Pa. City Shuts Down Volunteer Fire Company

MEADVILLE, Pa. --

The volunteers are no longer authorized to assist career firefighters with Meadville Central Fire Department, according to The Meadville Tribune.

After the measure was introduced, Mayor Christopher Soff said: "Out of concern for the safety of all fire companies, citizens and the city, Council feels this is appropriate action."

The fire house on State Street, known as the S.B.Dick Hose Co., is owned by the city as is one of the fire engines.

An inventory of the equipment will be conducted soon with fire company and city officials present.

The department and the city came to an agreement in 2002 permitting the volunteers to assist.

Although the termination has been threatened in the past, Wednesday night's decision seemed to have caught firefighters off guard.

"What gives here?" asked Art Getchell, fire company president said. "I am just baffled."

The department consisted of 17 volunteers who, according to Getchell, met the "benchmarks the city imposed on us."

The career department has 16 firefighters including Chief Larndo (Tunie) Hedrick.

City Manager Joe Chriest said Hedrick pointed out a number of concerns about the volunteers at the scene of a major fire recently that claimed a resident and destroyed two buildings.

Chriest told the paper: "We're worried about everyone's safety. We're worried about the safety of our career department, because if we're having people back them up, we have to make sure that the best-trained people -- people with proper training -- are doing that. There's also the idea of the safety of the citizens. We don't want anyone getting hurt, be it a career firefighter, a volunteer firefighter, a citizen."

The city, however, hasn't closed the doors on the idea of a volunteer department all together.

"We think that there is a place for a strong volunteer fire department within the City of Meadville," Chriest said. "There is a long and strong history of volunteerism in Meadville, but we really worry about the safety and welfare of everyone."

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