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Fitting finish for Tamaqua American Hose Co.

Who better to capture the final Pennsylvania firefighters’ state championship marching award than Tamaqua American Hose Company?

The big honor was remarkable, yet not surprising.

American Hose has been setting the standard for 143 years, part of a Tamaqua Fire Department dynasty in marching unit competition.

In the Schuylkill County town, founded 1799, organized firefighting began with colorful names such as Perseverance Fire Company, Reliance Hook and Ladder, and Hibernian Hook and Ladder.

In fact, Tamaqua’s first firefighting unit began in 1852. This means volunteer firefighting in Tamaqua is so old that it predates the founding of many towns in our region. The roots run deep. The traditions, proud and honored.

There is talk of some form of merger, but four separate units make up today’s Tamaqua Fire Department. Three are fire companies: Citizens, South Ward and East End. AHC is the sole hose company, formed out of defunct Reliance Hook & Ladder.

Through history, each company had its own marching unit with separate uniforms and colors. All have had amazing success in winning trophies for their respective equipment and marching units.

So it wasn’t an accident that a Tamaqua company came home with the final state gold.

Recently, more than 40 AHC members traveled to Limerick for the 142nd Pennsylvania State Firefighters Association Parade.

Due to reorganization at the state level, that event was likely the final state parade to be held.

More than 200 units took part, and when the dust settled, judges from New Jersey declared Tamaqua AHC best of the best.

Par for the course.

In fact, year after year, the gang headquartered at Mauch Chunk Street achieves big results.

In 2001, for instance, AHC grabbed headlines by winning top accolades in every major parade.

It began in June with first place at the 98th Annual Six-County Firefighters Convention in Frackville.

Then in August, AHC grabbed top honors at the 47th Annual Schuylkill County Volunteer Firefighters Convention Parade in Minersville.

Still not done, in September they were awarded highest honors at the 104th Four-County Firefighters Association Parade in Cementon.

How do they do it?

There are many factors, among them: loyalty, discipline, pride and good, old-fashioned know-how.

Experience also plays a hand.

“There are some guys there that have been parading and participating in parades like this for 50 years,” said Brian Connely, AHC president.

Yes, there are some givens, things you might expect. Uniforms are spotlessly clean, shoes are shined, caps carefully placed, accompanying flowers and banners positioned just so.

The men and women stand tall, look straight ahead and march in step. They wear white gloves as they compete against large fire companies, units of 35 or more marchers.

But, there’s also a bit of choreography. When COVID-19 wasn’t a factor, they lined up military-style, grouped tightly together like a band of warriors. And they always line up according to height, achieving an element of visual perfection.

All of it makes for a dramatic appearance for the precision, well-trained corps of men and women dedicated to protecting lives and property.

They’re a favorite of spectators. Judges take notice.

The strategy has made AHC a perennial winner, even at a time when all volunteer first responder units are dealing with a crisis of dwindling numbers and fading resources.

State fire association parades have ended.

Hopefully there will be more parades at either a regional or county level.

But on Sept. 25, 2021, Pennsylvania’s final state gold was bestowed.

Fittingly, it was handed to American Hose of Tamaqua.

By Donald R. Serfass | dserfass@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.

The Tamaqua American Hose Company marching unit, appearing here in their hometown, has been winning awards for more than 100 years and recently captured the state fire association's final first place parade trophy. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS