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Smithton VFD to celebrate 100 years

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Joe Napsha | The Times-Sun
Former Smithton fire chief Charles “Bud” Seglowich, stands in front of Smithton's forest fire truck, a 1967 Kaiser. Smithton Fire Department will celebrate its 100th anniversary on July 13.

The Smithton Volunteer Fire Department is bringing back some of the good old days on July 13 when it holds a street fair in the borough and a parade to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the fire department.

The street fair, featuring food booths and games, will be held on First Street, from 2 to 11 p.m., just like the street fairs of the '80s and '90s, said Marty Ponebshek of Sewickley Township, a captain in the fire department and member of the executive board.

A large parade will start at 7 p.m. at the intersection of Center and Fourth streets then follow a route down to Peer Street in the center of town. It is expected to have about 25 fire trucks and floats and marching units.

The parade will be followed by fireworks shot from the Smithton Ball Field at 10 p.m.

The fire department used to have a week-long street fair and carnival filled with events and amusement rides, but that required a lot of manpower – some 40 people a night to make it work, said Charles “Bud” Seglowich, who served as Smithton's fire chief from 1980 to 1993 and has been a Smithton firefighter for 44 years.

The centennial celebration is in recognition of a fire department that was founded in 1913 by several businessmen in the community, who bought a hose wagon and chemical cart that was pulled, not by a horse, but by the volunteer firemen as they rushed to a fire, Seglowich said. The wagon was stored in a garage in town, which essentially was Smithton's first fire hall.

The fire department does not have records before 1927, when it was chartered by the state, Seglowich said. The first fire chief was Robert Smith and the department has had eight chiefs since 1927, Seglowich said.

“Once you get to be chief, you got it till you don't want it anymore,” Seglowich said.

The fire company was able to buy a 1927 American LaFrance fire truck for the small community. It had a fire station by the American Legion Park in town and then bought a two-bay block building in 1954 for its fire hall, Seglowich said. It moved into its current building along First Street in 1987, he said.

The fire company has six trucks and a boat it uses for rescues on the Youghiogheny River, Seglowich said.

Smithton also has a forest fire truck and has responded to forest fires in Perry Township, South Huntingdon and the Idlewild Park area in Ligonier Township, said Seglowich who retired in 2010 after more than 20 years as forest fire warden for the state Bureau of Forestry.

Smithton has been able to maintain a fire department, despite the small size of the town – a population estimated at about 440. The borough does not provide the fire department with any tax money, so it has to rely on donations and fund-raisers, Seglowich said.

Other than some state and federal grants, “we're self-sufficient,” Ponebshek said.

The fire department's fish fry events during Lent are a big help in generating much-needed money, as well as a winter car wash, Seglowich said. The department receives financial support from Motordrome Speedway in South Huntingdon for manning the parking area, Seglowich said.

While most of the department's 30 active firefighters are from outside Smithton, there usually are three-to-four firefighters available for duty to respond to daytime calls, Seglowich said.

“We're just lucky we still have guys who can do it. We always manage to send out a truck,” said Seglowich, who still answers about 25 calls a year.

The future looks promising for the fire department, Seglowich said.

“We have a lot of young guys who are interested in going to fire school,” Seglowich said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-836-5252 .