A big birthday for Citizens Volunteer Hose Co. of Harrison Township
By George Guido
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Citizens Volunteer Hose Co. of Harrison Township has the motto “100 Years and Still Going Strong.”
After a century of service, it's hard to doubt that moniker.
The fire department and emergency management service celebrated 100 years with a banquet at River Forest Country Club on March 2.
The department was officially chartered on April 7, 1913.
Citizens Hose now has eight modern, well-equipped vehicles in its fleet. That's a far cry from the start when the department had a four-wheel cart with one 50-gallon bucket and a 25-foot hose.
“The bucket reminded one of an old hot water tank,” said Tony McCall. “They'd put soda in the tank with a little bottle of acid to create pressure.”
Many of the fire departments in the area now served by the Highlands School District are called hose companies.
“In the beginning, the departments were mainly hose wagons, and the name remained,” said current Citizens Hose president and EMT supervisor Jim Erb.
McCall said the department got its first motorized fire truck in the 1920's. Firefighters had two wide running boards on the side of the vehicle.
McCall, 97, is the department's longest-tenured member, now in his 77th year of service to the organization.
“Tony was directing traffic as recently as three years ago. He's an amazing guy,” Erb said.
“There were so many brush fires, the township commissioners paid us a dollar for the first hour of service,” McCall said. “You'd have to grab a tag at the fire house before you could get paid. After a while, there were so many brush fires, the commissioners said they couldn't afford it.”
McCall joined the force in time to help with the aftermath of the 1936 St. Patrick's Day flood that damaged much of the Valley's low-lying areas.
“Natrona was completely flooded up to the railroad tracks,” McCall said. “(Funeral director) Rusiewicz shuttled people out of there with his hearse.”
The following year, Citizens Hose started the Allegheny Valley's first ambulance service with the hearse.
These days, members all have in-home radio monitors, beepers and cell phones when they need to be notified of an emergency.
In the old days, a firefighter would alert everyone with a sledgehammer pounded on a knob that would make a ball rise and ring a loud bell at the top of a column, much like the Strongman Game seen at carnivals.
In December 1974, the department's most challenging day occurred. That's when a fire took place in its hall, then located where old Route 28 split in Harrison's Birdville section.
Despite the fire, the company continued with its fire and ambulance service uninterrupted.
Citizens Hose's headquarters is along Burtner Road, site of the former Birdville Elementary School.
In an era where some fire companies have a shortage of members, Citizens has a roster of 39 active members, nine paramedics and 13 emergency medical technicians.
A good way to start the second hundred years.
George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- A-K Valley students offer Franklin Regional ‘strong’ support
- Bronze flower vases stolen from Lower Burrell cemetery
- Leechburg adds 2 part-time police officers
- Burrell school board reviews security plan
- Agreement nears on Springdale police chief’s duties
- Experts: Cold weather requires A-K Valley residents to check gardens
- Peregrine falcons hang around Tarentum Bridge
- Penn Energy Resources to begin Clinton Township bridge repair project
- Stork has arrived at Harmar eagle nest
- Youngest of 3 Hays eaglets eating as parents have provided a lot of food
- Cheswick fire truck to arrive in June