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Oakmont to host Allegheny Co. volunteer firefighters convention

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 1:26 a.m.

If a fire breaks out in Oakmont any night next week, there should be plenty of manpower to fight it.

The borough will welcome firefighters from around Allegheny County as host of the 100th Allegheny County Volunteer Firefighters Association convention all week.

It starts Sunday afternoon and runs through next Saturday, except for an off day Thursday.

Ray Rogers Jr., who is Oakmont Volunteer Fire Department's convention coordinator, said the county convention is not like the Western Pennsylvania Volunteer Firefighters Association convention or the state firefighters convention.

Those conventions include campsites — tent cities where firefighters who come from long distances can stay throughout the week.

But Rogers noted that this event is more low key, involving only fire companies from within the county. Since all are within relatively easy driving distance, there's no need for a campsite and the activities are scheduled only for the evenings, starting between 5 and 6 p.m.

Still, there are activities scheduled that are traditional to the fire service, including a three-day “Battle of the Barrel” and a big parade featuring fire units from inside and outside Allegheny County, he said.

All of which will be bringing visitors to the borough.

“There could be a couple thousand people just coming out for the parade on Saturday,” Rogers said.

A dance and fireworks display is planned after the parade next Saturday.

“It's probably going to be one of the biggest fireworks displays we've ever had in Oakmont,” he said.

The convention will begin Sunday at 5 p.m. with a memorial service for fallen firefighters at the Oakmont Presbyterian Church.

The Battle of the Barrel will take place Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off of Third Street at the parking lot at Riverside Park. It's a double elimination event.

It's sort of a tug of war in reverse, where each team mans a fire hose and, using the blasting torrent of water, tries to push a barrel dangling from a cable overhead, toward the other team's side. The other team is trying to do the same.

“There's 10 teams, five guys on a team, and they usually bring in their families and friends, so we should have about 100 (visitors) a night for the Battle of the Barrel,” Rogers said.

There won't be any convention activity Thursday night.

The association will conduct a business meeting Friday at Oakmont's fire hall. Officers will be elected and a number of awards will be presented, including Firefighter of the Year.

Next Saturday's parade will restrict traffic

Saturday will be the biggest day for of the convention for activities, he said.

The parade will pass along Allegheny River Boulevard from California Avenue, just beyond the Oaks Theater, to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Although the parade will begin at 5 p.m., participating units will start lining up at 2 p.m.

The parade is expected to last two hours, according to Summer Tissue, Oakmont Chamber of Commerce director, who is helping to coordinate it.

Vehicle access to the business district from California Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue will be closed at 4:30 p.m. for the event.“We never really know what the lineup is going to be until the day of, or the day before, the parade,” Tissue said. “The parade is even a surprise to us because we don't know who is going to be there.”

Rogers estimated that at least 30 fire departments from within Allegheny County will participate. But others from outside the county will be there, too, such as the New Kensington Volunteer Fire Department which is bringing its band along with fire apparatus. Arnold's will be there, too.

Tissue said about 10 to 15 local businesses such as Home Instead, Presbyterian Senior Care and Schultheis Brothers, are building floats for the parade. The Riverview High School Marching Band will lead the parade and there could be other musical units, depending on the weather she said. Also the Kennywood trolley will participate along with several mascots such as “Chip-Chip,” the big squirrel representing Oakmont.

There will be a dance at the fire hall, located at Fifth Street and Virginia Avenue, with a DJ and a food vendor.

About the fireworks

The night will be topped off with the 20-minute fireworks display launched from Riverside Park. Rogers said the company staging the event, Starfire of Carrolltown, told him about 450 six-inch shells will be shot off.Tissue recommends that visitors coming for the parade should try to park along Allegheny Avenue, which runs parallel to Allegheny River Boulevard below the railroad tracks.

“Motorists just have to be alert to the traffic signs and changing traffic patterns,” she said.

As for the costs of the convention, Rogers said the fire department is covering them.

“Most of the money we use is from the program book that we sold ads for,” Rogers said.

Oakmont's firefighters are selling a raffle ticket for a round of golf at Oakmont Country Club for $10 apiece. There are 1,000 being sold and as of Friday, there were about 100 left.

In addition, he said there were a number of corporate donors such as 1-800-Board-Up, a fire restoration service; Three Rivers Fire Equipment; Avon Protection, which sells breathing apparatus; and the Provident Agency of O'Hara, which sells insurance for firefighters.

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