In the years 1897-99, the earliest period of Windber's existence, it was not difficult for the town's first citizens to appreciate the urgent need for an organized fire-fighting unit. Several major conflagrations in the sprawling, fast growing community dramatically illustrated that adequate fire protection was beyond the capabilities of hastily assembled bucket brigades.
During July of 1899, the first formal steps were taken to organize the Windber Fire Company No. 1. In an election held on July 19, the following persons were selected as the first officers of the fledgling company: S. H. Mills, President; Amos Claar, Vice-President; E. G. I. Bartow, Secretary; and A. H. Kane, Treasurer; Windber Fire Company No. 1 was granted a charter by the court of Somerset County on July 5, 1900. Later that same year, E.S. Clark was named as the department's first chief fire marshal.
The company's first equipment was a hose cart and about 500 feet of hose which had been borrowed from the Berwind-White Coal Mining Company. Shortly, afterward, the company purchased a handcart. This cart, a focal point at numerous turn-of-the-century fires and subsequently hand drawn in many parades, is now on permanent display at the Windber Fire Company.
Late in the year 1900, a hook and ladder wagon was added to this equipment. In November 1901, the company added two teams of horses and two sets of drop harnesses to its complement of firefighting gear. In 1903, a steam pumper was purchased. The year 1910 saw the installation of an electric alarm system, and the acquisition of another team of horses, giving the company a total of three equestrian duos.
Self-propelled fire apparatus came to Windber in 1912. In September of that year a new Seagraves Hose and Chemical truck was purchased, the first motorized piece of fire equipment to be placed in service in Somerset County. In 1918, the company disposed of its teams, marking the end of the horse drawn apparatus era in Windber.
The animals were replaced with two new American LaFrance engines, one 350 and the other a 750 gallon per minute (GPM) pumper. Two years later in 1920, an American LaFrance city service hook and ladder truck was added to the equipment. These three trucks served the company through the 1920s and early 30s. In 1934, a new 600 GPM International pumper replaced the 1918 350 GPM pumper. The remaining American LaFrance equipment was disposed of in February 1941, when two new Pirsch engines were acquired. One of these was a 600 GPM pumper, and the other a combination 600 GPM pumper and ladder truck, carrying 229 feet of wooden ladders.
In 1944, a Chevrolet panel truck was added to the equipment as a salvage and emergency truck. In 1948, the International pumper was sold to Boswell and replaced by a new Mack 750 GPM pumper. The Mack was placed out of service in 1986. Late in 1953 a 750 gallon per minute (GPM) Oren-International pumper was added. This truck was refurbished in 1969, and was placed out of service in 1977. An emergency-squad truck built on a Ford chassis was put into service in 1950 and is recognized as being the first oversized piece of fire apparatus in our area. The landmark squad unit was retired in 1978. In 1967, a Ford truck chassis was donated to the company and a 750 GPM pumper was added to the truck, and completely paid for through public donations. This apparatus was retired in 1992. The two Pirsch trucks were retired in the late 1960s and were later sold.
In mid-1977 the American LaFrance Corporation delivered a recently introduced Century Series 1250 gallon per minute (GPM) pumper to the firefighters. The unit is powered by a Cummins 350 diesel engine. This unit is currently serving as the borough engine and rural support. In 1981, the company took delivery, again from the American LaFrance Corporation, of a multi-purpose pumper/ladder truck mounted on a Century Series Cab. This piece of apparatus has a 75' ladder, 1500 GPM pumper and 300-gallon water tank. This unit is still in service today.
In 1986, members of the department drove to Springfield, Missouri, to retrieve a 1979 Chevrolet light rescue truck equipped with a 400 GPM pump and a 300-gallon water tank. This unit was placed into service later that year. Because of growing mechanical problems, the rescue was retired from service in 2003. In 1991, Ashley's Truck Service in Peters Township, Pennsylvania, making an outdated vehicle compliant, refurbished the 1977 American LaFrance pumper. In 1992, growing concern for safety of the firefighters prompted the purchase of a 1992 Sutphen enclosed cab pumper. This unit is equipped with a 1750 GPM pump and 1000-gallon water tank. This unit currently serves as the primary rescue/pumper. In 2000, the members of the department refurbished and converted a military six-wheel- drive vehicle into an effective brush firefighting unit, complete with tank and pump.
The company added fully equipped ambulances to its community service in the early 1960s. The first was a 1950 Cadillac, which was donated by the Meek Funeral Home. The second was a 1961 Buick Flexible, added in 1963. The 1950 Cadillac was replaced in 1964 by a 1961 Cadillac, which was used until 1969, when a Pontiac ambulance was purchased. The Buick was replaced in 1976 with a Swab custom built modular unit. The Pontiac ambulance was replaced in 1979 by adding an additional Swab modular. In 1984, the first of the two Swab ambulances was remounted on a 1984 Ford chassis. In 1989, the 1976 Swab remounted in 1984 was replaced with a 1989 Mobil Medical on a Ford chassis. In 1993, an International ambulance replaced the 1986 EVF. The unit is also in service today.
In August of 1997, the growing need for a full-time paid ambulance service made it necessary for the Windber Fire Company to form a partnership with Scalp Level-Paint Volunteer Fire Company to form a full-time paid service known as Northern EMS of Somerset County. In January 2004, in an effort to reduce costs, the partnership was dissolved and Northern EMS became a subsidiary of the Windber Fire Department.
Late in the 1980s it became evident that the fire headquarters, located at 500 15th Street, was not going to fit the needs of the fire department into 21st century. Safety issues and size constraints made it necessary for the fire company to take up its biggest task to date, construction of a new fire headquarters. After many years of hard work and research, the fire department settled on a piece of land on Somerset Avenue. In late 1997, the H.F. Lenz Engineering Firm was contracted to oversee construction of the new facility. Also in late 1997, W.C. Murray of Johnstown, PA was contracted at the cost of $850,000 to complete work. In October of 1998, after years of hard work, the Windber Fire Department was finally able to move into its new headquarters, sadly leaving a facility they occupied for almost 100 years.
In the fall of 2002, the fire department was recognized for its participation in the voluntary certification program offered by the Office of the State Fire Commissioner. The certification program tests firefighters to minimum national standards in firefighting, rescue and hazardous materials. The department was recognized for at least 50% of its members successfully receiving certification to at least the Firefighter I level. At a ceremony on December 13, 2004, the Windber Fire Department was recognized by the State Fire Commissioner for having 75% of its active roster successfully attaining certification.
Windber Fire Department is identified as Station 611 under the communications system operated by Somerset 911 and is alerted by means of personal pagers for firefighters and in-station alarm bells. The WFD utilizes the county VHF low-band radio system as well as its own VHF high-band radio system.
The Windber Fire Department maintains membership in the Pennsylvania State Firemens Association, Western Pennsylvania Firemens Association, and the Somerset County Firemens Association.
Fire suppression operations can be summarily divided into engine company operations and truck company operations.
The basic role of an engine company is to establish water supplies and deploy hose lines for fire attack and exposure protection. This may be accomplished by stretching and operating hose lines, operating master stream devices from outside the structure, or supplying water to aerial apparatus operating elevated master stream devices. While engine companies may also perform search & rescue, forcible entry, ventilation, or other tasks while preparing to make a fire attack, these are not typically their responsibilities. Engine companies are also responsible for responding to medical emergencies, public assistance calls, vehicle collisions and other rescue calls.
At structure fires, truck companies are responsible for performing nine (9) tasks that support or aid the engine companies that are attacking the fire. Because of this, truck companies are often called the "Special Services". Although any company can perform truck company operations, ladder trucks and rescues typically carry the additional equipment more suited for these operations:
In many cases, it is necessary for the truck company to perform two or more of these functions simultaneously by splitting its crew to handle the various tasks. Typically, a team of firefighters enters to search for victims still inside, ventilate as it advances, and look for signs of fire spread. Simultaneously, another team raises the necessary ladders to enter or ventilate the building from the outside and shuts down the various utilities. The truck company may also operate an elevated master stream device to knock down large fires or use the aerial devices as substitute standpipes for advancing hose lines.
The truck company needs to be positioned in front of the fire building to allow for optimal use of the aerial/master stream (if needed) and access to ground ladders.
The Participating Department Recognition Program was established in November 1999 to recognize those emergency service organizations that support, promote, and encourage their emergency response personnel to voluntarily certify within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's voluntary certification program.
Rapid Intervention Crew
The objective and function of a rapid intervention crew is to locate and rescue lost, trapped, and/or injured firefighters on the fireground. Rapid intervention crews are not intended to be used to perform other operations.
When firefighters face mayday conditions, saving them may require more than basic rescue techniques and training. Firefighters assigned to rescue their fellow firefighters are often placed in extraordinarily dangerous conditions. Because of these reasons, a team of Windber firefighters has completed additional training in self-survival, forcible exit techniques, firefighter rescue, and specialized rescue.
Upon arrival on a fireground, the rapid intervention crew (RIC) reports to the incident commander for a briefing. The RIC then stages for deployment near the area where fire crews made entry into the structure. The RIC brings with them a variety of tools that can be used for most anticipated rescue scenarios. While staging, the RIC constantly monitors the building for signs of collapse, tracks the location and progress of the fire, and monitors the location of the crews inside.
When firefighters become disoriented, deplete their air supply, or suffer injuries or illness that prohibit self-escape, the rapid intervention team is quickly activated. The RIC enters the structure, locates the victim quickly, safely removes the firefighter from imminent danger, and provides immediate life-saving measures. The RIC then removes the firefighter from the structure and transfers the individual to a awaiting emergency medical crews, if necessary.
While the entire fire service is dedicated to saving lives and property, rescue and extrication deal exclusively with life-threatening situations. Rescue involves the removal and treatment of victims from areas of danger (such as situations involving the natural environment, structural collapse, or elevation difference) or entrapment by some type of man-made machinery or equipment. The responsibility of performing these rescues and extrications falls to the rescue company. The following is a listing of different types of rescue situations:
Rescue companies routinely respond to structure fires; their duties on the fireground typically vary according to departmental procedures and what is needed on the scene. Typically, the rescue company sets up as the rapid intervention team, assists engine or truck companies with their duties, refills air cylinders, provides floodlighting, or performs other assignments.
Johnstown Safety Services is a fire and life safety business that is committed to the safety of you, your staff, and visitors to your business and now your home. We will work with you and your staff to minimize the risk of fire at your business or home. Our staff has extensive knowledge and experience related to fire safety training, extinguisher use, fire inspections, fire drills, and codes and standards.
We are a recognized trainer and fire safety expert by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (formerly Department of Public Welfare). This means if you are a Personal Care Home Administrator, you can attend one of our fire safety courses and receive continuing education credit for it. We are also able to complete yearly fire safety training for your staff at your location at a time convenient for you and them. In addition to the training, we can supervise fire drills and complete annual fire safety inspections.
Our goal is to provide you and your staff cost effective fire and life safety services that are in accordance with local, state, and national codes, laws, and standards. This will help keep you, your employees, customers, and visitors safe.