HISTORY 80 Years 1937-2017
In the Beginning
The South Fayette Township Volunteer Firemen’s Association was chartered in May 1937, making 2017 our 80th year in operation. The original membership consisted of 170 men and an additional 200 women in the ladies auxiliary. In June of ’37 the assoc. purchased its first fire truck, a 1937 Arhens-Fox triple combination pumper and booster with hose carrier and a chemical tank. This truck was a fully equipped state of the art vehicle for the time and cost $6300.00. The truck was painted yellow with gold pin-striping which was very innovative for that time since every fire vehicle was traditionally red. The department paid for the truck by raising funds with events such as, carnivals, raffles card parties, and shooting matches. The debt was paid off in a little over a year.
The truck was stored in the basement of Fatigati’s Restaurant on Miller’s Run Road, then moved to a garage near the Jail/Township meeting hall located where the former Mariani’s Restaurant and parking lot is today. In the early days of the department through the 50’s, this area housed Bioni’s tavern and across the street was Pete Quartures’ store. These 2 families played a significant role in the early fire protection for the township as they received the fire calls by phone and would set off the siren to notify the fireman that they had a call. Kind of an early version of the 911 system we have today. As the township grew the need for more equipment grew also.
Growing with the Community
In 1955 the department purchased another Ahrens-Fox pumper/engine. Both this truck and the earlier 1937 are still housed in our current location at 661 Millers Run Rd. These trucks are on public display in our station and can be seen any evening of the week. In 1964 we purchased an International Brush Truck to take care of brush fires on the many farms that were in the township. These new apparatus quickly outgrew there space so the move was made to a new location.
In the 50’s the department was moved to an old silent movie theater which was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Tierpoke. Many residents had radios at that time and television was not far away so the theater was converted to a fire department. The school district also built a bus garage which was attached to the fire house. Both buildings are still in existence today and house John A. Kosky Contracting Inc. Soon even this building proved to be too small to house the fire department and the addition of a bingo hall to help raise funds was needed.
The Next Chapter-Our New Location
In 1967, the current building was constructed on the former site of a mountain of mine residue known as the “smelly slate dump”. The building has been added on to since then and has a large hall for 350 people, a small banquet room for 50 and 4 garages which house our current fleet of 5 trucks. We also have an additional detached garage which holds the brush truck behind the building. This building also houses our 2 newest pieces of equipment, a 1991 Pierce Dash Engine/Pumper and a 2006 Pierce Lance 105’ Ladder Truck.
Our Committment to Fundraising
The building and equipment are fully funded by the donations and fund-raising activities of our members. These activities include a weekly bingo night, raffles, dances, cash bash, poker run, and a yearly mail-in fund drive. Hall rentals for weddings and other township activities make up the bulk of our operating budget for the year. Considering that when we started in 1937 it cost the township taxpayers $50.00 to have Bridgeville or Oakdale respond to a fire, as well as a $15,000.00 savings in insurance premiums, it was easy to see why the need was there for the residents. As a reference, in today’s dollars the cost would be over $700.00 dollars a call and an annual cost of $700,000.00 based on last years volume of calls by the 4 departments in South Fayette.
This coupled with the cost of $6000.00 per person to outfit each firefighter with the protective equipment needed to fight fire, it is increasingly difficult to keep up without the donations and fund raising activities. Most of the volunteers answer up to 175 calls a year and spend 10 to 20 hours a week at the department helping to keep the equipment working and upkeep on the hall.
One of Our Finest Hours
In one of our finest hours, we helped our neighbors and community on a very dark day for the residents of South Fayette. The day was September 17, 2004 and the event was Hurricane Ivan. At 2:21 PM, the call came out for some minor flooding in a couple of basements on South Fayette Street. It quickly turned in to a major flood with the need to evacuate hundreds of people from there homes. Most of our members spent the next 48 hours with no sleep helping our neighbors with their homes while our department and the homes of some of our members were being devastated. The following 2 weeks were spent willingly feeding nearly 100 people, 2 meals a day and helping our neighbors with the cleanup. We patrolled the area offering water and cleaning supplies as needed to the volunteers who had offered to assist the locals. The fire hall was turned into a relief center were victims could get a hot meal, food clothing and cleaning supplies to aid in their recovery. We are very proud of the way the township pulled together to help each other in our time of need and we were proud to work and aid our neighbors the way they help us with generous donations of money and time.
Our 80th Year
Prior to the year 2000 our department only responded to about 30 to 50 incidents annually. Today the department responds to around 160 incidents annually. The annual call volume will continue to grow as the township grows into the future.
Training is in high demand for today's firefighters. Over the years training hours have increased. Prior to the early 90's firefighters took a 40 hour essentials course on basic firefighting and then in the late 90's the class doubled in hours becoming an 88 hour course. In 2005 the hours for basic training increased again with a 166 hour program. Today our firefighters still take the 166 hour Entry Level Firefighter Program. When members complete the current program they are certified nationally as Fire fighter 1. This course also includes Hazardous materials Operations and CPR/AED First Aid. Members of SFVFD are also encouraged to attend 48 hours in Vehicle Rescue Training that certifies them as rescue technicians. This certification is through the PA State Fire Academy and PA Department of Health. Firefighters are also keeping up with recent research done by NIST and Underwriter Laboratories on fire dynamics. The changes in training over the years are important to our members and the culture of our department.
The department is on its sixth year being recognized by the PA State fire commissioners office as a participating department. The participating department program has recognized South Fayette VFD for its members that have been certified as fire professionals at various levels. Currently our members have reached professional qualifications in the following areas Fire fighter I, Fire Fighter II, Fire Instructor I, Fire Instructor II, Fire Officer I and Fire Officer II. The volunteers of SFVFD continue to work towards additional recognition in the future.
Fundraising has changed over the most recent years as bingo started to fall not bringing in the revenue our department needs to operate. Fundraising must continue so we have turned to doing annual Gun bashes each year which makes up for the loss of our historical bingo fundraiser. The department also sends out annual fund drive letters each year but only sees 20% returned. The SFVFD is not funded by any taxes and operates solely on donations and fundraisers.
Technology has continued to advance in our operations. Before smart phones firefighters would be alerted by the siren or voice pagers. Today we still use the voice pagers and now have smart phone app called IamResponding. This responder reply system lets everyone responding to the station to say they are coming by pushing a button on the smartphone app. The station has a large monitor that shows the firefighters who are responding to the station. The IAR system also sends text message dispatches to each members device providing the address and details of the incident. SFVFD reports all incidents to NFIRS standards through Emergency Reporting. We also use Emergency Reporting to create pre plans of commercial structures, track members activity at incidents, work details and training. We are continuing advance our technology with the county 911 center. The 911 center has had MDT Mobil Data Terminals capabilities for a few years now. SFVFD is working to get this technology place inside each of our fire apparatus. The MDT is a computer connected to the internet showing live updates of the incident details from the dispatch center. MDTs also have technology of gps and show hydrant locations, Hazardous materials information and instant messaging between units and the 911 center.
Today’s volunteer fire fighters take countless hours out of their week and away from their families to help to protect the neighbors and fellow residents on one of the best communities of Western Pennsylvania.