BY JOHN E. USALIS / PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 6, 2014
MAHANOY CITY — Members of Washington Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 considered Friday to be a lot like Christmas Day when they picked up their new aerial truck for delivery to their hometown.
The refurbished Emergency One Custom 75-foot Quint from Southampton Fire Company No. 1, Southampton, Bucks County, was driven to Mahanoy City, arriving about 2:30 p.m. at West End Fire and Rescue Company No. 5, which will be its temporary home until a new fire truck bay and office are built next door to West End Fire in the near future.
The red-and-white ladder truck has been upgraded to the latest standards in firefighting equipment. The truck is called a “quint” since it serves five functions as a ladder truck and engine: pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.
The fire company has been without a ladder truck for a year. An early morning fire Aug. 24, 2013, destroyed the fire company’s 1993 Simon Duplex Quint 75-foot aerial truck, the firehouse at 35 E. Mahanoy St. and the building’s contents. The fire occurred on the morning of the borough’s 150th anniversary celebration and the Schuylkill County Volunteer Firefighters Convention.
Washington H&L finalized the purchase of the truck for $225,000 on April 5, after which the truck was delivered to Fire Line Equipment, East Earl, for complete refurbishment. Within the last few weeks, the truck’s lettering and decals were added. The refurbishment and upgrades cost $135,000.
West End and Washington fire members waited outside the four-bay station for the ladder truck to arrive. West End Chief Joseph Gavala said Washington’s construction of its new garage, planned to start in October, will coincide with West End’s planned work.
“We’re going to put in a new floor, and we’re going to help them with their floor,” Gavala said. “We’re hoping that by December everything will be squared away.”
Gavala said the temporary housing of the truck is a way to help a companion fire company.
“Our people have worked with them for over a number of years, so we supplement them with manpower,” Gavala said. “And now it will be a mutual benefit to supplement us with manpower, even though they keep their own identity. A lot of our guys used to drive the ladder truck, and their guys have been training with us in rescue because a ladder truck and rescue goes hand-in-hand a lot of times. We welcome them.”
When the ladder truck arrived with sirens blaring, it was parked in front of the building so everyone could look it over. The supply bays were opened to show the firefighting tools it can carry to a fire scene.
“We’re all like kids at Christmas,” Howell Davis, Washington H&L president, said. “For over a year, we’ve been without a truck and now, we have a truck again. Now, we can go back and serve our community. They (Fire Line) did a beautiful job.”
Davis added, “It’s been updated to 2014 standards with lighting packages, pump tests and ladder tests. Everything has been done on it.”
“There have been a lot of things added that weren’t original with the truck that are too numerous to mention,” Washington Assistant Chief Michael Matunis said. “It’s a 1997 truck that now looks like a 2014 truck.”
Before being placed into the truck bay, the ladder truck was taken for a drive through the borough for residents to see, and then brought back to be placed in the firehouse. At the time, there were concerns that it would not fit, though arrangements were made to take it to another fire station in town.
The ladder truck was very slowly backed into the bay. As the truck entered, the fit became very tight at the top — with only about two inches of clearance with the ladder section — causing Matunis to inch the truck inside. When it was inside, the next issue was whether the bay door would close, which it could. Several firefighters suggested to fill the water tank before taking it out, with the extra weight to lower the truck enough to improve the clearance at the top.
Washington H&L has about 100 members, with 11 to 15 active members. The fire company was chartered in 1866 and is the third fire company in Mahanoy City, which has five fire companies.
Davis said the new truck will not be put into service immediately. Next week, a Fire Line engineer will visit Mahanoy City to fully explain the upgrades. He said the truck should be in service shortly thereafter.
Davis said the fire company has gone through a lot in the past year with the fire and getting things back to together, but Washington H&L is on its way back.
“We’re a small fire company, but we rose from the ashes,” Davis said.
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