Fire Companies Discussing Merger
MERGER –The Rice, Wright and Dorrance Township fire companies are moving toward a merger plan. Each department has been facing challenges in mustering volunteer fire personnel during the daytime hours. The departments are training together and have started making joint purchases of equipment. Left to right Rice Fire Chief Paul Eyreman, Wright Fire Chief Dave Pettit and Dorrance Fire Chief Duane Seltzer.

The fire companies of Wright, Rice and Dorrance townships are in the process of joining forces to provide a more efficient and economical response to emergencies in the Mountaintop Area.

Since most can remember, the companies of Fairview, Wright, Rice, Dorrance, Hobbie, Slocum and Pond Hill have been part of Mountaintop Mutual Aid, an association that coordinates training and shared assistance among the fire companies that cover the Mountaintop Area. According to Wright Township Chief, Dave Petit, Wright and Dorrance have also been running “automatic aid” for the last two years -when one is called, the other is automatically dispatched as well. After seeing each other at call after call, and after Dorrance started experiencing some problems getting enough volunteers during the day, Petit says that he and Chief Duane Seltzer from Dorrance “started thinking differently”

“We thought if we’re going to be doing this, we should be doing a lot more than running together,” says Pettit. “We should be training together, meeting together and running together; get on the same page. We all do the same thing; we just do it a little bit different.”

Petit and Seltzer started discussing the situation in early 2012, and by late last year started streamlining their Standard Operating Guidelines(SOG) –basically the way the company operates, from the kind of tools they use to their chain of command to how every fireman is accounted for at a fire scene. It was around this time that Rice Chief Paul Eyerman approached the two others for the same reason –daytime manpower. Since Wright and Dorrance border Rice, it made sense to all three that Rice should be involved in the partnership.

While regionalization, or consolidation, (or however one would like to phrase it) typically means closing a department, all three chiefs stress that is not the case here. The huge geographic area that the “Mountaintop Area” covers still makes it necessary to have all the companies -Dorrance is 26 square miles, Rice is 12 and Wright is 14. But Petit points out that it is not necessary to have five ladder trucks on the mountain, or five Rescue trucks, or write a grant for five sets of air packs,. Inventory purchases are a huge expense and if the members of each company become familiar with each other’s procedures and equipment, it will save a tremendous amount of money in the long term –something that volunteer companies also struggle to find.

“It’s about assessing what the community needs and what is around us,” explains Petit. “If we’re all in this together, why shouldn’t we work together?”

The members of Dorrance, Wright and Rice meet every Monday evening to train together. They’ve been working with Luzerne County 911 to streamline automatic dispatch procedures which gives the 911 dispatcher a predetermined list of responders for each type of emergency, from a motor vehicle accident to a brush fire. Knowing each other is key in those types of situations.

“At least we know now if we can get out rescue, they have an engine,” adds Seltzer. “If they get there before us, they can get an operation started and operate until we get there to assist them. Once on scene, they know our equipment, I know theirs, we are good to go.”

See Merger page 4