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Manor mayor, councilman leave fire department

| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Aaron Loughner | For The Penn Tr
Fire Captain Brian Woy looks over the breathing equipment currently used by the Manor firefighters. The Manor Volunteer Fire Department will replace the 15-year-old equipment with a federal grant that recently was announced.

Manor Mayor Jeremy Dixon and Councilman Brian Woy insist there is no smokescreen hiding deeper reasons for why they quit the Manor Volunteer Fire Department for the company in neighboring Westmoreland City.

Dixon and Woy have been responding to calls for three months with the North Huntingdon company, which is based in a station just outside of Manor. Its fire hall is about half a mile from the Manor station.

Dixon, a former president of the Manor fire department who has 20 years of service with it, serves as Manor's emergency-management coordinator. Woy, who had been a captain with the department, is the deputy emergency-management coordinator.

Both said no ill will is behind their departures, and both said they think leaving the Manor department means they will be able to concentrate more on the borough's needs during an emergency instead of feeling conflicted about whether they should be heading out on a ladder truck for Manor.

Dixon, whose wife remains an auxiliary member of the Manor department, said he thinks his elected role as mayor and appointed role as emergency-management coordinator are more significant than serving as a Manor firefighter.

“It just doesn't make sense, to me, for how I can best serve the community,” Dixon, who took office in January, said of wearing three hats in Manor during emergencies.

Woy said the Westmoreland City department, which responds to about twice as many emergency calls as Manor does, provides an opportunity to continue learning.

Though Manor fire Chief Jeff Shoaf conceded that losing two experienced firefighters is a blow to the department, he said he understands their reasons.

“We have no qualms with either of them,” Shoaf said.

Because Westmoreland City's station is so close to Manor, and manpower is an issue for all volunteer departments, Westmoreland City firefighters end up helping out for the main calls in Manor, anyway, Woy said.

“I'm still helping out and doing what I can for Manor Borough, but I'm also helping out in North Huntingdon and Hempfield Township,” said Woy, who was named the Manor department's 2012 Firefighter of the Year.

Being with Westmoreland City also eliminates any potential conflict of interest that Woy, the Manor Council vice president, might have regarding the fire department, which receives some funding from the borough. He previously received an advisory opinion from the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission stating he could vote on department-related matters because he was not a member of the company's executive board.

“Not being associated with (the department) anymore, that takes that perception (of a conflict) that might be there away,” Woy said.

An Allegheny County consultant for ambulance services and fire companies — who also is an elected official and first-responder — said it can be difficult for some people to serve in multiple roles in a community.

J.R. Henry is the mayor of West View in the North Hills, but in his day job, he's the executive director of the Valley Ambulance Authority, which serves 16 communities in Pittsburgh's western suburbs.

In some communities, it's hard to find enough people willing to serve in public office, let alone risk their safety to be in emergency services, Henry said.

“I, personally, could understand that there could be times where there could be some divided loyalties, like wanting to go out on a ladder truck, but serving in a leadership role takes precedence,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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