Honeymoon Continues for Pennsylvania Companies

June 11, 2013
Firefighters in West Hazleton and Hazleton are coordinating training, equipment training and joint purchases.

June 11--Firefighters in Hazleton and West Hazleton have assisted one another on at least 10 occasions since a cooperative fire agreement was signed by leaders from both communities in mid-March, officials say.

Cooperation has also extended beyond the scope of the agreement, with city and borough firefighters coordinating training and equipment testing and conducting joint purchases with several other local fire companies.

"We haven't had any bumps in the road," Hazleton fire Chief Donald Leshko said. "It's working out well. We, as chiefs, are trying to meet every quarter. We're doing a lot of cooperative purchasing. Even with grant programs, we're going to get a lot further if we go in on grants to get money instead of (alone)."

West Hazleton Fire Chief Dennis Ganc shares similar sentiments.

"Everbody's really pleased," Ganc said. "We're happy with how things are going -- from government (officials) right on down. We've had no problems, no concerns, whatsoever."

The agreement

Since the agreement was signed on May 15, Hazleton and West Hazleton fire fighters have assisted one another on between 10 and 15 occasions, according to estimates from both Leshko and Ganc.

"If West Hazleton needs us, we go," Leshko said. "If we need West Hazleton, we call them."

The agreement states that both parties are to provide cooperative fire protection "in the event of a conflagration, major fire or any other emergency situation that need arises for assistance."

When Hazleton firefighters are dispatched to a structure fire, for example, the duty chief for the city will have the county call West Hazleton crews only if a working fire is confirmed, Ganc said.

If the same situation arises in West Hazleton, borough crews are called out first, followed by an engine and ladder from Hazleton City and rescue crews from Hazle Township, Ganc said.

If a fire call occurs in the borough while West Hazleton is assisting another community through mutual aid, Hazleton City would be automatically dispatched to West Hazleton, according to Ganc.

Other efforts

Cooperation among local firefighters, however, isn't limited to the three-page fire protection agreement that provides framework for Hazleton and West Hazleton's joint arrangement.

With local departments working to standardize equipment, firefighters from Hazleton, West Hazleton, Hazle Township, McAdoo, Freeland, Valley Regional Fire and Rescue, Foster Township and Weatherly came up with a money-saving venture of having air packs, ground ladders and ladders on their vehicles tested simultaneously.

Leshko said the departments got a better price by having a larger volume of equipment tested simultaneously, rather than having each department arrange for its own test.

Although Hazle Township hasn't signed on to West Hazleton and Hazleton's cooperative fire protection agreement, both Leshko and William Gallagher, who serves as a firefighter and chairs of Hazle Township's board of supervisors, have said the city and township have assisted one another while responding to calls.

Brush trucks and tanker trucks from the township and Harwood stations assisted city crews when they were dispatched to a brush fire behind the Hazleton Shopping Center.

More recently, city crews assisted Hazle Township firefighters who were battling a brush fire at Community Park. The township asked for city assistance because most of its manpower and equipment was working with other companies to extinguish a blaze in Eckley, Gallagher said.

City crews were released after the Eckley blaze had been doused, and crews that typically work with the township through mutual aide were able to respond to the brush fire.

"It's an unwritten mutual agreement," Gallagher said. "If they need help they know we would come. In return, they know we were calling them when it's absolutely necessary."

Hazleton's crews are also placed on standby with Hazle Township firefighters when businesses in some of the township's industrial parks are working on silos, Gallagher said.

Like the other chiefs, Gallagher said firefighters don't need an agreement when it comes to providing public safety.

"You have to look at public safety for everybody," Gallagher said.

[email protected], 570-455-3636

Copyright 2013 - The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

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