The Summit Hill volunteer firefighters can breathe a little easier now.

Recently, with the help of the Summit Hill Community Improvement Organization (SHCIO), Diligence Fire Company No. 1 purchased 20 new self-contained breathing apparatus for use during fire calls. The cost of the project was just over $106,000.

"We were looking to replace our current air packs with new ones," said Shawn Hoben, Summit Hill fire chief. "Some of the ones we were using are still from 1997."

The new air packs use a composite cylinder, which is lighter and smaller than the fire company's former packs, which used aluminum cylinders.

"The new packs are smaller so we can get to the kid who is scared and hiding in the corner of a room during a fire," said Kevin Steber, fire company relief treasurer and safety officer. "They are lighter so the firefighters don't get as fatigued as quickly, and they are safer."

He added that the new packs also include two areas where firefighters could hook up to each other to help breathe in case of emergency or to a rapid intervention team air bag in the case of a fire victim needing oxygen.

Ed Nunemacher, a volunteer firefighter and president of the fire company, echoed Steber's thoughts, saying that the new packs will help the volunteers immensely during fires when it comes to performance and safety.

The fire company began looking into the purchase last May.

At the time, volunteers approached SHCIO, asking for help.

Last December, members of SHCIO presented the fire company with $40,000 to use toward fulfilling the project.

"It was huge (the donation from SHCIO) because without that we couldn't have even thought about getting this project done so quickly," Hoben said, noting that the remaining $66,000 came from the Summit Hill Firemen Relief Association and through various fundraisers. "It's important we keep on top of these projects to keep our firefighters, and the town, safe."

He commended SHCIO for all of its support and generosity over the years.

Steber added that the fire company volunteers spend a significant amount of time fundraising for projects like this, as well as to keep the fire company operational.

"We try to stay on the cutting edge of equipment," Steber said. "To have all our fire equipment and trucks working properly takes a lot of money. If it wasn't for SHCIO and the other businesses in the borough, we're not sure what we would do."

Harry Miller, president of SHCIO, said the group was glad it could help the fire company.

"SHCIO is Summit Hill money and by giving to the fire company we are giving back to Summit Hill," he said.

Hoben and Miller also noted that help with raising funds is always needed, both at the fire company and with SHCIO.

If anyone would like to join the fire company to help with fundraising or to become a volunteer firefighters, they can stop by the firehouse, located on West Ludlow Street, Mondays and Thursdays from 6-9 p.m.

To join SHCIO, contact Miller at (570) 645-5998 or Karen Ruzicka, vice president/secretary, at (570) 645-7936.