic. Mr. Horner operated the local tow truck service in Stoystown.

Mr. Shaver recalls the first Somerset County Firemen's Convention being hosted in Stoystown in the summer of 1930. According to Bob, "it was a great time to be an eleven year old boy." Mr. Shaver also remembers Joseph "Bucky" Metzgar serving as long time Fire Chief, all during World War II. Ralph Blanset also served as long time Chief for many years in Stoystown.

Claudia Boyd recalls parades during the 1950’s that lasted more than one hour and had well over 100 participating units. In her words, “it was the best parade in the county.” The late William Williams was one of the men responsible for organizing the parades.

The Stoystown Memorial Day Parade is still one of the largest parades in the county and is currently organized by Donald Deaner and David Fox.

The original fire station also included a library and a jail. The library was managed by Melda and Herbert Zimmerman and Frances Schrader and was referred to as the Stoyestown Library Association. The library held numerous events, including sponsoring an annual Halloween Party which was held at the Stoyestown School. Charles Deaner recollects American Legion meetings being held in the fire station library as well. When the library was eventually closed, the money it raised was given to the fire department.

When the fire department was needed, there were several pull boxes located throughout town which activated a fire siren located on the roof of the fire station. The person requesting the fire department pulled the pull box handle, which activated the fire siren (or “whistle”). The person who activated the pull box had to meet someone at the fire station or pass the information via word of mouth until it reached the fire station. Radios, pagers, telephones, fax machines, cellular phones and GPS systems were not used. Landmarks were given instead of street names or directions. During this time period everyone knew the landmarks. The original whistle was moved to the roof of the Stoyestown School and is still in use today.

According to fire department ledgers, the “e” in Stoyestown was dropped between 1932-1933 and the spelling was changed to “Stoystown.”

In 1945, the fire department could be summoned by calling the local funeral home (Deaner’s Funeral Home Inc.). This number still exists today and was used until the late 1970’s. When the phone rang, Charles Deaner, or one of his family members would answer the phone, record the information, activate the fire siren from their home and the respond to the fire station. Information about the alarm was recorded and passed on at the fire station until pagers and radios were developed. In the 1980’s, the fire department could be called by dialing 445-4133 and later, the 911 system was introduced.

Mr. Deaner also recalls operating the first ambulance service in town while a high school student. The ambulance was used to transport people only. No medical treatment was provided. This ambulance was a 1940’s model Plymouth “Woody” Wagon. “Woody” refers to the wood grain body style. The wagon was used to transport flowers during funerals and was later given to the fire department to use as an apparatus.

In 1961, the fire station was moved to its current location at 141 West Forbes Street in Stoystown. Each year the fire department hosted a carnival where animals, tents, vendors, games and other attractions were brought into town. Larry Barnhart remembers the carnivals as far back as the 1940’s. Somerset County Fire Conventions were also held in Stoystown and were a big attraction for townspeople and local visitors.

The fire department still operates out of the same building it has since 1961. The building is referred to as the “Community Building” and still contains the library, a three bay garage and kitchen.

American LaFrance fire engines were used throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s. Retired firemen recall responding on calls while riding on the tailboard or sideboard position. These older engines had no heater, air conditioning, defrosters or other modern comforts. The firemen wore only rubber coats and boots, “Kamikaze” style helmets (WWII surplus Navy helmets) and rubber gloves. SCBA air packs were not introduced yet.

The fire department’s original identifier was “Company Y.” All Somerset County fire departments were identified using an alphabetical letter until 1988-1989. The identifier “Company Y” was changed to Station 604 by County Sheriff Ronald Delano, SR, David Johnson and James Karashowsky in 1988-1989. All Somerset County Fire Department’s were given a 600 Station number at this time. Mr. Delano and David Johnson explained how the county communications committee started with a center point in the county and worked their way from the center point (Somerset) to the county boundary lines. The Somerset Fire Department was given the number “Station 601” since they are situated in the center of the county.

In January of 1979 “Chinatown” burned inside the borough. This area was a block stretching from midtown and continuing east towards the Deaner Funeral Home on Main
Street. Some of the buildings on this block included apartments, a bar, restaurant and residential structures. Many fire departments responded to this incident and water was used from hydrants and local ponds. Nearby houses were evacuated and water was directed on nearby exposures as the building was unable to be saved. Area residents recall local townspeople helping the fire department with hose line management and putting coal ashes on the streets to help the fire apparatus get through the snow. Bingo was in session the evening the fire occurred. Due to freezing temperatures during bingo, fire apparatus was stored in local garages, so firemen had to remember where each piece of equipment was and drive to that person's garage.

In November of 1979 the fire department purchased the second Hurst rescue tool in the county. This tool was a 2-cycle engine that powered the “Jaws of Life.” This tool first saw action in January of 1980 during a rescue call on Route 281 near Reading Mines. The Stoystown Volunteer Fire Department was the first department in Somerset County to purchase this type of equipment.

In late 1979, the fire department purchased its first tanker truck. This vehicle was a cab-over model and was used until accidentally rolled over on icy roads during a winter fire. The tanker was replaced with the current 604-3 with the 3,700 gallon tank being made locally at Highland Tank Mfg.

The recently retired Dodge Attack 604-2 was purchased in 1978 and was used as a first out vehicle on all calls. This unit is powered by a gasoline 400 cc motor and was used until 2003. In 2003 it was taken out of service and replaced with a Ford F-550 Diesel. One of its most important runs of the "retired Attack 604-2" was to the UAL Flight 93 crash site where it was used to battle brush and debris fires after the crash. The new Attack 604-2 is first out on all vehicle accidents and all other no fire related calls. Attack 604-2 is equipped with Hurst Rescue Tools. It also carry's 300 gallons of water and has a 750 gallon per minute pump. It also is equipped with many other tools and equipment.

The current Rescue 604-4 replaced on older van-style ambulance in 1995. The old van ambulance was sold to PBS Coal Company. The fire department began its QRS Service in 1978 to assist Somerset Ambulance. Somerset Ambulance was based in Somerset until Station 902 (located on Route 30 in Stoystown) was established on January 01, 1996. Before that time, the ambulance response time from Somerset was often extended and the QRS (Quick Response Service) was called upon to stabilize sick or injured people until the ambulance arrived. The QRS service still exists today and includes EMTs, First Responders and Paramedics from the Stoystown area. In 2006, the QRS service was called upon over 200 times.

In 1986, the fire department purchased a 1980 lime green International fire engine from a volunteer fire company located near the outskirts of Philadelphia. The engine had a partially open can and was powered by a gasoline engine with an automatic transmission. It was later painted red/white and a diesel motor with a six speed manual transmission was installed.

Throughout the years, the fire department has continued to hold fund raisers and update equipment. Newer radios, pagers, thermal imaging cameras, GPS units and digital cameras have been added to the equipment list. Breathing apparatus have been replaced by newer models and the firefighters' personal equipment has been updated to meet modern standards.

In 2005, the fire department purchased a 1979 American LaFrance fire engine from the West Hills Regional Fire Department (Westmont, Pennsylvania). This engine was purchased to replace the troubling 1980 International fire engine. The 1979 American LaFrance was built with an enclosed cab, an automatic transmission and a 1500 GPM (gallons per minute) pump. This engine is still in service today and has been called on to respond to several building fires in neighboring towns.

The fire department now has a web address at: www.stoystownfire.com

Information related to events, alarms and fund raisers are found on this website.

After 9/11, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began a grant program so fire departments around the country could apply for money to replace or purchase equipment, vehicles and for training. These grants are very competitive. Starting in 2004, Chief David Johnson started writing the grants. After several years of being unsuccessful in securing grants, the department finally received some awards. They are as follows:

In July 2007, the fire department received its first ever federal grant for $105,839.00. The money was requested to update firefighter safety equipment and will be used to purchase new gear (coats-boots-helmets etc.), radios, pagers, self-contained breathing apparatus (scba), along with many other items. (grant written by Chief Johnson)

In 2008, the fire department received a 2nd federal grant for $250,000.00 in which our cost share was $12,500.00 so a total of $237,500.00 was received towards the purchase of a new fire engine. Pierce Mfg. of Wisconsin won the contract and in November 2009, we took delivery of a 2009 Pierce Custom Saber Contender fire engine. This state of the art truck carries 1,000 gallons of water, 30 gallons of class foam and pumps 1,500 gallons per minute of water. The truck can carry up to 8 firefighters. Additional donations were given towards the truck and the department would like to thank those donors. Total cost of this new truck was $320,000.00 (grant written by Chief Johnson)

In 2009, the fire department received our 3rd federal grant for $40,000.00 for the purchase of an air refill station. This air refill station is used for refilling our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (air packs). Our members, prior to this purchase, had to travel to other departments to refill these bottles. This now saves time, money and manpower. (grant written by Chief Johnson)

In 2012, the fire department once again received another federal "assistance to firefighters" grant in the amount of $220,715.00, in which our cost share was $11,035.00. So a total of $209,680 was received from the grant. This grant was for the purchase of a new tanker truck. Department officers and members realized for several years that our 1977 tanker truck was soon going to need replaced or just taken out of service. On September 21st 2011 Chief Johnson, with the assistance of Janeen Lanham of CW Consulting wrote and submitted a grant to replace the tanker. Then in early spring of 2012 our fears became reality. The tanker failed state inspection and had major issues which were just too costly for us. So a decision was made to take it out of service and sell the truck. On January 23, 2012 Chief Johnson was contacted that our department was awarded the grant for the tanker. A truck committee was formed and met with a few manufacturers until it was decided to award the contract to Pierce Mfg. The tanker will be built at Pierce's plant in Bradenton Florida and should be completed around the middle of January 2013.

We hope to be adding to this history page as time goes on. Please check back often. Oh and if you have any information about the department or something isn't correct, please let us know. Thank you!


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