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Morrell VFD celebrating 85 years

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 6:57 p.m.
Morrell Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year with community events, including its fourth annual car show on July 6. From left are Morrell junior firefighters Jr. Chief Mitch Breakiron, Jr. Assistant Chief Neil Butler and Jr. Capt. Alex Prince.

The Morrell Volunteer Fire Department is celebrating 85 years in the community with a bright future and upcoming events.

The fire department reportedly was created because of bad roads and slow equipment aiding in the destruction of a house in Morrell by fire. The residents of Morrell realized they needed a fire service located closer to them.

In February 1928, Morrell VFD was organized and officers were elected; they adopted South Connellsville Fire Department's bylaws and made them into Morrell's governing laws.

Through some problems and some struggles, by the end of its first year, Morrell VFD was canvassing residents for donations, holding raffles, holding dances and collecting 20-cent monthly dues from their members. The following year, the department acquired a truck, along with a 35-gallon tank mounted on wheels, and they became a charter organization with the name “The Morrell Vol. Fire Dept. of Dunbar Twp.”

Work on the VFD's building started in 1934 with lumber from a torn-down house in Leisenring. In 1939, the department joined the Fayette County Firemen's Association.

Morrell VFD's Ladies Auxiliary organized the same year.

The department went through its share of hardships in 1941 and 1942 with its lowest number of members due to men serving in World War II and after their only truck had to be dismantled and sold for scrap following an accident while returning from a parade.

Despite the tough times, the fire department continued to provide fire protection to the people of Morrell, although on a limited scale.

The members built a new home for the fire department in 1959. It lasted until February 2010, when three of the building's major roof trusses had cracked under 36 inches of snow, causing ceiling tile to drop on the trucks in the bay.

The department moved to what was then a temporary location at the old Richard Chevrolet building along Route 119. However, the department purchased the building and has made it home.

“Membership has grown since we've been up here, and we welcome new members,” Morrell VFD President Jim Daugherty said.

The department has 35 regular members, including social members and 11 junior members.

“It's hard to get new members,” Morrell VFD Chief Ross Rock said.

The junior firefighter program has helped bring in new members, though.

The VFD recently had 24 members participate in classes that involved 166 hours of fire training between January and April. They reportedly keep training in other firefighting and rescue courses throughout the years, whether in-house, online or state-sanctioned courses.

Rock said it's difficult for fire departments to keep up with the costs of updating equipment and the costs of training, which is why departments like Morrell count on fundraising events, which pay for the day-to-day operations and whatever other costs come up.

The new building has helped in the never-ending battle of fundraising, he noted.

With more interior space and over 350 parking spaces available, Morrell VFD has held bigger events, like wrestling matches and toy and gun bashes, and has rented out its halls for social events, like church services, funeral meals and dinners, and made the halls available for Cub Scout Troop 180 of Dunbar.

“We've had a good relationship with companies around the area and a good response from the community,” Daugherty said.

The VFD also holds Bingo nights every Sunday and Wednesday to help pay the bills, and the Ladies Auxiliary is having a rebirth with younger members getting involved.

“Our outlook is bright right now,” Daugherty said, adding that the department plans to add a new truck and new equipment in the future. “We're happy with our membership, and we thank the community support.”

There will be many opportunities for the community to help support Morrell VFD.

The department will begin distribution of its annual fundraising letters between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Anyone they miss can contact Rock at the department at 724-603-2176.

The VFD's fourth annual Car Show will be held July 6, with registration from 3 to 5 p.m. and judging at 6:30 p.m.

Trophies will be given out in 10 categories. The first 100 applicants will receive a free dash plaque. There will also be indoor seating, a Chinese auction, food and beverage available and a DJ providing music.

Morrell VFD will partner with Dunbar VFC for a Gun Bash from 1 to 5 p.m. at Morrell VFD.

They will also combine forces in 2016 when they co-host the annual Fayette County Firemen's Convention.

In addition, Morrell VFD will hold a Toy Bash on Oct. 5 in conjunction with the Connellsville Senior Tigers.

For more information on the events at Morrell VFD, call 724-603-2176.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mhofmann@tribweb.com or 724-626-3539.

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