Mahoning volunteers thank the community
Ron Gower/Times News Members of the Mahoning Valley Fire Company symbolically push a newly-purchased pumper into its bay at the conclusion of a dedication program held on Saturday.
It was the Mahoning Valley Fire Company's opportunity to sound its own horn Saturday, both literally through sirens and other sound devices on its apparatus, and figuratively in the first-rate firefighting capabilities of its members.
The volunteers of the fire company dedicated a 2013 KME pumper that it purchased at a cost of $467,217.
Rather than taking praise for upgrading their equipment to 21st century standards, members humbly thanked the community for its support; they praised their forefathers for leadership in molding what exists today; and, the leaders of the fire company gave special recognition to the volunteerism which exists in the rank and file.
"Pride in community, pride in commitment," served as the emphasized theme for the dedication program, which was attended by several hundred people.
Prior to the dedication, the volunteers held a "Celebration of Community" event, featuring free games for children, fire prevention programs and an open house. Also appearing were "Sparky," a firefighter dressed as a talking dog, and Smokey Bear, from the Pa. Bureau of Forestry.
The Celebration of Community was done to thank the community for its support, said fire company officials.
The new pumper was christened by former Fire Chief David Pollock, who needed two whacks to complete the job of breaking the cloth-covered, champagne bottle. It was noted that there are four generations of the Pollock family who have been, or are presently, active with the fire department.
The former chief recognized the four committee members who planned the events Fire Chief Mark Ebbert, Assistant Fire Chief Jay Michalik, Second Assistant Chief Mark Hayman, and Lieutenant Rickey Frey.
A highlight of the program was the presentation of the keys for the new truck by John K. Kovatch III, president and CEO of Kovatch Mobile Equipment, Nesquehoning, to Ebbert.
Kovatch pointed out there are 46 employees at his firm who reside in Mahoning Township, a fact which Michalik said meant that residents of the township were involved in the construction of their own piece of apparatus.
The new, lime-yellow truck with blue stripes is replacing a 1980 Pierce pumper that was purchased in 1979. When the previous truck was bought, it reportedly was the first pumper in Carbon County containing foam, which is used to combat fuel fires.
"In 1979, you had a state-of-the-art fire truck, which was way ahead of its time," Kovatch told the volunteers.
The new truck also carries foam, in addition to a 1,500 gallons-per-minute pump and a 1,000-gallon water tank.
Ebbert said selecting the type of truck to purchase was difficult. Volunteers debated whether they should buy a ladder truck, telesquirt, or a vehicle similar to the one they're replacing.
"Then we realized we had a truck that lasted over 30 years," he said, serving the township remarkably in that span. "We took our 30-year-old truck and designed it with today's options and technologies," he said.
Regarding volunteers, Michalik looked out at the gathering and posed the question, "Why do they work so hard and not get paid?"
Answering his own question, he said, "The reason we do this volunteer is because of what we see here," declaring that "Mahoning Valley is a beautiful place to live and a beautiful place to volunteer."
Fire company President Tony Aschman spoke on the topic "Proud to be Mahoning Valley Fire Company No. 1."
He presented a brief history of firefighting, going back to Ben Franklin organizing the first volunteer unit in Philadelphia in 1733. He spoke about the brotherhood in firefighting.
Aschman said that just as Franklin saw the need for organized firefighting, so did a group of Mahoning Township residents in 1949 when, after a series of barn fires occurred, they decided to organize a fire department.
"As we can see, history repeats itself," he said. "Ben Franklin secured volunteers to protect citizens and property in Philadelphia just as people did in Mahoning Valley in 1949."
Mahoning Township Supervisor Linda Benner gave special recognition to Ebbert for keeping the supervisors informed on the progress of the new pumper as it was being built at Kovatch. She also recognized KME Equipment, stating the firm "made it so easy for our firemen to obtain this truck."
"We appreciate everything you do every day for all of us," Benner told the members of the fire company.
Prior to the christening, Michalik gave praise to the firefighters who preceded the current generation of volunteers.
"We learned from the people who came before us. We learned not only about being good firefighters, but being good for the community," he said.
Numerous other fire departments had apparatus on the grounds as participation in the dedication.
People who attended the Celebration of Community event were asked to vote on what they felt was the best appearing unit.
The recipient of the people's choice award was Diligence Fire Company of Summit Hill. The winning truck also was from the KME Corporation.
The Mahoning Valley Fire Company gave a plaque to the Lehighton Fire Department for its many years of providing mutual aid.
The fire company also gave a plaque to the Mahoning Township Board of Supervisors for supporting the fire truck purchase.
At the conclusion of the event, members of the fire company offered the traditional "push" of the new truck into its permanent bay. The members only had to go through the motions, though, as Frey sat behind the wheel and slowly backed it into its new quarters.