Mt. Penn Fire Company

History

The Mount Penn Fire Company:

There has always been confusion surrounding the use of “Mount Penn” itself. This has often led to misconceptions as to whether or not something was a “pattern” by businesses and organizations prior to the creation of the Borough of Mount Penn. This is especially true when it comes to the Mount Penn Fire Company. In East Reading on July 25, 1897 there was organized a Mount Penn Fire Company and in the same area on September 16, 1897 the East End Company was also organized. There was a great deal of rivalry between the two “outlaw” companies who responded whenever they felt they should. Neither was recognized by the Firemen’s Union. On March 18, 1898 a merger was proposed and negotiated by other companies and after much debate they combined and became known as the Union Fire Company. This company was recognized by the Firemen’s Union on February 17, 1902 and was housed at 13th and Muhlenberg Streets in Reading.

Mt_Penn_4_wheel_hose_cart

Hose Cart

A fire company came into being in the Borough of Mount Penn on May 5, 1903 when the bylaws of the Community Fire Company were approved by the Borough. This was a group of young men who had yet to reach maturity. They met at 2234 Perkiomen Avenue and their combination wagon with 500 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose was stored at Daniel Albright’s carriage shop at 2311 Perkiomen Avenue. Horses were obtained from any passerby such as the milk man, as permitted by law. The young men involved were Mason Bright, Reuben Leisewitz, Edward Reifsnyder, John S. Rudy, George Halbeisen, Samuel Lutz, William Hoyer and William Witman.

On April 25, 1905 an older group formed what is the present Mount Penn Fire Company. The younger group sold their Combination Wagon to the West Reading Fire Company at the price of $400 and there it was operated by Urias Klein and his two horses, Bill and Dan. It was in operation until 1918. The new group rented two rooms from Albright for $6.00 monthly on May 29, 1905, and on June 22, 1905 the new charter was signed. The following signed the new charter: H. S. Beitenman, M. L. Bertolette, Lew Bloom, George T. Brown, William S. Levan, John N. Schlegel, Charles H. Hinnershitz, William H. Bush, H. S. Hinnershitz, James D. Bady, Charles A. Miller, Lew Hinnershitz, J. S. Esterly, Daniel D. B. Beaver, M. A. Keyport, Charles H. Schlegel, J. R. Dickenson, and Wm. P. Hilbert. John Schlegel became the first president of the company

1905 Combination Wagon

On January 6, 1906 a hose cart with two 15 foot ladders and two chemical tanks were purchased. On February 15, 1908 a hand truck with a 35 foot extension ladder, two 12 foot ground ladders and 2 chemical tanks of 35 gallons capacity were put into service. The cart was stored in the garage at the head of Cumberland and N. 23rd Streets. On January 3, 1914 a four wheel hand apparatus with the two chemical tanks and a two wheel hose cart were put in service.

May 1919 saw the first mechanized unit. A Ford Model T fire truck mounted with the two chemical tanks was put into service. The 35 gallon tanks contained a baking soda and water mixture and at the fire scene a carboy of sulphuric acid was dumped into the tank. The crank at the end was turned rapidly to mix the solution and the pressure generated would spray the mixture onto the fire scene through a small diameter hose. During this time the Fire Company shared quarters with the Borough at the Borough building at 40 North 23rd Street.

Looking for other quarters, on September 2, 1921 the fire company purchased the lots on the southeast corner of 23rd and Filbert from George Weis, who in August had bought it from the Borough, and planned to erect a new building to serve as a social quarters and a place for their apparatus. The new building was dedicated May 19, 1923 and had two bays for vehicles, an auditorium, meeting rooms, and social quarters.

Over the years there were changes in the use of the building. In 1939 the auditorium was converted into a movie theater and remained so for many years. The Borough offices were moved into the northwest corner section and remained there until 1959. On May 15, 1925 a Hahn pumper, a deep burgundy in color, was put into service at the cost of $6,125. The pumper was rebuilt in 1935. In 1941 a Peter Pirsch constructed Diamond – T truck was housed in September. These two units provided fine service during the years of the World War II. Next came the purchase of a new Mack Pumper with a Hale pump. This unit was housed in May 1948.

The company has always been progressive as evidenced by the use of radio communications in 1952 and the installation of a base station in 1953. The radio base station served as a communications center for a large portion of the fire companies east of Reading for many years. The company also initiated the hiring of a paid driver during the daytime hours. This position was eliminated in 1979.

The year 1953 also saw the purchase of a Willy’s Overland Jeep with a booster hose and tank which was used primarily to aid the neighboring fire companies in the fighting of brush and forest fires. Since the company had only two bays the Jeep was housed in a rented garage at 2411 Filbert Avenue and the Mack and Diamond – T in the fire company bays. The Diamond – T was used as a rescue unit for many years.

In 1961 a Mack pumper, which also served as the rescue unit was placed in service and the Diamond – T was sold to the Berkshire Heights Fire Company. It was this 1961 unit which in 1967 demonstrated automotive rescue techniques at the Berks County Fire School. The results were so impressive that the following year the County Fire School initiated the first class in automotive rescue work taught by Mount Penn personnel. The classes became a regular feature of the curriculum.

The year 1963 saw a major alteration of the building. The large windows in the theater and elsewhere were bricked in as a fuel economy measure and an additional two bay structure was added to the building. One of the earliest Snorkel type units, other than the City of Reading’s was housed in May of 1973 by Mount Penn when a Ford chassis with a Hi Ranger boom was placed in service. A new GMC pickup was added to replace the Jeep as a brush truck in 1979. A Mack 1000 gallon per minute pumper was purchased for $84,000.00 and housed in 1984 and the 1947 Mack was sold to private parties. The GMC was converted in house into a rescue unit in 1990 by removing the pickup bed and the skid unit and installing a Reading commercial body, with compartments and seating for 4 in the rear. While this was adequate for a time it soon became clear that a new rescue truck was needed. After much research, a replacement truck was designed and ordered. The 1994, Ford/Swab Heavy Rescue unit is equipped with all the modern features and acts as a rehab unit and mobile command center. The most unique feature of this is a 42 ft. knuckle crane nestled between the cab and the body. This crane can lift 1000 lbs. at full extension and up to 10,000 lbs at it’s shortest length. The cost of this truck was $207,000.00. This unit at the time, was one of the most advanced type in service enhancing the capability of the company as a rescue service, and continuing it’s reputation as a progressive department.

The company had been renting the bays for the apparatus since they sold the building in 1989 and finally in 1994 the final steps were taken for the construction of a new quarters in the 2700 block of Grant Street. The building was completed and the company moved into the new quarters on November 29, 1994. The corner stone was laid on December 20, 1994 during a reception and open house for the citizens. This is now the site from which the company will continue to serve the citizens of the area for many years to come in the tradition of the well-trained, progressive service which the Mount Penn Fire Company has provided for many years.

While the 1972 Ford/Hi-Ranger aerial continued to serve the citizens of Mt. Penn Borough, the officers knew that it was time to look for it’s replacement. With the cost of a new aerial device in the $400,000.00 range, the officers felt that a used piece would be better suited for the finances of the Company. A search was begun and a 1980 American LaFrance 100ft tractor drawn ladder was found for sale by the Merion Fire Company of Ardmore. The selling price was $100,000.00 which included a large amount of equipment. This truck would be well suited to the small streets and tight areas of the Borough, and being a tiller, required 2 drivers to operate. Knowing that this was a big step and also a little out of the range of the Company finances, the Officers approached Borough Council and asked them give their blessing and to purchase this truck for the Company. Borough Council approved the proposal and the new ladder was delivered in the late Summer of 1997. Extensive driver training followed, and the truck was placed in service soon after. The 1972 Ford/Hi-Ranger was sold to a private party for commercial use.

The 1979 GMC that was first a Brush unit, and then converted into a rescue, was again converted in house to a Brush unit. A skid pump and tank was bought from the Earl Township Fire Co. and refurbished in house, and installed on the converted 1979 GMC chassis. This truck continued to serve as Brush 1 until it was sold to the Middleport, Schuylkill County fire company in 2007 where it serves as their brush unit to this day.

While loved by many, the 1961 Mack was showing it’s age. It was decided by the Officers to look into replacing this engine with a newer, used engine. After an extensive search, a suitable replacement was found in Orland Park, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) it was a 1971 American LaFrance 1500 GPM, 750 Gal. pumper. This engine was sent to American LaFrance in 1989 to undergo a complete rebuild. A stainless steel body with a fully enclosed 6 man cab was installed on the original chassis. The only original parts left on this engine was the engine/trans, the pump, and the rolling gear. The entire truck was also rewired. The sale price was only $27,000.00. In April of 1999, a group of 4 members traveled to Illinois to inspect, and if found suitable, drive it home. The truck was in very good condition and was purchased, and driven home. It was quite an exciting road trip. After the lettering was complete it was put into service as Engine 1-2. The 1961 Mack was sold to a private party.

In September of 2003, The Fire Company received a grant from the Federal Government in the amount of $215,100.00 for the purpose of purchasing a new engine. A truck committee was formed to develop specifications, and bids were requested. Seagrave won the bid at a total cost of $356,000.00. The New Seagrave was delivered in December of 2004. It was also decided at the time to reduce our number of engines to 1. The 1971 American Lafrance was sold to the Bedford KY, Volunteer Fire Company.
With the reduction to 1 engine and the rising costs of fuel the fire company looked into a station car to be used in emergencies and in non emergencies for the purpose of carrying personnel. In early 2005 a citizen of the community donated a 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis that was in good condition and for minimal cost the fire company now added Car 1 to the fleet. The success of Car 1 prompted us to buy a 2000 Ford Excursion in 2006 for the same purpose and is also used to tow the Berks County Haz-Mat Trailer, which used to be towed by Brush 1.

In early 2007 we were approached by the Middleport Fire Company in Schuylkill County, PA. They were interested in buying our 1979 GMC Brush truck. They were in need of apparatus and equipment, so we made them a package deal for the 1979 GMC and the 1984 Mack, which was in use as a training engine, and lots of our spare equipment, hose, nozzles, and appliances.

We then statrted the search to replace Brush 1. We did so with a 1997 AM General H1/Fire Attacker brush unit purchased from a dealer in Alabama. This unit was formerly from Matthews Volunteer Fire Department, North Carolina. The new Brush 1 was placed in service in the fall of 2007 where it served until it was sold in 2014 to a fire equipment dealer.

In 2008 a truck committee was formed to plan the replacement of our aging American LaFrance TDA. Several manufacturers were contacted but it quickly became apparent that the purchase of a brand new TDA was out of the question given the very high price tag. It was decided that the committee refocus their efforts on a used truck. With a small pool of used TDA’s to choose from, it took awhile to find a suitable truck. We found success with a private sale from an individual who purchased a 1992 Seagrave 100 Ft.TDA at a public auction. The truck was the former Truck 32 in the Cincinnati, Ohio Fire Department.  After purchase, the truck was taken to Seagrave for an extensive overhaul and update before being delivered to Mt. Penn and it continues to serve us well to this day.

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Mt. Penn Fire Company

Phone 610-779-6723
Fax-610-779-6762

Department Activity

Summary of department activity
2017
MonthTotal
January46Prior Year (2016) Stats
January - 32
14 more call(s) this year.
February36Prior Year (2016) Stats
February - 46
10 less call(s) this year.
March38Prior Year (2016) Stats
March - 33
5 more call(s) this year.
April29Prior Year (2016) Stats
April - 52
23 less call(s) this year.
May31Prior Year (2016) Stats
May - 33
2 less call(s) this year.
June31Prior Year (2016) Stats
June - 31
July0
August0
September0
October0
November0
December0
Totals211
Working Fires10


Previous Years

2016455
2015453

Our Mission

The mission of the Mt. Penn Fire Company is to protect the lives and property of the people of Mt Penn from fires, natural disasters, and hazardous materials incidents; to save lives by providing Rescue services; to prevent fires through prevention and education programs; and to provide a 100% Volunteer work environment that values health, wellness and cultural diversity and is free of harassment and discrimination.

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