2016 Saxton Volunteer Fire Company

504 8th Street, Saxton, PA 16678

Origin:

The Saxton Volunteer Fire Company, organized in 1934, was the first fire company in the Broad Top

region. On August 1, 1934 Isaac M. Eichelberger, Sol Wayne, Paul G. Mountain, Samuel E. Kelly, Jesse W.

Streepy, W. Scott Myers, Marle Davis, Carl Bradley, Ivan R. White, and Karl Stake became the company’s

charter members.

The company’s first, custom-built engine was a 1936 Diamond-T pumper. This engine remained in active

service until 1957. The second new engine was a 1949 GMC pumper built by Central of St. Louis. The

‘Jimmy’ faithfully served the company until its retirement in 1979. By 1957 the need for a modern

pumper resulted in the purchase of an American LaFrance engine. For the next 35, our house was home

to a LaFrance fleet.

Phone Calls to Radio Dispatch:

In the early years, calls for assistance were taken at the Penelec Generating Station in East Saxton,

perhaps because it was the only place operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The siren was located

adjacent to the Huntingdon & Broad Top (H&BT) roundhouse on Main Street. The H&BT provided power

for the siren. By the early 1970s, both the railroad and the generating station had ceased operations, so

the emergency phones were placed in businesses and private homes. Each location had a siren switch to

alert the company. Ambulance calls were dispatched by contacting available personnel via telephone.

Later, base radio stations with pager activation capabilities replaced the phone calls. By 1990, dispatch

responsibilities were turned over to Bedford County, and we went from being Huntingdon County

Company 8 to Bedford County Company 35.

New Facilities:

In 1963, a ground breaking was held for the station's current 8th Street address. A site dedication

occurred on August 20, 1966, and the building’s $81,000 note was paid off at mortgage burning

ceremonies on Sunday, April 30, 1972. Over the years the fire hall has seen several additions as well as

extensive renovations to the ballroom and kitchen areas. It continues to be an important hub for

community activities as well as providing space to house seven pieces of apparatus.

A New Mission for the Fire Company:

The fire company’s mission to the community was greatly expanded in 1968 when it took on the role of

providing ambulance services. The first ambulance was a 1964 Buick, donated by local funeral director

Albert Masood. There was little training available for EMS crews, but that was about to change. In 1972,

the first custom built ambulance, a Chevrolet van, was put into service. In those days, the company

responded to between 30 and 40 calls a year. In March of 1975, the first local EMT class was held in the

area and certified seven volunteers. In April of 1980, the Saxton Volunteer Fire Company became the

first in Bedford County to provide paramedics on emergency calls. Advanced Life Support (ALS) service

continues today with a member roster of more than 80 (drivers, First Responders, EMTs, and

Paramedics) handling more than 300 calls annually. The strictly volunteer company currently has two

ALS certified ambulances, and four volunteer medics.

 

Upgrading Apparatus:

By the early 1970s, the company had added two Army surplus tankers and a used delivery truck

converted into an ‘equipment’ truck. Many veterans of the company who were active at this time recall

harrowing rides to emergencies in the tankers and the ‘Banana Wagon.’ By 1972, a new tanker and

equipment truck were placed into service…just in time for extensive use in the Flood of ’72. The tanker

has been replaced with a 2005 Pierce Saber/Contender Engine-Tanker and the equipment truck

remained in service until 1989. In 1979, a new American LaFrance Century pumper was ordered. It was

placed in service in April of 1980 and was officially retired from service April 12, 2004, when it was

replaced by a 1994 Pierce Saber Engine. A renovated 1981 American LaFrance rescue-engine replaced

the equipment truck in 1989. This piece was retired in 2004 when it was replaced by a 2004 Pierce

Lance. Equipment upgrades continued in 2005, when an Assistance to Firefighters Grant was awarded

for a new engine/tanker. The 2,000 gallon water hauler continued the new, Pierce preference.

 

Beginning of the ‘Roof-Goof’ Era:

In 1988, the Saxton Volunteer Fire Company went into the truck business with the acquisition of a

refurbished 1949 Mack 65-foot aerial. Along with the truck came extensive training in Aerial Practices

with the first ‘Roof-Goof’ certification in 1989. By 1995, the Mack was replaced with a 1975 American

LaFrance 100 foot ladder that responded to local and mutual aid alarms. In April 2009, the ’75 LaFrance

was replaced with a 1992 Pierce Arrow 100 foot aerial platform. With the retirement of the LaFrance

came a new challenge—space. Also, in 2009 the Saxton Volunteer Fire Company commissioned the $1M

build. This building expansion provided the necessary space for the new aerial, a fitness center, and

breathing room for the growing fleet and membership!

 

Hosting County Conventions:

The Saxton Volunteer Fire Company, although located in and dispatched by Bedford County, serves all or

parts of five municipalities in Huntingdon County. This relationship with Huntingdon County and the

Huntingdon County Firemen’s Association has led to hosting the annual Firemen’s Convention in 1976,

1984, 1991, and 2004, 2009, and 2015.

 

The Big Burn:

265 firefighters from 23 companies and one industrial brigade spent the weekend of June 26th-28th,

1992 in Saxton participating in what was up until then, and still may be, the largest structural burn class

held in Pennsylvania. Starting at noon on Friday, June 26th, 62 separate burns were conducted in three

large structures along the 600 block of Main Street. Evolutions continued throughout the nighttime

hours. Two other buildings on either side of those being burned were used in training for exposure

protection. More than 3,000 feet of 5-inch hose was laid to the site to provide adequate water supply.

This exercise was sanctioned by the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, who provided instructors.

 

Silver Certification Turns to Gold:

The ‘Big Burn’ was part of ongoing training by the Saxton Volunteer Fire Company that resulted in

another distinction. In October of 1992, the company became the first in Pennsylvania to certify, as a

department. Then the roster was comprised of nearly two dozen Firefighter Is. In February 2004, the

company earned its Silver Certification by having more than 75% of its active firefighters certified as

Firefighter I or Firefighter II. Currently, Saxton’s numbers are approximately 25 Firefighter Is, 30

Firefighter IIs, 15 Certified Instructors, 10 Certified Officers, 3 PA State Suppression Instructors, 55 EMTs,

10 First Responders, and 4 Paramedics. Shortly after receiving Silver designation, the company achieve

an even more prestigious Gold designation. This designation is only awarded to companies that achieve

100% member certification at FF I or higher.

 

Commitment:

As the Saxton Volunteer Fire Company celebrates its 81st anniversary in 2015, the membership boasts

more than 100 members that also includes a strong Junior Firefighter program. Ambulance service is still

exclusively volunteer with 24/7 on-call crews. Company 35 is now home to a technical rescue team

specializing in trench, heavy, and animal rescue, as well as structural collapse and urban search and

rescue. Company 35's newest endeavor was into the field of Urban Search and Rescue. This opportunity

required a new level of commitment for our members, and is a cooperative effort with additional

members from outside Company 35. Starting out as a unit, our member dedication led to the expansion

into a Company-- PA Company 5. This responsibility came with nearly $3M in additional equipment

resources.

In Remembrance:

September 2003 saw the first line of duty death. Fire Police Officer Bill Wheeler died while responding to

a motor vehicle crash. This tragedy served as a reminder of the dangers involved in providing emergency

services to our community. We also remember the original charter members and all others who served

their community as volunteers with the Saxton Volunteer Fire Company. You and your contributions will

not be forgotten. In addition to memorializing Fire Police Wheeler, company 35 has a monument that

salutes all past members. We're proud to have received a piece of the World Trade Center from the NY

Port Authority. This piece of steel is proudly displayed in our station and serves not only as a reminder of

9-11, but also as a tribute to brothers and sisters who perished that fateful day.

 

Keeping the Tradition Alive:

Company 35 continues to grow, improve, and strive for excellence. This determination has resulted in

apparatus expansion to include a 2013 GMC Prime Mover and 2009 Peterbuilt which both serve the

Urban Search and Rescue Company. Additionally, a 2014 Swift Water Boat was placed into service. The

Urban Search and Rescue Company has expanded their training and participation in regional and

statewide events such Wide Vigilance and Mountain Mayhem.

With the bulk of our calls being rescue-related, new hydraulic rescue tools with increased cutting power

for high strength steel were purchased for Rescue 35. Our Rescue Company is a member of

Pennsylvania’s elite—designated with the Pennsylvania Department of Health Advanced Certification.

This voluntary program requires, specialized equipment, training, and documentation protocols. In

2012, our Rescue Company was named Rescue Service of the Year from PA Department of Health.

Keeping with National Fire Protection Association standards, Company 35's members are protected by

new self-contained breathing apparatus and turnout gear.

Serving a community outreach service, Company 35 is proud of its expanding Fire Prevention Program.

This program provides outreach to elementary and high school students, as well as local churches, civic

groups, and elderly housing complexes. The program is attributed with reducing 'nuisance calls' to the

housing complexes. This year the program furthered its education commitment by using 9-1- 1

simulators, so students could learn what it was like to dial in an emergency. New for 2014 was the

installation of a digital sign located adjacent to Main Street. This sign provides timely reminders about

fire risks, fire-safety tips, and other associated alerts such as Amber Alerts. Lastly, a 2015 Assistance to

Firefighter's Fire Prevention Grant was submitted. This grant, if funded, would provide smoke and Co

detectors would be provided to the company's highest risk residents.

We pride ourselves in addressing company needs, and like most companies, our Needs Assessment

indicated we needed to place more emphasis on recruitment and cultivation of younger members. In

2014, a big push was made to attract local students into our family. We are proud to say we have nearly

15 actively training Junior Firefighters. Additionally, the Allegheny Mountains Firefighters' Initiative has

helped with incentivizing training of members, recruitment of new members, and providing additional

promotional support outlining the need for new members.

Additionally, our Needs Assessment identified public communication and fundraising diversity as

additional areas for improvement. Company 35 now has a dedicated Public Relations Officer, who

handles public inquiries, media relations, outreach efforts, and maintains the company's webpage.

Additional communication is provided by our social media outreach which includes Facebook and

Twitter. Fundraising efforts were diversified by adding a grocery auction, comedy night, cornhole

tournaments, and the Outdoor Gun Bash.

Preplanning and Readiness Planning are initiatives that have taken on a new importance. This training

includes Main Street and Kelly Apartment preplanning with real-time alarm activation, smoke in the

structure, and evacuation plan execution. Proficiency training nights were held throughout 2013 and

2014. These nights focused on 'getting back to basics'. Hitting hydrants, throwing ladders, advancing

hose lines were all fair game. We did the things that should happen without thought-- seconds add up to

minutes, and minutes count during life or death situations. Utilizing our in-house, State-certified

Instructors, Company 35 is proud to offer its members and mutual aid partners the opportunity to

participate in live, acquired, structural burns-- two such burns occured in June 2015. This preparedness

extends into natural disaster preparedness, with Station 35 receiving a Red Cross Shelter

designation—supported in large part by facility upgrades occurring from 2013 to early 2015.

Thank you for being part of the next chapter in The 3-5 tradition of excellence.