Firefighters from across Pa. make splash at convention in Penn Hills
The Firemen's Association of the State of Pennsylvania was a hit when it brought its convention to Penn Hills for the first time last week.
“It was great — and bigger than what we expected. I'm really pleased with the turnout,” said Penn Hills Chamber of Commerce President Bernadette Rose, who was also the convention's main organizer.
Rose said around 200 firefighters and other state officials attended the 138th convention's opening ceremony, held at the Comfort Inn on Rodi Road. Around 100 volunteer firefighters booked rooms there and nearly 250 showed up for the parade, she said.
“Everyone was great. The municipality worked with us and helped us with everything. Police helped with everything, too, like road blockages during the parade,” Rose said.
Denny Parco, a North Bessemer Volunteer Fire Department firefighter and co-chairman of the parade committee, said there were 99 units in the Sept. 23 parade. Most of the departments were from the region, but Parco said some were from the Philadelphia area.
Penn Hills Deputy Mayor J-LaVon Kincaid Sr. said the convention's hosts did great work.
“I was very impressed by it. They did an excellent job hosting the statewide convention,” Kincaid said. “They just did a good job with all the activities.”
Overall, it made him appreciate the volunteers' service.
“It's something I am very humbly impressed by. It's immeasurable. You cannot count the cost of what they do,” he said of the firefighters.
Rose said her committee was still determining the dollar amount of donations received during the event. Rich Grove, president of Penn Hills' Thad Stevens Volunteer Fire Department and the chairman of the Firemen's Association, said they received many donations from businesses and elected officials.
Grove has said conventions usually raise $25,000 to $50,000 for volunteer fire departments.
Penn Hills Mayor Sara Kuhn said volunteer fire departments need all the donations they can get. The municipality's five stations are all staffed by volunteers.
“If we had to have a paid fire department, we would have to charge the residents taxes. You wouldn't be able to pay it in any way, shape or form. Just imagine how many firemen you would have to hire to cover all of Penn Hills,” Kuhn said.