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Midway St. Clair's fire truck returns for anniversary

| Thursday, July 3, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
Austin Bachand | Tribune-Review
Firefighter Jeromy Pegg and Capt. Shad Elder share a laugh while they inspect a restored 1954 FWD fire truck at Midway St. Clair Volunteer Fire Department’s 70th anniversary celebration. The truck was the first new vehicle the department purchased.
Austin Bachand | Tribune-Review
Firefighter Jeromy Pegg and junior Firefighter Paige Ohler check out the all-original interior of the truck.

Midway St. Clair Volunteer Fire Department celebrated its 70th anniversary with the return of an old friend.

On hand for the festivities was the first new fire truck the department purchased — a 1954 FWD lovingly restored by Bob Galambas of Canonsburg.

Galambas, a fellow fireman, agreed to bring back the truck when the Hempfield No. 5 department held an anniversary banquet Saturday at Water Works in South Greensburg.

Galambas researched the history of the truck and found it had been owned by two fire departments, Midway St. Clair and North Strabane.

“That's basically where he found the truck — out in a field in Eighty Four,” said Capt. Shad Elder of Midway St. Clair. “He actually asked us if we'd be interested in purchasing it off of him. It would be neat to have but, realistically, it doesn't make sense.”

The department's fleet now includes a 2005 Freightliner engine, a 1995 Freightliner rescue truck and a 2013 Ford F-350 service truck.

Its roster of 17 volunteers covers a wide territory — from Armbrust to near New Stanton by the former Sony plant, Swede Hill, Fosterville Road and Route 119 — along with assists to other departments.

Perhaps the most significant fire in its history, Elder said, was a 1982 fire that hit the department itself at 1966 Broadway Ave.

Destroyed in the fire were two pumpers and a rescue truck. Chief Tom Barbour unsuccessfully tried to save the burning rescue truck by driving it out of the building, according to news accounts.

The smoke alarm in the building went off at 4:10 a.m. on June 21, 1982, awakening one volunteer at the station who fled the flames, but who suffered smoke inhalation.

The department was able to rebuild. It receives financial support from Hempfield Township supervisors but members still have to raise funds.

They do so through an active social club (with a lively Facebook page that shows great appreciation for Fridays and great cocktail recipes), Lenten fish fries, ticket sales and an annual solicitation.

The department, under Chief Richard Kepple for four years, can always use a few more volunteers, according to Elder.

His wife, Rebecca Elder, planned the anniversary celebration. His grandfather, Alfred Elder, was one of nine founding members. Shad Elder is a third-generation member of the department, where his father, Dave Elder, uncles and cousins are also life members.

“The whole family grew up on the hill so they all trickled down the hill at one time or another,” Elder joked.