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Lack of volunteers, rising costs prompt merger of Stockdale, Allenport fire companies

| Saturday, June 22, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
John Columbia looks at a fire hat alongside his volunteer firefighter son, John Columbia of Brownsville, at the open house of newly formed Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department.
HEATHER HART I FOR TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
John Columbia looks at a fire hat alongside his volunteer firefighter son, John Columbia of Brownsville, at the open house of newly formed Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department.
Nolan Mosco, 5, of Charleroi has fun operating the siren, lights and horn of a fire truck at the newly formed Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department open house.
HEATHER HART I FOR TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Nolan Mosco, 5, of Charleroi has fun operating the siren, lights and horn of a fire truck at the newly formed Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department open house.

The new patch being worn by the community's firefighters reads Stockdale across the top, but the names of Stockdale and Allenport adorn the sign.

The logo is a sign of the newly formed Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, formed with the merger of that community's company with the Allenport fire department.

Earlier this month, the Stockdale fire department held an open house to mark the merger, which took effect in April.

Stockdale Fire Chief Tom Wilkinson said mergers of smaller fire companies are a necessary and being supported by the state.

Wilkinson said volunteer membership in fire departments is dwindling and the cost of operating the fire companies is rising.

“With bingos dying off, people don't have the money to keep things up,” Wilkinson said.

About one third of Stockdale's roughly 60 members are 30 years of age or under.

“We have a unique situation,” Wilkinson said. “A lot of places aren't getting young people. A lot of people don't want be involved because of amount of time and training it takes.”

Wilkinson said the state, through its Department of Community Economic Development, supports such mergers. He said a state grant was approved to pay for legal costs associated with the merger, which had to receive court approval since both departments were incorporated.

Allenport borough council approached Stockdale fire department leaders about a merger in late 2011. At the time Allenport's membership was dwindling.

The state Department of Community Affairs aided in the merger, said Wilkinson, adding the state encourages such efforts.

The merger will financially benefit the firefighters. For the next five years, Stockdale will receive $23,000 in benefits, the combined state aid the two departments had been receiving.

The Allenport department was down to a half dozen members when the merger occurred, Wilkinson said. Two of those members have already joined Stockdale.

Merger is nothing new to Stockdale.

Charleroi, Fallowfield Township and Lock 4 in North Charleroi serve different communities, but they now consider the departments together as the Charleroi Fire District. Stockdale is also part of the district. Bentleyville's Rapid Intervention Team runs all structure fire assignments with the fire district.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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