Firefighters and EMS personnel who want the latest gear and equipment, and folks looking to see what can be used during an emergency response can do both under one roof this weekend.
The 32nd annual Pittsburgh Fire Rescue & EMS Expo is underway at the Monroeville Convention Center.
Volunteer fire departments from Monroeville, Penn Hills, Homestead, West Mifflin, Dormont and beyond have their vehicles on display. At least 100 vendors from across the state and into Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia have tables set up with every thing from apparel to apparatuses.
“This is an excellent time of the year when folks in the fire service, whether it’s career or volunteer, can get together,” Greensburg deputy fire Chief Kim Houser said. “You can see what other fire companies are doing that we don’t get to bump into too often. We get to see new safety equipment, vehicles and various aspects that would help a fire station become a safer place to work.”
It also provides more networking opportunities for folks who provide other services to fire and EMS companies. Houser is an attorney that specialized in corporate issues and fire command operations issues. He represents more than 300 fire companies.
Expo visitors can learn about PA-HART — helicopter aquatic rescue team — which uses UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to help rescue people stranded in floods and other emergency situations.
They also can meet Tasha, a 3-year-old Rottweiler and certified search and rescue dog with the Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group.
Children can check out numerous fire trucks and ambulances and may walk out with some prizes from various safety-related games.
One vehicle prominently on display in the main area is a black and red 2018 Ferrara rescue truck acquired in July by Rosedale Volunteer Fire Department in Penn Hills.
Rosedale Fire Chief David Sanford said it can hold 750 gallons of water, 30 gallons of foam and numerous other tools. It replaced the company’s 1981 engine.
It cost approximately $650,000 with $420,000 being offset through a federal grant. The fire department will cover the rest.
“This is the first new truck that Rosedale has seen since 1975,” said Sanford. “It’s kind of a big thing for us. We spent months and months planning and designing every nook and cranny on this thing so that it will last us 30 years or more. We’re glad to be able to showcase all the work and effort we put in to laying this truck out and letting people see what innovative ideas we’ve tried to incorporate with this truck.”
Monroeville has several emergency vehicles on display inside and outside the center. The municipality also is hosting a Pennsylvania State Fire Academy training session at its Johnson Road facility. Multiple departments will take part in controlled burns and other exercises in conjunction with the expo.
Monroeville deputy fire Chief Harold Katofsky, who was involved in the inaugural expo and part of the planning committee, said he hopes to use both events as ways to sign up more volunteers for Monroeville and catch up with colleagues.
“It’s like old home week,” he said. “I’ve been involved for so many years. I know so many people from everywhere going to training year after year. A lot of people come back and come back.”
The expo is presented by Kelly Simon Event Management. Producer Kelly Simon said it has grown so much with vendors and fire company participation that she has no more room for exhibits.
“I can’t get any bigger with exhibits because there’s only 100,000 square feet,” she said. “If I had another wing this size, it would be filled with more trucks and ambulances because all of these vendors want more space. It’s at capacity.”
The show was at the old Monroeville ExpoMart for 19 years before the facility was sold to CVS Caremark. It moved to the David Lawrence Convention Center for a few years before finding its home at the Monroeville Convention Center. At least 5,000 people are expected to visit the center this weekend.
Simon said she’s not worried about attendance being short this year because of projected inclement weather because emergency responders are used to braving the elements.
“In two days, they can come in and see every single thing that they need for their fire department, their EMS department, whatever,” she said. “It’s the best way for them (to buy stuff). Every year, they know it’s the first weekend of March and that’s why it’s here 32 years later.”
The expo continues 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Parking is free. Admission is $5 and children younger than 12 get in free. More information is available at www.monroevilleconventioncenter.com.