WASHINGTON FIRE COMPANY #1
CUMBERLAND COUNTY COMPANY #28
In 1856 the Borough of Mechanicsburg began a water company. In November of 1857 the Water Company installed fire plugs for the protection of the borough. At that time, the borough owned a hand pumper known as "THE WASHINGTON". It was built by a Mr. Agnew of Philadelphia. On December 29, 1857, a new fire engine arrived in the borough. It was known as the "LITTLE SQUIRT". That same evening the Washington Fire Company was organized. It is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in the Cumberland Valley. It offered the people of the borough protection from fire and the promotion of civic interests.
At the organizational meeting officers were elected to govern the destiny of the new company. They were as follows: President R. Wilson, Secretary A.N. Green, Treasurer Dr. J.B. Herring, Engineer William Matthews and W. Dornbaugh as Assistant Engineer. R.H. Thomas, D. Kimmel and H. Dornbaugh were Directors. A committee was appointed to draft the fire company constitution and by‑laws. The members were as follows: A.N. Green, Joseph Sanderson, Dr. J.B. Herring, W.C. Houser and R.H. Thomas.
The Fire Company was instituted on February 22, 1858, and was named in honor of the First President of the United States. Mechanicsburg, like many other progressive towns of the era, finally had a much‑needed organized fire protection. Citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who were at least 20 years of age could become members for a fee of $1.00. In September of 1858 the minimum age became 18 years old. Company meetings were held on Friday nights in the town hall. For the first few years officers were elected to a 6 month term.
In April of 1858 the Borough bought a hose carriage from the Citizen's Fire Company of Harrisburg. It was housed at the town hall on South Market Street with the hand pumper. It was determined that the hand pumper was too light to give effective service in an emergency without hose and hand tools. On May 25,1858 the Borough presented a new pumper to the Fire Company.
The first Fire Company Parade was held on June 24, 1858 with music provided by the Keystone Cornet Band. The company held its first banquet on February 22, 1859 with a torchlight procession. Since then the anniversary has been celebrated as near to that date as possible.
At the May 4, 1859 meeting a motion was passed to fine members $1.00 for not attending parades. On May 21, 1859 the fire company went to Carlisle, PA by train to help the Empire Hook and Ladder Fire Company celebrate their new ladder truck. The Singer Band went along at a cost of $15.00. Round trip train tickets cost 60 cents. On July 14, 1859, the foundation for a new town hall was laid at the corner of South Market Street and Stauffer Alley. The first floor housed the fire company equipment and the second floor contained a meeting room for town council.
The first permanent firehouse was built in 1860 by the fire company at 53 East Main Street. This has been home to the Washington Fire Company ever since. It was known as Washington Hall. It was built in the center of the borough's business district on land owned by the Union Church. The building had three floors.
At the December 6, 1860 meeting a resolution was passed to fine members 10 cents for missing calls to exercise the engine. On December 20, 1860 the company bought its first fire bell. No meeting was held in July of 1863. At the time the Confederate Army was occupying the Borough.
In February of 1866 the company purchased a Button Suction fire engine from Trenton, New Jersey. The price was to be less than $1000.00. On April 5, 1866 honorary membership was bestowed upon R.H. Thomas, G. Keefer and William Matthews for five years of active membership as called for in the Constitution.
During the late 1860's the Company meeting night was changed to the first Thursday of the month and has been the meeting night ever since. In June of 1869 town council bought 800 feet of 10" forcing hose with the Jones patent coupling and all necessary appendages.
In July of 1869 the Fire Company purchased a hose carriage from the Neptune Fire Company of Philadelphia, PA. It cost $275.00 plus $5.71 in shipping charges. The Fire Company still owns it and had it restored in 1975 at a cost of over $5000. Today its value is $25,000. The hose carriage was built in the early 1820's by Young Carriage builders of Philadelphia. It was pulled by company members to the scene of fires. Later on members would pull it in firemen's parades. On July 18, 1870 the town council purchased a third class Silsby Steamer model 9600 for the fire company from the Silsby Manufacturing Company of Seneca Falls, New York.
It had a pump rated at 600 gpm and was pulled by horses.
On July 5, 1872, the fire company placed hooks and ladders at six different locations around the town to use in case of fire to rescue people. An audit on January 1, 1873 showed $81.54 in the treasury. On February 16, 1873 parade uniforms were adopted. They consisted of red flannel shirts, New York fire helmets
and white belts with blue trim with the fire company name on them. They also wore blue New York style caps before and after the parades. On May 6, 1875 the first fire police were appointed.
In 1876 a second hose carriage was purchased by the company. The company apparatus for the year of 1876 consisted of the Silsby Steamer, the Button Suction hand pumper and a double‑brake hand pumper. Two hose carriages carried about 1,000 feet of leather hose and 800 feet of carbolized rubber hose. A hose carriage with 300 feet of hose was sold to New Kingston later in the year.
The Mechanicsburg Fire Department was formed in 1888 and rules were drawn up for a Borough Chief and Assistant Chiefs. In 1901 there were no fires in the Borough. On September 6, 1906 an agreement was signed between the fire company and the Union Church to build a new firehouse on the site of the present building. The deteriorating condition due to falling bricks made it necessary. The building was torn down on July 6, 1907 and a new two‑story firehouse was erected. The cost of the construction was $8,585. Today it would cost over $250,000 to build the same building.
The company sold its first bell on December 5, 1907. The company accepted the new building on February 6, 1908 and held its first meeting there on February 20, 1908. On May 5, 1908 a Miss Hummel presented a new fire bell to the fire company. It was during 1908 the fire company celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
During May of 1909 the roof of the firehouse was painted by James Walker. It took him 30 hours to complete the work at a cost of $5.26 (17 ½ cents per hour). On September 10, 1914 the company purchased a hose wagon from the Vigilant Hose Company of York, PA for $150.00. The Fire Company held its first Christmas Party for the children of the town on December 25, 1914. It's still being held today. On May 21, 1916 the Mechanicsburg Fireman's Relief Association was formed with other two borough fire companies. Reorganization occurred on June 19, 1924.
On May 5, 1917 the company received a Luverne Chemical truck. For several years it was the only motorized apparatus in the borough. In 1924 the company received an American LaFrance 750 gpm pumper. It was bought by Borough Council to replace the Silsby Steamer. It was the first gasoline pumper placed in service in the borough.
The Luverne Chemical truck was sold on December 3, 1925. On January 30, 1931 the first rural truck was placed in service by the company. The late S. Harper Myers, a local funeral director, presented to the company a Sayers and Scovill hearse. Orville May and Earl Wise
redesigned it as a fire engine. This truck was equipped with the first portable pump unit adapted for fire protection. The truck was used to give fire protection to the large rural district bordering Mechanicsburg.
On January 28, 1936 a fire began in the Myer's Furniture Store and soon spread to the Union Church located next to the firehouse. Firefighting efforts included the use of hose lines from the second floor windows of the firehouse. Contracts with the townships of Hampden and Silver Spring were first drawn up on May 7, 1936.
On July 9, 1938 the company purchased a W.S. Darley Champion Triple Combination on a 1938 ford chassis. It had a 500 gpm pump and a 200 gallon booster tank. It was used for the rural fire service. The total cost including equipment was $1,748.55. It replaced the Sayers and Scovill. A contract was signed with Lower Allen Township for fire protection on April 4, 1940.In 1942 the first siren was installed on the fire house to alert firemen of an emergency.
Also in 1942 a Diamond‑T engine with a 500 gpm pump arrived to replace the American LaFrance pumper. The Ladies Auxiliary was formed on October 3, 1946. In 1948 the company replaced the Ford pumper with another Diamond‑T engine. It had a 500 gpm Darley pump and a 400 gallon booster tank. The Borough purchased another 500 gpm Diamond‑T pumper. Its delivery resulted in having 3 Diamond‑T pumpers placed into service by the company.
It was also during 1948 that the fire company received the bell from the Irving College. This bell is still located in the backyard of the firehouse. In 1949 the company co‑hosted the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Fireman's Association convention and parade. A new house siren was installed on February 14, 1950 and could be activated from the borough hall.
A kitchen was built on the rear of the firehouse on May 4, 1950. New parade uniforms were ordered May 8, 1950.
A contractual agreement was drawn up with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on November 6, 1952 for fire protection. The first radios were installed in the trucks on October 6, 1955. In 1956 the company purchased its first emergency truck. It was an International which the company members installed with shelving for equipment and mountings for air masks.
In 1958 the front of the firehouse was remodeled and the narrow doors were replaced with the present overhead door. In the same year the Fire Company celebrated its centennial year with a gala banquet. It was held in the engine house on Saturday, February 22 with Lieutenant Governor Roy Furman as the principal speaker.
In August the company co‑hosted the Cumberland Valley Fireman's Association Convention and parade.
Also in August of 1958 a GMC with a 750 gpm Howe pump was placed into service. It was purchased by the Borough to replace the 1942 Diamond‑T, which was sold to the Silver Spring Fire Company. In 1961 the company purchased a GMC van. This was converted into a rescue truck. It replaced the 1956 International. In 1962 the company purchased a GMC engine with a 500 gpm pump and 800 gallon booster tank for rural service. It replaced the 1948 Diamond‑T. 1962 was the first year in which all three Borough fire companies had a combined fund drive by passing out coin cards.
On April 28, 1963 a train derailment occurred at the Brandtsville Crossing in Monroe Township. Tank cars containing different chemicals exploded and a large mushroom cloud also resulted. Fighting the fire with minimal personal protection and dealing with unknown chemicals makes one wonder about what effects it had on the firefighters.
In 1972 the Borough purchased a GMC with a three‑stage 750 gpm pump. The remaining 1948 Diamond‑T was moved to the borough garage and used as a reserve pumper. In 1974 the fire company marched in the Pennsylvania State Firemen’s Parade in Conshohochen. First place trophies were won. In 1975 the company purchasce another GMC van to replace the 1961 GMC rescue truck. The company members installed windows, flood lights, shelving for equipment, a generator and mounts for air masks. An electric winch was installed on the front.
During 1976, our nation's Bicentennial, the firehouse was remodeled and repainted inside. The backyard was beautified and the water fountain, which originally was located in front of Franklin Hall, was restored to its original style. The company also co‑hosted the 49th Cumberland County Volunteer Firemen's Convention and Parade with Citizen’s Fire and Rescue Company No. 2. The parade was held on July 3rd of that year as part of Jubilee'76.
On March 5, 1980 the company bought a Lukas Rescue Tool and Cutters at a cost of $8,900.00. In June of 1980 a Fire Alarm System was installed in the firehouse. In July 1981 the company took delivery of a 1980 Ford engine with a Darley 1000 gpm pump. This was bought by the Borough. It replaced the 1972 GMC which was placed back at the borough garage. This was the first diesel‑powered engine.
In September of 1981 the company purchased a set of MaxiForce Air Bags. It is the 3‑bag, 50 ton system. In August of 1980 the Borough sold the 1948 Diamond‑T, the last of the Diamond‑T's in the borough.
In November of 1981 the Borough sold the 1958 GMC. In December 1981 the company purchased a Maxim Squad truck from a company in New York. It featured a 250 gpm PTO pump, a 200 gallon booster tank, an electric generator and a rear mounted winch.
On November 4, 1982 the first woman was elected into membership. On December 1, 1983 the 1975 Squad was sold to the Barlow Volunteer Fire Company, Barlow, PA. On November 15, 1984 the Fire Company sold the 1962 GMC to Pete Gunn of Daulton, Georgia.
On March 11, 1985 the Fire Company took delivery of a new engine. It is built on a Ford C8000 chassis with a Darley 1250 gpm pump and 1000 gallon booster tank. It was dedicated in the memory of Harry D. Trace Jr., a former fire chief and honor member.
On February 20, 1986 a Cascade System was added to the Maxim Squad. In March of 1987 the Fire Company purchased a Squad from Arundel, Maryland. It was built on a Ford C800 chassis with a Swab compartmental box. The Cascade System located on the Maxim Squad was added to it.
On October 1, 1987 the Fire Company changed its By‑Laws to allow 13 to 15 year old youths to join the Fire Company as Junior members.
In October of 1987 the Maxim Squad was sold. In February 1988 the Fire Company purchased an Amkus Rescue Tool and Cutters at a cost of over $15,000. The Fire Company now has 2 rescue tools and 2 cutters in service.
In January of 1991 Brenda Ward became the first female to hold office. She was the Membership Secretary. A garage was built at the rear of the firehouse in late 1992. This housed the hose carriage and extra hose used by the fire company.
During March of 1994 the squad was sold to Dayton Products of Scranton, PA.
On May 11, 1994 the fire company took delivery of a new squad. It is built on a chassis by HME. The box was built by 4Guys of Myersdale, PA. It features a telescoping light tower, an on board cascade system and an on board hydraulic system for the Amkus tool and cutters.
In February of 1995 the position of Safety Officer was established. William Foley Jr. was named to the position.
In October of 1995 the Hose Carriage was placed on display at the Fire Museum of Greater Harrisburg
Also in October of 1995 a new Borough purchased engine was placed in service. It has a W.S. Darley 1500 gpm single stage pump and a 500 gallon booster tank. It was built on a chassis. It replaced the 1980 Ford.
On October 1, 1996 the 1980 Ford was sold to
Throughout the long history of the company it has paraded in the following states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The Fire Company has been rewarded with many trophies and cash prizes. The most treasured are the three large first place trophies the Company won at the 1974 Pennsylvania State Firemen's Parade in Conshohocken.
The company has in its possession a lot of old pictures, marble top tables, statues, collections of parade badges and other firefighting memorabilia. The backyard has the bells of the old Franklin Hall and Irving College. The old water fountain located in front of Franklin Hall can also be seen in the backyard.
The Washington Fire Company of Mechanicsburg is one of the oldest Fire Companies in Central Pennsylvania. It has a rich history of providing protection for the lives and property of the citizens of Mechanicsburg. They have long thought of the Washies as a hard‑working group who have a certain spirit to meet the challenges brought forth at the scene of any emergency. It takes a person with a desire, probably even an inner need, to challenge the extremes of their personal abilities to become a good firefighter. Not all fire company members are good firefighters, but the Washies has a place for all those who are willing to come to the aid of their neighbors in any way they can.
In recent years there has been an effort made by the membership of the Company to interest the youth of the Borough in fire fighting. The Washies today have a large active membership in Cumberland County. It's made up mostly of young men and women between the ages of 13 and 40. They have a desire to learn about fire fighting from the fine group of experienced firemen who have worked to build the Company into what it is today.
The Company has always been active in all civic movements in the community. Members of the Company have always served their country in the armed forces. They have come from all walks of life and also have been involved politically in the Borough of Mechanicsburg. The Washington Fire Company thanks the Borough of Mechanicsburg for all it has done for it. We hope to continue to serve the community in whatever capacity its citizen's request of it.