The Mountaintop community, like many others across Pennsylvania, seems to have reached a turning point in how its residents respond to fires. Volunteerism for local fire companies has hit an all time low across the state, and the consequences, unfortunately, are being felt here in our area; most recently last week in Fairview Township.
When Mountaintop Hose Company responded to the structure fire on Spruce Street Saturday, January 30, they arrived on scene with six people; hardly enough to attack the fire safely and at full capacity. While Fire Chief Peter Kohl says the lack of manpower did not hamper the overall result, it does make a situation more difficult to navigate safely and effectively. Typically, positions such as fire hydrant and pump operator and perimeter officer are non-negotiable necessities. Once those positions were filled, it did not leave many left to attack the fire itself.
Fortunately, Wright Township and several other companies arrived within minutes and were able to bolster the effort. In total, seven departments responded with approximately twenty-five people. Companies were able to employ two more attack lines and start other functions, such as roof ventilation to remove the heat and smoke from the house.
“Basically, the initial fire attack was done by two people,” explains Kohl. “That is really tough. You can still operate, and we did, but it makes the job easier to have a full crew.”
Typically a full time, paid department on a structure fire will have approximately thirteen people to operate three apparatus. This allows for all positions to be filled on the outside and within the scene perimeter, and give plenty of time for those attacking the fire from inside the building to have adequate rest.
Kohl has been the Fire Chief of Fairview Twp. since 1977 and has seen a steady decline in membership from that time. He explained the impact the lack of volunteer firefighters is having on companies all over the area. While there are currently thirty active members in Mountaintop Hose Company, roughly twelve people respond to any given emergency, and only seven of those members were able to get to the fire last week.
“People need to realize that we are an all volunteer organization and everybody has their own lives to
See Volunteers page 4