SUSQUEHANNA FIRE DEPARTMENT
HISTORY
by Charles W. Glidden - January 2005
The Susquehanna Fire Department, Inc. was formed on August 31, 1978, the result of the merger of
Susquehanna's two volunteer fire companies, the Erie Hose Co. #1 chartered on April 14, 1888 and the
Susquehanna Chemical Engine Co. #1 chartered on May 8, 1911.  The merger was the dream of a
dedicated group of firemen who were willing to put aside years of tradition, competition, and even
prejudices to try for a more economic and more efficient solution to the Fire and Rescue services for the
Tri-Boro area.

The results, some 26 years later are very impressive.  The evidence is in the performance and equipment
of the new modern fire and rescue service that is second to none in the surrounding Susquehanna and
Broome Counties area.  The Fire Company is built on a rock solid financial foundation that will carry it
well into the new century.  This history is dedicated to all the members of the two founding companies,
both past and present, as they are the fuel that keeps your volunteer fire company on the go.

A number of challenges faced the merged company members: satisfactory and up-to-date by-laws,
decisions on what equipment to keep, what to do with the current buildings, a new building, establish an
officer structure to advance the needs of the new company, the color scheme for apparatus, and most
importantly keep the Company on sound financial footing.  The job was not easy, but looking back 26
years you can see some excellent decisions were made by the initial members and followed by newer
people who literally stepped into their boots.  Woven into and through the 26 years are an excellent core
of younger members from the original companies who made sure the dream stayed alive.  A closer look at
their work will provide you with a History of the Susquehanna Fire Department Inc.

The new company inherited two buildings; the Erie Hose building was centrally located on West Main
Street.  It was a nice modern building but lacked the size to hold the projected apparatus for the new
company and no room for expansion.  Parking was very limited.  The Chemical building on Erie Ave. was
a true truck garage built in three sections with cramped room for the apparatus, some parking, again no
room for expansion, and no room for meetings, offices, or social activities.  For a time the firemen tried
working out of the two buildings but it soon became evident that it was not working.  It was decided to
stuff everything into the Erie Ave building and put the Main Street building on the market and find a
location for a new station.  The Main Street building was sold and taken over by a small local industry
putting it back on the tax rolls and it is still operating today.  The money from the sale was put into an
interest bearing building account to be used toward a new building.  The sale of the building at less than
expected market value provided another benefit to the Fire Company in the reduction of costs from
maintaining it.  The community gained by having it back on the tax rolls and providing employment.

The second event had an even greater impact on the future building plans.  Penelec, a regional electric
company agreed to lease the Erie Ave. building for the term of ten years.  This lease guaranteed the Fire
Company payments for their planned new building and the members began an urgent search for a suitable
location to build their new home.  The Borough of Susquehanna had taken over the old railroad location
shop properties and construction of a shopping plaza was underway.  At the Western end of the property
the Susquehanna Fire Department purchased a suitable lot for $6000 and the planned for a new building
began in earnest.  One of the secrets for success emerged with this project as an affordable budget was
developed for the new construction based on current funds and affordable financing for the balance.  A 65'
x 120' frame building was designed with the majority of the space used for a four bay, three bay to be two
unit deep and one single bay apparatus room, also a wide bay for two ambulances an office, meeting room,
storage, work room, large kitchen, and rest rooms.  One of the truck bays included a rear overhead door
for drive through capabilities.  The budged price was $150,000.  Construction of the new building was
completed at the budget price using all local contractors; some were actually members of the fire
company.  The contractors involved were Doug Heesh, Robert Treible Excavating, Holleran Plumbing
and Heating, DEL Electric, and Harry Aldrich Concrete.  A building committee chaired by then President
Richard Hennessey oversaw the work and even provided volunteer labor to keep the costs within the
budget.

The new building was dedicated with an open house on Sunday August 31, 1983 exactly 5 years to the day
of the effective date of the merger, earlier that morning the fire company responded to a house fire at the
Clarence and Enid Thomas farm, near Stevens Point in Harmony Township, the dwelling was saved.

The building story continues as the original exterior construction was done with texture 111 siding, which
the committee knew was not a long-term solution.  In 1993-94 a long time fire company member came up
with the design of continuing the brick front around the ends, topped by vertical vinyl siding, the end
peaks included a dark brown beam design, which framed a beautiful replica of the fire company patch.  
Once again a local contractor, Joseph Frye construction assisted in brining this project in at the budgeted
price of $8000.  While redoing the exterior it was decided to spruce up the inside, young members of the
fire company were contracted to paint the interior of the apparatus room.  The wall separating the
ambulance and fire truck bays was removed and a curved windowed radio room was added to the back of
the area between the ambulance and truck bays.  Shortly after completion of the remodeling project, a
serious problem developed with the roofing materials starting to deteriorate.  The manufacturer made
good on the warranty, and a group of local contractors provided the labor to install a new roof before
winter weather set in.  A fire company committee negotiating a 5-year extension of the Penelec lease on
the Erie Ave. building made ALL the building improvements possible.

A much stiffer challenge faced the members in putting together a plan for what to do with the merged
companies rolling stock.  What units to keep and what units to sell and probably the most difficult of all,
what color should be the color scheme turned out to be the easiest of all the merger decisions with
members settling on the white over red adopted originally by the Chemical Engine Co.  What to keep was
a more formidable task, as soon as the merger was approved; the 1961 Ford John Bean pumper from the
Chemicals was sold to Sanitaria Springs Fire Department in New York State.  This left the new pumper,
the 1972 Ward LaFrance 1000 gpm pumper, a 1976 Dodge Reading Body rescue with a front mount
pump, a 1964 International 3200 gallon tanker, a 1957 International 6x6 military style 3000 gallon tanker,
a 1954 military 4x4 brush truck, and two BLS ambulances, also a 1955 GMC American LaFrance rescue.  
The decisions were made to keep the two Ford John Beans as they were more adaptive to use in the rural
areas.  Sell the 1972 Ward, which had a premature rusting condition, and it was sold to a dealer in
Factoryville PA.  Sell the 1964 International tanker as it was too large for our rural roads; it was sold to
the Uniondale Fire Company in Susquehanna County.  Retain the military style tanker and plan to replace
it with a new unit.  Sell the 1976 Dodge Rescue and retain the larger 55 GMC / American LaFrance and
purchase a new chassis.  The 1976 unit was sold to the Forestburg Fire Company near Monticello, NY.  
All the sale proceeds were put in an apparatus fund to be used toward replacements.  A new 1982 Ford
chassis was purchased from a local dealer for the Rescue and General Tank near Berwick PA.  Switched
the Rescue body to the new chassis.  The old GMC chassis was sold to a local farmer.

A new truck committee began the fun project of preparing specifications for a new pumper-tanker. The
group headed by then member Jerry Fives, came up with a 1600 gallon tanker with a 1000gpm front
mount pump, with a diesel powered International chassis.  Saulsbury Fire Apparatus from Tully NY built
this unit, for the budgeted price of $85,000.  The first all new fire truck for the then 5-year-old company
wad delivered in the summer of 1983.  The new truck was dedicated on July 7th, 1984 in the memory of
the fire company's long time dispatcher, Donald Robinson.  The 1957 International tanker was sold to the
Forest Lake Volunteer Fire Department in Susquehanna County.  The next project was to refurbish the
1968 Ford John Bean Pumper and add a high-pressure pump and reels; General Tank Co, near Berwick,
PA, completed the work.  This project was completed in the summer of 1985.  The fire company then
began to investigate ways to upgrade the 1969 Ford John Bean. Because of its small pump size it was
decided to look for a suitable used replacement.  The project received a boost in the summer of 1990
when members learned of a used 1972 Ward LaFrance being available at the Miller Place Fire Co. in
Long Island, NY.  The truck was a heavy duty chassis with a large diesel motor, automatic transmission
and 1500 gpm pump, the fire body and tank suffered the same fate as the former Ward previously owned
by Susquehanna but the chassis and pump combination along with the $10,000 price tag made it a viable
project.  Edward Jenkinson, a former Chief at Miller Place who had moved to the Susquehanna area and
became a valuable member for the Susquehanna Fire Department, had originally designed the truck.  
Ed's untimely death prevented him from seeing his truck go back in service and in an ironic twist of fate
the Susquehanna Firemen attended his funeral on Long Island and drove the truck home the next day.  
The truck was sent to Hale Pump in Conshahocken, PA and the pump was redone as well as the engine
and drive train serviced.  The truck was then taken to Sullivan Brothers Fire Apparatus in Horseheads,
NY and given completely new body and tanks built by Emergency One in Ocala FL.  was installed.  The
body was constructed of aluminum and the tank of poly material and the Fire Company had nearly new
custom pumper with a 1000-gallon tank and 1500gpm pump capacity for a total cost of $100,000, with an
estimated replacement value of $210,000.  This unit became the first due engine and the 1969 Ford John
Bean was sold to the Tri-Boro Municipal Authority.  This newly built truck became Engine 1 and was
dedicated to the memory of Ed Jenkinson.

The next project was to replace the 1954 brush truck, this project was moved to the front burner when
Oakland Boro donated a used 1981 Ford 4x4 pick up.  Fire company members worked through the winter
months of 1993 transforming the truck into a brush fire fighting vehicle.  Installed were a new flat style
body, a powered reel, which had been removed from the 1972, Ward when it was rebuilt, a plastic tank,
storage compartments from Indian tanks, hose and a chain saw.  Emergency lights and siren were
attached.  Installed also were a 500gpm pump that had been previously used as a portable carried on one
of the fire company pumpers.  The truck was repainted and lettered with the total project cost of $6,000,
less than 25% of the cost of a new unit.

The next major project was to improve the Rescue Truck.  The decision was made to retain the 1982 Ford
Chassis and replace the body.  A completely new aluminum body was built by Renegade Fire Apparatus
of Moscow, PA and installed for a total cost of $75,000.  This truck went back in service in early 1995.  As
the Rescue Truck project was nearing completion, it was determined that now Engine 2 the 1982
International Pumper-Tanker would need some work to insure the truck would last another 10 ears when
the planned replacement would take place.  Sullivan Brothers of Horseheads NY at the cost of $11,000
completed body repairs, compartment improvements and a pump rebuild.

The spring of 1995 brought together a new truck committee to plan for a new pumper to replace the aging
1968 Ford John Bean.  The need for a new truck was becoming necessity because of regulations requiring
firefighters to ride in enclosed seating positions, and increased maintenance costs on the old pumper.  The
committee took in various fire equipment shows, visited other fire companies and had various make and
model demo units brought into the community to see how they would perform on our streets, etc.  The
committee settled on a custom 6-man cab with 1000-gallon tank, 1500 gpm pump.  The custom chassis
became a necessity to reduce the overall truck length when compared to a commercial 4-door vehicle.  
The truck was ordered in December 1996, from Emergency One through their dealer, Sullivan Brothers in
Horseheads NY.  This new unit would be the third Susquehanna Fire truck that Sullivan Brothers were
involved with.  The new truck was delivered in the spring of 1997 and after an intensive training program
was placed into service.  The total cost of the new unit was $188,700 and was paid for with funds
accumulated in the fire company's apparatus fund and at 2% state loan.  The 1968 Ford was sold to a new
fire company in Argyl, South Dakota.  The fire apparatus story remained stable for a period of 6 years
and then the fire company began planning for the replacement of the 1982 International Pumper-Tanker.  
A truck committee was formed and armed with a budget amount, some basic guidelines began the process
of attending shows, visiting fire companies and talking to manufactures sales reps. Their work began in
the spring of 2003 and culminated with receiving 5 bids, after numerous bid review meetings and
negotiations with sales reps, the fire company settled on Crimson Fire Apparatus, built in Brandon, South
Dakota, through their dealer in Dickson City, PA.  The new truck will again be a custom chassis with an
1800-gallon tank and 2000 gpm pump.  The enclosed cab will hold 6 firefighters and is a completely
self-contained firefighter, and for the first time in Susquehanna's history the body is built of stainless
steel.  The new unit including some equipment, cost $250,000 and again the fire company was able to pay
for the new truck with funds accumulated in their apparatus fund plus a 2% state loan.  The truck was
ordered in December of 2003 and after an appearance at the Lancaster County Firemen's Expo in
Harrisburg PA, as part of the Crimson display, was delivered to the Susquehanna Fire Department in
June 2004.  The brand new pumper-tanker was dedicated to another dispatcher, Rose Swanson.  All fire
company apparatus operators were put through an intensive training program to re-certify on all fire
company apparatus including the new Engine 2.  The old Engine 2 was sold to the Weippe Fire
Department in Idaho.  All of the apparatus projects were helped along financially by the leasing of the old
Chemical Engine Co. building on Erie Ave.  the lease was continued by Penelec from August 1983 to
August 2003 and when they decided not to renew, the property was leased to a fire company member to
start up his new business as an auto repair garage.  The Susquehanna Fire Department through the
careful use of funds, budgeting for annual expenses as well as all major projects is very well prepared for
the future.