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South Williamsport, PA
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This Week’s LION – Clinton Twp. Vol. Fire Company

A paid political ad that ran in Webb Weekly last month featured alleged improprieties from the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company. As Paul Harvey enjoyed saying, “here is the rest of the story.” The complete picture of this excellent organization at the southern end of the county portrays one of the most effective volunteer companies

A paid political ad that ran in Webb Weekly last month featured alleged improprieties from the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company. As Paul Harvey enjoyed saying, “here is the rest of the story.” The complete picture of this excellent organization at the southern end of the county portrays one of the most effective volunteer companies not only in the county but the entire region.

The Clinton Twp. Vol. Fire Co. must respond to fires, traffic accidents, HAZMAT emergencies, flooding and drowning emergencies and ambulance calls in a township that includes two state highways, a state prison, a railroad, a river, and even a small airport. They have been trained and prepared to serve in the event of an emergency at a billion-dollar electric plant, a huge grain mill, numerous factories, and enterprises, as well as the hundreds of homes that populate the area.

So how do they do in this regard? For the second year in a row, they are on course to answering 700 calls for service. This is an incredible call volume. Several years ago, the company instituted a paid EMT service during the weekdays, as this is when most volunteers are working at their full-time jobs. But in the first ten months of this year, there have been 392 ambulance transports during the weekend and evening hours. This means that two trained volunteers must drop everything in the middle of the night, or get up from a meal, or from spending time with their family and answer the ambulance call. And sometimes it has been as many as three times in one night!

In fact, one day in late October, between 7 a.m. and midnight, the Clinton Twp. Vol. Fire Co. answered nine alarms. Within a 15-minute time span, there was a call for a routine transfer for the state prison, two separate ambulance calls, and then a dispatch for a working fire at a factory. Amazingly, the company did not have to “scratch” on any of these calls but responded to all. Since 2002, this fire company has only failed to respond just seven times. (Not to be judgmental of any other companies, but by way of comparison, there are others in the region that fail to respond seven times in one month. This illustrates the problem of fewer and fewer volunteers, a continually growing problem throughout the state).

There is a response to the 911 call because the volunteer fire companies in Lycoming County work together and cooperate with each other so that when one company cannot respond, other companies help out. This year, Clinton Twp. Vol. Fire Co. has gone on “mutual service” calls over 40+ times already, and not just in Lycoming County, but in other counties as well.

This is especially true with Clinton Twp.’s water rescue and dive team. They have 14 certified water rescue technicians (primarily for flooding emergencies), and 11 of these are certified divers (for evidence and body searches). The team has been called upon for emergencies all over the state of Pennsylvania.

The fire station itself has a large banquet hall, which helps generate revenue but also serves as a welcome resource to the community. Everything from sports team signups to hosting for bereavement after funerals are freely offered. The station is also the host location for the annual 9/11 Memorial Ride on September 11th, one of the county’s most important events.

One criticism raised was about scholarships given to Emily, Amy, and Gabby Winder, the three daughters of the fire chief. “The rest of the story” is that the three were outstanding students, graduating at the very top of their classes. Each had devoted over 300 classroom-training hours in vehicle rescue training, hazardous material training, dive training, and EMT training. They spent hundreds of volunteer hours in answering calls, but also assisting waiting tables and washing dishes at banquet fundraisers and other events. And in the face of criticism about ‘favoritism,’ the fire company website itself notes that the scholarship is available to ANY junior fireman, of which seven have received it since its initiation in 1993.

Most of the criticisms revolved around the use of funds, but again “the rest of the story” notes that the dedicated fire tax accounts for just $80,000 of the $400,000 budget, and this tax rate has not increased since 1999. EMT service and fundraisers must make up the difference. An independent certified public accountant reviews all the expenditures each year and files the necessary financial reports. Every penny is accounted for.

So why are some folks so critical? Rivalry among fire companies in the United States dates back two centuries when fire companies often fought each other while fighting a fire! Truth be told, we all owe a debt of gratitude to every single volunteer fireman and EMT in our townships and boroughs who dedicate so much of themselves. Thank God they are there when we need them.

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