A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WEST EARL FIRE CO. NO. 1
Although the West Earl Fire Co. No. 1 was organized in December 1936 and chartered in April 1937, citizens of Brownstown, Talmage, Farmersville and West Earl Township had their own fire protection since the early 1900’s. Their fire protection was that of a hand drawn chemical cart which was owned by the Brownstown Improvement Association. Around 1932, the Brownstown Improvement Association purchased a 1920 Model T Ford chassis on which the chemical tanks from the hand drawn carts were mounted. The tank mountings and other alterations to the Model T chassis were performed in the G.M. Zeist Garage in Brownstown, which also served as the first fire station for the fire company. The Model T Ford was the fire protection equipment owned and operated by the Brownstown Improvement Association until the West Earl Fire Co. No. 1 was organized on December 10, 1936 at a meeting held in the old West Earl Township High School located in Brownstown. At this meeting, George Zeist was elected President and Ivan Frey was elected to the position of Fire Chief. The company was granted their charter in April of 1937.
The newly formed company then took possession of the Model T Ford and in 1938 it was moved to the Farmersville District, also known as the West Earl Fire Co. No. 2 when a used Seagrave pumper was purchased from the Lititz Fire Co. to be used in Brownstown. The Model T Ford was rechassied in 1939 with a 1934 1 ½ ton Chevrolet and remained in service in the Farmersville District until 1948 when the people of Farmersville organized their own fire company.
The Seagrave pumper remained in service in Brownstown until 1951 when the company purchased a 1950 International Model L 184 with a Hale 500 g.p.m. pump. During the time the Seagrave was in service, the fire company utilized the M.C. Strauss Building on School Lane Avenue in Brownstown as their fire station. The Seagrave was also housed in the Zeist Garage prior to being housed in the Strauss Building. When the 1950 International was bought, it was housed in the garage of then Fire Chief Walter Buffenmyer. It was housed in his garage until July 31, 1954 when the West Earl Fire Co. housed their engine in a brand new fire hall the company had built on School Lane Avenue in Brownstown.
The new fire hall, which cost the fire company $30,000.00 to build, is still our present day fire station. The 1950 International remained in service until approximately 1971 when it was sold to the Leacock Fire Co. for one dollar. The Leacock Fire Co. utilized the engine for many years as a portable cascade truck for use on fire calls. During the time the 1950 International was in service, the company also utilized a 1950 Ford panel truck for use as a squad and utility vehicle. The Ford squad truck was probably in service from the mid 1950’s to the early 1960’s.
In May of 1969, the company housed a 1969 Ford/Hahn pumper/tanker with a 1,000 g.p.m. pump and a 1,250 gallon water tank. The 1969 Ford/Hahn served the community well, responding to approximately 1,000 alarms until 1990 when it was taken out of service. Also, in the 1960’s, the company purchased a 1963 Divco squad truck to transport men and extra equipment to fire calls.
This squad truck was taken out of service in 1984 when the company purchased a 1982 Mack Midliner chassis with a 1984 Conestoga Custom Products body. This 1,000 g.p.m. pumper cost the fire company $125,000.00 and was retired in March of 2000. At the time the fire company purchased the Mack engine, the fire station consisted of only one engine bay, so the fire company built an addition to the firehouse in 1983. The new addition consisted of one engine bay and a “engineers room” utilized for the maintenance of our equipment. In May of 1990, the company placed in service a 1990 Pierce Lance pumper/tanker with a 1,250 g.p.m. pump and a 2,500 gallon water tank. This piece of apparatus cost the fire company over $250,000.00 fully equipped and is still in service. In March of 2000 the company placed in service a 1999 Seagrave Marauder Custom Pumper/Rescue. The new engine increased the safety of our firefighters immensely by allowing them to ride in an enclosed cab to emergency calls. This was the first enclosed cab apparatus purchased by the fire company. The new engine also greatly increased our compartment space, which allowed us to carry more equipment, notably vehicle rescue equipment. With Rt. 222, Rt. 272 and Rt. 772 in our first due run district, vehicle accidents comprise a very large part of our call volume. This new engine allows us to carry the proper and necessary equipment to respond to these incidents. The major component of our vehicle rescue equipment consists of a Genesis Hydraulic Rescue Tool System consisting of a 24” spreader, “O” cutter, combi-tool, 41” ram and a 31” ram. The hydraulic rescue tools were placed in service over a period of five years beginning in 2001. The total cost of the new engine was $346,000.00, with an additional $35,000.00 spent on vehicle rescue equipment.
The year 2002 marked another first for the fire company as we placed Traffic 313 in service.
This unit is designated as a traffic control unit and is operated by our fire police division. This unit responds to all calls and assists our personnel when operating on highway incidents. Traffic 313 is a 1988 Ford Senital Ambulance which was purchased used and converted to suit our needs.
The year 2002 marked another significant milestone for the West Earl Fire Company No. 1. In October the fire company broke ground on a major addition and renovation project, which resulted in adding two engine bays, several offices, a meeting room, handicap accessible restrooms, a refurbished kitchen and several storage rooms along with bringing the fire station in compliance with current building codes. The construction project was desperately needed since all of the original station built in 1954 had not been updated since construction and the 1983 addition had no renovations completed either. The design builder for the project was Zimmerman Bros. Construction Inc. from Farmersville, PA. The overall cost of the project was $450,000.00 with some major portions of the project donated or performed at reduced rates by local businesses and portions completed by the members, resulting in a net cost to the fire company of $375,000.00.
The Seagrave pumper, Pierce tanker and Traffic 313 combine with a 1985 Chevrolet Suburban the fire company purchased in 1996 for use as a squad truck, to make up the current fire protection equipment owned and operated by the West Earl Fire Co. No. 1.
The West Earl Fire Co. No. 1 is proud of their seventy year, all volunteer service the company has given the citizens of Brownstown, Talmage and its outlying areas, and look forward to many more years.
This history was compiled and written by Phil Hursh in 1997 with updates in 2007. If anyone has further information regarding the West Earl Fire Co. No. 1, please contact us.