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Parade marks end of Allegheny County volunteer firefighters' gathering

| Sunday, June 15, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Tina Bullerdick got more than she bargained for when she saw a parade as a good way to get her mom out of the house for a little while on Saturday.

A lot more.

“It's amazing, totally amazing,” Bullerdick said as she watched scores of fire trucks parade down Allegheny River Boulevard in Oakmont. “I'm blown away.”

The roughly 90-minute parade marked the end of the 100th annual convention of the Allegheny County Volunteer Firefighter's Association, held last week in Oakmont. The association exists to support, represent, educate and unite the county's firefighters. Its first meeting was held in Carrick in 1914.

Departments from throughout Allegheny County, and a few from neighboring counties, sent a variety of vehicles to participate in the judged parade. The sounding of the borough's fire siren marked its start.

Trucks of all shapes, sizes and makes took part. And, while one spectator commended Plum for having purple on their truck, one color in particular was, naturally, dominant.

“I'm really impressed. I didn't think there'd be this many trucks from this many places,” said Ken Michel of Verona. “It's a beautiful day. I just enjoy a parade just like every other American.”

The convention began Sunday with a memorial service at Oakmont Presbyterian Church.

A “Battle of the Barrel” competition, in which firefighters use hoses to push a hanging barrel to the opposing side, was held on Monday and Tuesday. Firefighters from Heidelberg won the contest, with Etna placing second and Rural Ridge third, said Ray Rogers Jr., an Oakmont firefighter and convention coordinator.

Friday night featured the naming of Oakmont fire department President Craig Olson as the 2014 firefighter of the year.

Olson, 42, has been a firefighter for 21 years, and president of the department for 14. He is active in fire prevention programs and was commended for devoting his time and efforts to his community.

Olson's interest in being a firefighter started at a young age.

Olson grew up about a half-block away from the fire station. Once, when he was a child, after hearing the fire whistle go off, he ran down the street in his underwear to see the fire trucks pull out.

“I just liked the fire trucks,” Olson said.

Being named firefighter of the year was a surprise Olson said his fellow firefighters did a good job hiding from him.

“To be able to be here is a privilege,” he said. “You get two families. You get your family at home, and you get your family here. They're there for you in up times and in down times.”

During the parade, Laurie Stephens, owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, sent a picture of “fire engines as far as the eye can see” to her son in Los Angeles. Her shop window was full of books featuring fire trucks.

“It is fabulous. I'm all for flashing, blinking lights. They do it for me,” Stephens said.

Bullerdick said she was fascinated by the parade. Her mother, Yvonne DeLany, moved to the area about a year and a half ago from Colorado.

DeLany was enjoying the parade, even though she wasn't familiar with all the towns from which the trucks hailed.

“I've never seen so many fire trucks in my life,” she said. “I don't think Denver has this many.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or

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