Landslides put Baldwin firefighters in financial peril
Baldwin Borough volunteer firefighters had big hopes during winter, planning to replace a century-old station on Churchview Avenue with a modern garage, training space and a luxury they've not had: in-house showers.
Then, their hillside gave way.
The landslides that began on Jan. 14 behind Baldwin Independent Fire Company No. 1 have postponed any chance for a fire hall as the volunteers struggle to pay for cleanup and stabilization that could cost more than $300,000 — a dramatic hit to their annual budget of about $125,000.
Standard insurance coverage won't pay for the work, which could jeopardize budgets for firefighter safety gear.
“It could put us under,” said fire Chief Kevin Kenny, 42, of Baldwin.
Firefighters are seeking help from state lawmakers. Borough officials gave the company its full annual allocation — about $75,000 — earlier than usual.
That money went toward initial debris-clearing and stabilizing work when the wooded hill crumbled during a mid-winter warm spell.
Firefighters usually would have put that money toward payments on an $800,000 fire engine they bought in 2006. About $300,000 in debt remains on the rig, which helps the company protect 4,000 homes in its primary territory.
“We've been trying to lend what support we can,” borough manager John Barrett said. He said the landslide debris went to the borough's landfill, and the borough will try to help the fire company find financial assistance.
“We just don't have a surplus on hand to help with a project that, at the end of the day, is still on private property,” Barrett said.
State support could be meager, too.
“I'm hopeful. Optimistic? I'm not sure about that,” said Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick. A tight state budget doesn't leave “extra funding laying around anymore,” he said.
The financial uncertainty forced firefighters to put on hold an estimated $280,000 in work to secure the steep hill long term. About 4,000 square feet of hillside tumbled toward neighboring St. Josaphat Cemetery during slides early this year, said Bill Gregor, a project manager for Advanced Builders Inc.
Firefighters estimated the ground dropped at least 25 feet as cascading Earth toppled trees and threatened headstones.
“They've got a water problem. That, coupled with the fact that (the soil) wasn't placed properly, that's what caused the problem,” Gregor said. He said the hillside contained “loose fill” and once was a dump for old pipes, concrete and other debris.
Advanced Builders hauled more than 3,000 cubic yards of material from the site. Gregor said about 14,000 more needs to be removed, re-situated and compacted to prevent ground-shifting.
Firefighters said the hill did not slide in the past. The Baldwin station has occupied the property since 1929. It has received support from local donations, the borough, the state and rent from adjacent private tenants.
Fire company leaders might organize a community fundraiser, though they'd prefer not to ask residents to pay, they said. They're accepting offers of help — including ideas — at 412-882-2510.
“We'll pull through it, one way or another,” said Assistant Chief William Connors, 30, of Baldwin. “But it's going to be a long haul.”
Adam Smeltz is a Trib Total Media staff writer.
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.
- Court attire can have impact, Allegheny, Westmoreland public defenders say
- Tiny black weevils booming in W.Pa.
- Man fatally shot in East Liberty; police investigating 2nd shooting
- Closures planned for Parkway West
- Homewood woman accused of card game stabbing
- Newsmaker: Katherine A. Davoli
- Higher school taxes prevail in Western Pennsylvania, Trib finds
- Fireworks displays costly, but W. Pa. communities feel obligated
- Human-waste fertilizer aids farmers, worries some Ohio residents
- State trooper released after Ohio Township crash
- Pitt researchers using grant to find cures for viruses from mosquitoes