The old adage about not realizing how valuable a fire company is until you really need it rang true a month ago for a family on Avery Station Road in Lemon Township.
The Scott Wilcox family showed up at Sunday’s Triton Hose Company open house in Tunkhannock with a homemade plaque to thank the firefighters for saving their home.
It was the early morning of Sept. 11 when second assistant chief Eric Kukuchka made a preliminary assessment of smoke emanating from a residence with flames showing and within moments a fire truck driven by Fire Chief Randy White along with a crew of first assistant chief Burt Dana, Alan Grow Jr., Chris Ritz Jr., and, John Lee who were joined on scene by Darren Griffin.
The latter guys were the first to enter the scene and risk their lives.
They were soon assisted by back-up companies from Meshoppen, Nicholson and Montrose.
Asked about how frequently someone actually acknowledges a fire company for its efforts, Chief White said “pretty infrequently.”
When told their gesture was a nice thing to do, Mrs. Wilcox said, “It was the least we could do. They saved our home.”
“It’s just what we do,” Chief White said. “We’re there to help.”
NEW TRITON TRUCK
Triton has been fighting fires since the 1870s and expects to be around for awhile.
It is why earlier this year Triton purchased a state-of-the-art fire engine.
While much of the public thinks that firefighters merely fight fires, it is good during National Fire Prevention Week to do a reality check and see what fire companies must do to be ready to do their thing.
Earlier this year Kukuchka, with a minimum of White’s oversight, has been witnessing the birth of a new fire engine - a 2017 Pierce Velocity made to order in Appleton, Wisc.
It was about a 6-month process with a weekly updating of pictures of what the new fire engine was evolving into with state of the art capabilities for dispensing water and/or compressed air foam.
It has a Cummings 550 engine, and is unquestionably the most advanced firetruck in the county.
Triton has another truck - built in 2004 - with caffing capacity to dispense foam but Kukuchka and White agree that technology has moved by leaps and bounds over the past 15 years.
Those changes speak to why firefighters also have to have the latest in training.
Individuals have to go through vigorous training to qualify for varying degrees of competency.
This past summer, for instance, Lake Carey and Springville fire companies joined hands to participate in a 24-hour Hazardous Materials Operations training facilitated by the Pennsylvania Fire Academy instructors through Bucks County Community College.
The training, according to Lake Carey Capt. Leigh Sickler, covered information on containing and confining hazardous materials spills, decon procedures for people exposed to hazardous materials, and personal protective equipment.
Sickler noted the training was a good opportunity for the two fire companies to enhance their skills and knowledge as well as provide an opportunity to work together in practicing the skills learned.
Fire companies also must contend with facilities that need to keep up with the times and training.
It is why the Factoryville Fire Company embarked last year on an ambitious plan to build a new state-of-the-art facility about a half mile away from its current location in the heart of Factoryville Borough.
Factoryville Fire Company President Gerard Welby said Tuesday morning that his unit expects to have the new fire station in service no later than mid-December with an open house for the public next spring.
Northmoreland Fire Chief Charles Story knows all too well that to have a good fire company also means that in addition to the latest equpment, facility and training, absolutely critical is a steady supply of individuals who are ready on a moment’s notice to answer the call.
Unfortunately, he notes, “Volunteerism has decreased dramatically in the past 20 years and the call volume and services have increased dramatically.”
So his company has been pro-active about getting all age levels involved in contributing to the needs of a fire company in this day and age.
Northmoreland has instituted a Junior Firefighter program that consists of two parts. The first being the regular junior firefighter that joins at the age of 14 and continues throughout his or her school years until he or she becomes 18 and becomes a regular member.
“We have had a huge success in our junior firefighters program for many years,” Story said. “We have mentored, trained and led a large number of youths that went on to become doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians, surveyors, and leaders in the community.”
“The newest junior program that we have is the Firefighter Cadet Program,” Story added. “We learned from working with the youth, that capturing their interest at an early age where they can quickly retain information, learn skills and interact with the community, prepares them for our Junior Firefighter Program.”
They are considered Cadets from when they can function on their own and continue to the age of 14.
Story speaks with pride about Cadet James O’Neill, age 9, who speaks at the end of a public service announcement that airs regularly on WNEP-TV, Channel 16.
His simple words are “Come out and Volunteer.”
Story noted that this short statement has such huge meaning, and touches the hearts of many who see it.
The words are not hollow, fire chiefs and firefighters agree.
And our communities are counting on all of us to step forward, Triton Fire Chief White who also serves as Tunkhannock Township supervisor, said.