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A fire department in N. Buffalo? Residents say now is time

| Wednesday, June 18, 2003

NORTH BUFFALO -- It's time to explore the possibility of establishing a volunteer fire department in North Buffalo Township. That's the opinion of North Buffalo resident Tim Hetrick and a number of township residents who have signed a petition.

Hetrick said like most North Buffalo residents he is pleased with the response time of fire departments from adjoining townships that presently answer fire calls in the township. However, Hetrick feels that the response time might be even better, and perhaps save lives, if the township had its own fire company.

Hetrick will present petitions with more than 50 signatures of township residents who favor having a fire department centrally located in the township to the North Buffalo supervisors at their meeting at 7 tonight in the township building.

"We have a large territory," Hetrick said, "extending from the Pony Farm Road to old Route 28 near Slate Lick, including part of Northpointe Industrial Park, out to the Cadogan flats. My idea is to look into the feasibility of having a fire department located somewhere near the North Buffalo Elementary School and the township building."

Hetrick said that presently, depending on the location of a fire, the township is served by West Kittanning, Ford Cliff, South Buffalo, Worthington-West Franklin, Applewold, Manor and Ford City fire departments.

"All those companies give us pretty good service," Hetrick said. "I'd say West Kittanning answers about 75 percent of our calls. But old Route 28 is a very winding road and you can't always get to a fire as quick as you could say if you were taking new Route 28, or Route 422.

"If we could cut the response time by even a few minutes that would make a vital difference."

Armstrong County Emergency Management Supervisor and South Buffalo Fire Department Fire Chief Randy Brozenick agrees.

"There would be a better response time," Brozenick said. "there's no question about that. Mr. Hetrick has spoken to me about the idea. It would be good for the residents of the township. So if a group can coordinate the effort and if they can support their own company, well and good. It would be no easy task, and it could be expensive, but it is a good idea."

Armstrong County Commissioner Homer Crytzer said Hetrick asked the commissioners to send a letter of support to North Buffalo supervisors.

"We sent the letter, as requested, on June 9," Crytzer said. "We discussed the idea and we feel there is sufficient coverage for fires now, but if the township residents want a fire company, then we support their idea."

Crytzer said there are no county funds available for a new fire company at this time, however, he added that if a group is organized it may be eligible for federal or state grants.

Hetrick said that he realizes forming a fire company would be a costly undertaking.

"It would take time, but I think we can do it without adding to the taxpayer burden," he said. I checked into three areas so far, insurance, a building and buying a truck. The insurance would cost about $10,000. A refurbished truck is available for a very reasonable cost and I talked to the people at a local steel building construction company and they said they would be willing to give us a new steel building, when the time comes, for just about cost. There are a lot of other expenses, but between grants and fund-raisers, I think we can do it. Hose Co. 1 in Kittanning obtained a new building the same way. A lot of people didn't think they could do it, but they did. I also have about 15 people who are interested in being volunteer firemen. Twelve of them are experienced firefighters. "

Hetrick said the formation of a fire department in North Buffalo will depend on the approval of township supervisors and the support of residents. He urged residents who may be interested in learning more about the issue to attend tonight's meeting.

Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Edward Mann, Harrisburg, said the decision to form a local fire company ultimately rests with the local government. However, Mann said the trend among volunteer companies is toward consolidation and merger rather than forming new companies.

"We have too many fire companies in the state now," Mann said. "In Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County, there are 13 separate fire companies. But in Bellefonte, a town of 6,500 people, there are two fire companies. A lot depends on geography and demographic issues. One question that has to be answered is are township residents paying for the protection they receive from other townships or municipalities. If they are, do they want to continue paying for service from outside areas or do they want to pay for their own."

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