Kirwan Heights Fire Department in need of volunteers
Rescue captain Mike Quinlan was 14 when he first volunteered to be a firefighter.
Nineteen years later, he still spends hours each week training and donating his time to the Kirwan Heights Fire Department. Quinlan, 33, recalled his journey on Aug. 4, while overseeing his fellow firefighters during a night of rope-rescue training at an abandoned house near the Interstate 79 interchange on Washington Pike.
“A couple of friends were firefighters and I started hanging out there and thought, ‘This is cool.' And I've been there ever since.”
But members say the number of volunteers are dwindling, and they could use some help.
“Volunteers are hard to come by. It's harder nowadays because a lot of people work two jobs and it's just hard to find volunteers. We operate completely on volunteers. Everyone's in the same struggle we are,” Deputy Chief Earle Allender said.
Fire Chief Troy Riddle, 26, said his department has lost eight members over the past few years due to members' school schedules, or people moving out of the area.
Kirwan Heights' fire department has 18 members, 12 of whom are active. They train for up to three hours each Monday night, performing tasks such as vehicle rescue and operations.
Riddle said there's more to the fire department than meets the eye.
“There's tons of training you have to go through. That's the biggest thing. But the fire department isn't just about firefighting, it's across the board.”
He'd be happy to have volunteers who dedicate time solely to fundraising.
“Absolutely, that's the biggest thing. Being here and being helpful,” Riddle said.
Riddle, of Scott, was named chief on Jan. 1 and joined the department when he was 14. He works as a dispatcher for Allegheny County 911.
“A couple of my friends were in it and I started with them and took it from there. When I came here 12 years ago, they were in the remodeling phase. I helped them with that, ran calls, took a bunch of classes here and learned from a lot of older guys here.”
Allender, 30, said the junior firefighting program accepts volunteers as young as 14 and perform tasks, such as retrieving items from a truck.
“The idea of the junior program is to try to get them in when they're young and interested in it. Maybe it sparks something so when they do turn 16, they can go to the state fire academy to become a firefighter,” he said.
Members cannot face live fire situations until they are at least 18 years old.
During the night's training exercises, firefighters set up a pulley system consisting of ropes connected to rescue vehicles so they could practice walking down the side of the house, which was donated to the department two months ago, and perform “raise and haul” exercises.
Quinlan said the training simulates raising or lowering someone in need of help, such as a window washer who is stuck on the side of a building.
“It's the life of a volunteer. Donate your time. Not a lot of people want to do it anymore, either. There's a lot of work and a lot of training.”
Despite the long hours, Riddle is always aware of his mission.
“It's great to help people. Sometimes it gets overwhelming, but we're all here to do one thing, that's to help the public. Be here for the public and the township as much as we can.”
Dave Mayernik Jr. is a staff 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.