Western Pennsylvania Firemens Association convention underway in Arnold | TribLIVE.com
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Western Pennsylvania Firemens Association convention underway in Arnold

Michael DiVittorio
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Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Arnold firefighter Jeff Coltz (left) stabilizes Ron Ballina as he moves forward on the Kittanning team during Battle of the Barrel competition at the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association conference in Arnold on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.
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Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Firefighters from departments across the state participate in the Battle of the Barrel competition at Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association conference in Arnold on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019.
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Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Firefighters from departments throughout the state gather at the Arnold Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 fire hall for the 126th annual Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association convention.
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Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association President Wayne Harris (center) presents the championship trophy of the Battle of the Barrel competition to Kittanning firefighters (from left) Ken Edwards, Tim Crytzer, Austin Dunbar and Andrew Blaney.

Arnold firefighter Willie Weber believes his late father, Walter, would have enjoyed the return of a convention he helped organize for years.

“My dad and I were chairmen of Tent City,” Weber said. “Technically, I’ve not missed a convention since 1960. When he stepped down, I took over. My dad was kind of like a silent bear. He handled discipline and operations a little better than I did, but I’m getting better.”

Those conventions were for the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association. This week marks its 126th annual installment — and fifth hosted by Arnold.

Tent City is where a lot of the departments camp out. It’s next to Arnold No. 1’s fire hall.

Firefighters from as far away as Williamsport, about four hours away, made the trek.

“I do it every year,” said Nathan Steele of Williamsport. “I like the camaraderie with the guys here. Everyone’s welcoming. I’m camping. I pretty much come for everything.”

Weber said his father, who died in 2017 at age 75, was involved with the association for many years and taught him everything he knows.

“It’s manpower intensive,” Weber said. “My father taught me how to run this. The biggest thing this convention does is keep us up with legislation, and is great networking.”

The convention started Thursday and continues through Wednesday, with special events planned each day.

Kittanning defeated Arnold No. 1 by the score of 4-3 Saturday in the finals of Battle of the Barrel. It’s a contest similar to tug of war, only its more push than pull. Firefighters use hoses to push an empty keg strung high above on a cable across to the opponent’s side, instead of trying to drag a flag on a rope onto their own side.

It appeared as if Kittanning had an easy ride to their second consecutive conference championship until the Arnold team came through with a late surge in the third round.

Team captain Austin Dunbar and his team of Kittanning firefighters Ken Edwards, Tim Crytzer and Andrew Blaney were able to hold off the home team.

Dunbar commended the association and Arnold for putting on the event.

“We were all pretty excited to come down,” Dunbar said. “It’s always a good event. We were down last year when it was in Vandergrift. We’re happy to come down and have more fun this year, and that they got the turnout that they did.

Parade Sunday at 6 p.m.

About 2,500 firefighters from as many as 100 companies are scheduled to take part in a parade that will kick off at 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11.

From 1 to 4 p.m., there will be parade unit judging at Valley High School.

“This is something for them to relax and enjoy themselves from all the firefighting and everything that they do,” WPFA President Wayne Harris said. “We have numerous banquets and business meetings. I just wish everybody a great time while they’re here in Arnold.”

Kim VanTine, associate member of Arnold Volunteer Engine Co. No. 2 said she attended multiple conventions, and is glad it returned to her city.

“It’s always the same,” she said. “It is always nice and a lot of participation usually. Everybody has a good time. … They’ll tell stories. You know how with fishermen the fish get bigger (in each story). Well, the fires get bigger the more they tell it. It’s almost like a family reunion of sorts.”

VanTine assisted in convention preparation.

Other convention activities included a memorial service at Calvary Lutheran Church, banquets, business meetings and installation of new officers.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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