"One of the greatest days in the history of the (Summit Hill) fire department" was celebrated Saturday.
That assessment was made by veteran fireman George Davis, 80, who served as chief of the department from 1966 to 1980.
Davis served as the master of ceremony for the dedication of Diligence Fire Company No. 1's new fire station and 2008 KME Predator Pumper. Hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot of the fire station for the event.
A "hose uncoupling" marked the dedication of the fire station, while the new pumper was christened with two bottles of champagne in memory of a departed "brother." Around the formalities was a lively and noisy celebration.
Davis recalled the dedication program held for the former fire station in 1959, and said how impressed he was by the facilities that the department now has.
The KME pumper was dedicated in memory of the late John "Jackie" Stoudt, whose nickname was "Brother" and who served for many years in the community's fire service.
Stoudt was stricken on Christmas Eve in 2004 while responding to a dwelling fire. He died at the age of 66.
His widow, Shirley, and daughter, Marissa Stoudt Blackwell, each broke a bottle of champagne over the front bumper of the new KME truck to christen the vehicle. Fire Chief Shawn Hoben said it had always been a dream of Stoudt for the fire department to own a KME vehicle, which is manufactured in Nesquehoning.
Fire company members then physically pushed the department's four largest pieces of apparatus including the new pumper and the department's aerial truck into the new station. Pushing the vehicle into the station is a tradition for housing new vehicles going back to the days of horse-drawn fire engines.
For the dedication of the building, a canvas fire hose was wrapped around pillars at the joint entrance of the fire station and community center and was uncoupled by fire company lieutenant John C. Poko and recreation commission President Monica Marshall. Other participants were lieutenants Michael Alabovitz and Timothy Gaughan and trustee William Walker.
The festivities began with a noisy apparatus parade through the streets of the hilltop community. Forty-four fire trucks, ambulances, and other vehicles from 18 organizations participated. Sirens wailed in jubilation for the fire company during the parade.
The dedication program had several speakers. The podium was the front fender, bumper, and grill of a fire truck, complete with flashing amber lights.
Summit Hill resident Keith McCall, the Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a member of the fire company for 35 years, was the main speaker.
McCall helped secure state financing which enabled the fire department to be built as part of a $3.5 million construction program, that included a new borough hall and the razing of the previous fire station.
McCall recalled the positive changes in the department, noting that when he first joined, there was one piece of apparatus with an open cab meaning it had no roof and another piece which was extremely noisy. He also noted that Davis was the fire chief at the time.
He compared the older vehicles to the modern apparatus that the fire company now has.
McCall said an original Mack pumper cost the fire department $15,000 to purchase it in 1948. A new truck today costs over $500,000, while an aerial truck can cost over $1 million.
"I am not here today for the dedication of that truck," McCall said. "I'm not here for the dedication of that building. I'm here for the dedication of the men and women" who serve in the fire department.
"It's a special person who goes into a burning building when everybody else is running out of that building," he said. He noted how volunteer firefighters respond to alarms any time of the day or night, in any weather, without thought of compensation.
McCall said he's proud to be called a father, he's proud to be called Speaker of the House, "but I am very proud to be called a volunteer firefighter."
Also speaking was U.S. Congressman Paul Kanjorski, who was instrumental in obtaining funding for the purchase of the pumper.
He told everyone attending they are "special" because "you are a citizen of the United States of America."
He mentioned that he has visited numerous countries and hasn't seen any who has "our type of volunteers."
Fire Company President Larry Black told about the hard work of the fire company members, especially during the past two years while the construction project was occurring. He remarked, "I'm damn proud of every one of our members."
Former members like Davis "gave us foundation for us to grow on," Black told the gathering.
Fire Chief Shawn Hoben said, "We gather here today to celebrate a milestone in the history of the fire company."
Both he and Black touched on the crowded and unsafe conditions that the former fire station had, which were remedied by building the new station.
He thanked the borough council "for allowing first responders to work in a safe environment."
Summit Hill Borough Council President Joe Weber praised the architect for the fire company, Kipp Fedetz, stating of Fedetz, "He took the vision of our fire company and put it to paper and made it become reality."
Weber also thanked McCall and Kanjorski for their assistance.
"This day is for the Diligence Fire Company No. 1," proclaimed Weber.
Brian Connelly, representative of KME Fire Apparatus in Nesquehoning, noted that the firm constructs fire trucks that are shipped all over the world. He said "It's really special when we build a piece of equipment for a community in our back yard."
The invocation and benediction were offered by Rev. Walter Breiner.
Angela Nardini led the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the "Star Spangled Banner."
Musical entertainment was provided by the band "Shades of Gray."