State lawmaker Brooks gives his state paycheck to volunteer fire companies
Sixteen fire departments are sharing $16,000 earned by state Rep. Bob Brooks, with the promise of much more to come.
Brooks, R-Murrysville, has pledged to donate most or all of his state salary to organizations within the 54th state House District. State House members are paid a base annual salary of $88,610.
Each of the 16 fire companies will receive $1,000 in this first round of Brook’s donations. The donations were distributed at a brief program in Lower Burrell on Thursday.
Brooks, 74, said it’s emblematic of his attitude toward life and desire to help people.
“I’ve done well in life, and I decided to give the money away,” he said of his state salary as a lawmaker. He also pledged another round of checks to the 16 fire departments “stretching from West Deer to Murrysville.”
Brooks was chief financial officer at Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. in Wilmerding for almost 15 years and serves on the firm’s board of directors. Before he was CFO, he was division controller for Wabtec.
He also was director of the Brooks Sports Group, and the family owns and operates the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena in Harmar. He is a financial adviser.
Brooks served in Murrysville’s government for 26 years, both as a council member and as mayor.
He was elected in November after state Rep. Eli Evankovich chose not to seek another term.
“Most people think firefighters only fight fires,” Brooks said. “But that’s only a small, although a dangerous, part of what you do,” he told volunteer firefighters Thursday. “Using chain saws to get downed trees, getting people out of car crashes, finding children and other missing people. Whatever needs done, you do it.
”And you’re volunteers,” Brooks said.
“You save lives, and you are our heroes.”
Representatives from two fire companies said they will spend the grant for public education.
“We will focus on awareness,” Lower Burrell No. 3 Assistant Chief Brennan Sites said. “We have a very robust fire prevention emphasis for the community.”
Public education about fire safety also likely will be how Sardis Volunteer Fire Co. in Murrysville will use the money, Chief Cody Paiano said.
Other departments say they will use the money for firefighter training.
Weekly training sessions will be a focus of Fawn No. 2, said Brian Huston, the department’s first lieutenant.
“We are looking at how to interest more members to attend,” he said.
“We will put the money toward training to better prepare ourselves,” Upper Burrell Fire Co. Capt. Brent Zanella said.
Some of fire companies will pay for routine expenses.
• Lower Burrell No. 1 Assistant Chief Shane Morris said the $1,000 would go to the cost of fuel.
• Markle Fire Company in Allegheny Township will add emergency lights to a new service truck that pulls a trailer for the six-wheeler used to reach remote locations, and sump pumps to help residents, Chief Jim Rearick said.
• Fawn No. 1 will replace some self-contained breathing apparatuses essential to firefighters, Assistant Chief Chris Reiher said.
• Anthony Cacaturo, assistant chief at West Deer No. 2, said the department will replace 15-year-old pagers.
• West Deer No. 3 will use the donation to buy “firefighter personal protective equipment — helmets, boots, gloves and hoods,” Chief Josh Wiegand said.
The Export Volunteer Fire Co. also will buy the same type of protective gear, said Chief Steve Opsitnick Jr.
• “Debt reduction is probably how we will use the $1,000, said John Bohinc, chief of White Valley Volunteer Fire Co. in Murrysville. “We have a $12,000 loan for equipment. This represents one month’s payment.”
• Murrysville No. 1 Capt. Jake Meier said some of the money will be used for training and public safety upgrades. Part of it will be put into an equipment fund.
Also receiving the $1,000 gifts were Allegheny Township, West Deer Co. 1 , Harrison Hills and Penn Township volunteer firefighters.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .