Pa. Community Steps Up to Rescue its Firefighters

Housing the emergency response vehicles in a heated garage should improve response times in bad weather, firefighters say.


May 11--CENTRAL CITY -- It's a story of a community coming together to address a need.

With the escalating costs of fuel, insurance and utilities eating up Central City Volunteer Fire Department's donated funds, and government grants directed toward costly equipment and vehicles, an auxiliary garage for emergency medical vehicles was on the back burner.

"We've been talking about this for a while," fire Chief Dale Russian said. "It just wasn't in the budget."

That's where Cairnbrook Community Club and VFW Post 7457 of Central City stepped in to support their local fire department.

The community club donated $25,000 and the VFW kicked in $1,000 toward construction of the new garage that was dedicated Saturday, Russian said.

"With the small games of chance law, we have to donate so much," club President Steve Putnick said at the dedication. "We try to keep our money in the community."

Supporting the fire company was a natural for the club's members, Putnick said.

"Our first responders get here in three to five minutes," he said. "It will take 20 minutes to get here from Windber. That's a big difference that could save somebody's life."

Housing the emergency response vehicles in a heated garage should improve response times in bad weather, Russian said.

In the past, those two vehicles sat outdoors under a metal canopy, but could still get ice and snow on the windows at times. Some supplies, such as oxygen tanks, are meant to be stored at room temperatures, Russian said.

"There are just so many pluses to having this building," he said. "It's just fantastic the way the clubs came through."

The fire department received a state grant and a federal grant last year, but those were directed toward equipment upgrades and improvements to the 89-year-old fire station.

Security cameras, protective clothing, new lighting and floor repairs ate up the $13,700 state grant. Communication headsets for each vehicle, a high-volume master stream spray nozzle with stand and four new hose nozzles took care of the $18,000 federal grant.

There still is the ongoing cost of operations and equipment replacement, Russian said, noting that protective clothing costs about $2,500 for each of the department's 55 members. Air backpacks add another $6,000 each.

"Financially, it's always difficult," he said. "We are asking everybody to respond to the fund drive letter. We are asking people to think about what really makes a difference."

Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.

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