Anniversaries traditionally are celebrations of the past, but the 75th Anniversary event of the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company on June 25th was that and more — it was a vision for the future.
The fire company was formed immediately after World War II, as thousands of veterans returned to the United States with a new sense of civic duty and pride. On June 17, 1946, a group of 96 such men — working as farmers, factory workers, and in local commerce — filed to create a new fire company in Clinton Township, Lycoming County.
The newly christened Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company resonated with the local community. A local farmer/businessman, Fred Tebbs, donated five acres for a fire station just outside the borough limits of Montgomery on PA Route 54. Across the road was the Hulsizer Chevrolet Dealership, which showed its enthusiasm for the new fire company by serving as the meeting place for the auxiliary organization that went to work on seeking donations for a new truck. C. L. Hulsizer, the owner, returned the money given to him by the fire company for the original chassis of the first Howe Pumper in December of 1946.
The Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company had to adapt to the dramatic changes in their area over the next three-quarters of a century. From rural farms and family homes, grew a community with major industry, natural gas and petroleum pipelines, sections of major state highways, a municipal golf course, a multi-municipal sewage treatment center, a new natural gas-fired power station supplying electricity for a million residents in Pennsylvania and New York, and more.
The demands of Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company grew from firefighting to water rescue with trained SCUBA divers to certified EMTs for emergency ambulance service, which in recent years has resulted in answering 600+ calls a year for fire rescue and ambulance service.
Continuing their past at the 75th Anniversary Celebration, they officially rechristened their social hall as the Adams-LeGrande Banquet Hall after the first president of the fire association, Charles Adams, and first fire chief, Earl LeGrande. At the same time, they pointed toward their future with the unveiling of a new custom 2021 Sutphen Fire Rescue Pumper Truck.
For the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company, fire apparatus is needed not just for structure fires but also rescue equipment is needed for auto accidents, fighting brush fires, and other such emergencies in a wide variety of coverage areas. This customized truck was specifically designed to provide the maximum utility in rescue equipment — a 900-gallon water tank (no hydrants out in the cornfields), a lot of lighting, and a large hose bed, along with the necessary firefighting and air-pack equipment that is so vital for firefighter safety.
The event was honored with every level of government represented — U.S. Congressman Fred Keller, Pennsylvania State Senator Gene Yaw’s district director Gerald “Arnie” Kriner, Lycoming County Commissioners Scott Metzger, Tony Mussare, and Rick Mirabito, and Clinton Township Supervisors Pat Dietrich and Lanny Wertz. Pennsylvania State Representative Jeff Wheeland had intended to attend but was called to a special Assembly at Harrisburg that day.
The message from all was the importance of volunteer fire companies and the alarming decline in volunteers serving. Todd Winder, Fire Chief for the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company, a second-generation firefighter himself, remarked that in his youth, he remembered 35 volunteers showing up in three minutes of hearing the siren. In contrast, today, it might take ten to fifteen minutes to get enough firefighters to show up to get the truck out.
Pennsylvania has the largest number of volunteer fire companies in the nation, amounting to 12% of all the fire companies in the nation. But these fire companies are already an endangered species, and their extinction would result in huge increases in taxes as emergency services would all have to be paid service providers. It is estimated that volunteer fire companies save $6 billion a year for Pennsylvania state and local governments.
It is not easy being a member of a volunteer fire company. There are hours of required training for even basic tasks such as driving an ambulance or directing traffic. Structural fire training runs into hundreds of hours of training. Besides this, there is fundraising, station maintenance, administrative duties, and more. Any wonder why volunteers are so rare?
That is why all the members of the volunteer fire companies in Lycoming County and our region deserve our deep appreciation and respect. Congressman Keller said it best, “We’re very blessed to have some great community members who answer that call when people are in need.”