September 12th, 2007 started out as any other day for members of the Schuylkill Hose Company # 2. The afternoon however, proved to be anything but normal.
At 13:43hrs the Schuylkill Hose Co. #2 was dispatched to 310 North 12th street in the City of Pottsville for a RIT assignment at a structure fire, but were cancelled en-route. When they got back to the station, several members remained at the firehouse and talked for about 20 minutes. Upon leaving the firehouse nothing abnormal was noted.
At 15:22 hours the Schuylkill Haven Fire Department was dispatched to East Union and St Peter Streets for a reported commercial structure fire. (Dispatch & On Scene Audio) At this intersection in Schuylkill Haven, there are only two commercial structures with the firehouse being one and a large school building across from the firehouse. This caused members to call one another on their cell phones to find out where the fire was located. The next statement from Chief 722, Treasurer Glenn Sattizahn, is a statement that will be stuck in everyone’s head as he arrived on scene and reported the engine room of the firehouse fully involved. As members began arriving they were unable to do anything to control the blaze because the engine room was charged with heat, smoke and fire. It was now just a matter of waiting for the other borough companies to arrive. This seemed like an eternity for members but actually only took a couple minutes for the other borough companies to arrive. Once they were on scene members help stretch lines and setup a water supply. Due to the large amount of fire mutual aid companies were dispatched from other departments to help extinguish the fire.
Once the fire was extinguished, members were able to assist with salvage operations in the basement social quarters and meeting room. To our relief, many of our antiques and important pictures could be saved. That night was a long one as we were removing water from the floors, soaked ceiling tiles and insulation as well as assisting the borough electric crews in restoring electric to parts of the building.
After a month it was noted that the entire upstairs would need to be gutted and remodeled. Once everything was cleared out of the engine room the entire engine room was soda blasted to remove all off the soot and the smoke smell. Shortly after this the entire roof and trusses were removed due to the heat damage. It didn’t take long for the new trusses and roof to go on which was a huge step in the recovery process. After this was complete the engine room was finally starting to come back together. The engine room and offices got a new coat of paint and new wiring throughout the building. Once that was done, the members in showing their pride decided to work and redo the meeting room, hallways, bathrooms, kitchen and office space. With the money saved by doing it ourselves was used to put in some upgrades, which included an alarm system and sprinkler system.
There was a brief period where we took a break from running calls to give everyone a chance to recover from what just happened. We had numerous offers on donated apparatus and the first piece we got a 1980 Seagrave which was donated from the Humane Fire Company in Pottsville . This piece was used in the meantime while we awaited a loaner engine from American LaFrance. Once the loaner engine arrived it was placed in service and the 1980 Seagrave was returned to Humane. Shortly after Humane’s donation, Independent Hose Company of Minersville also donated their Squad Vehicle to allow us to transport additional personnel to the scene.
Meanwhile, decisions on apparatus were thought out and decided on what would serve us best.
It was finally decided to replace the Haz-Mat trailer with a 2004 International/Hackney delivery truck. This would allow the utility to be more easily utilized as you did not need a vehicle to tow it and it offered more space then the Haz-Mat trailer did. After many long hours of working on it by the members Utility 734 was finally placed in service in April 2008.
After many truck committee meetings and tours and trips it was finally decided to go with Pierce for our new engines. This was a tough decision for some as the company was a 60 plus year customer to American LaFrance. The members then decided to return the American LaFrance back to them and then was donated a 1976 Mack CF from the American Hose Company of Pottsville, to run until the new engine arrived.
After two trips to Wisconsin to see our new Pierce in its different production stages, we saw delivery of Engine 732 on October 29, 2008. Once we took delivery a lot of time was spent at the fire house moutnign equipment and getting everone familiar with it. Then on November 8 th , 2008 the new engine was officially placed in service.
With Engine 732 in service, multiple meetings were held on Engine 733. In December 2008 the paperwork was signed with expected delivery date around April or May 2009.
A crew of three made two more trips to Wisconsin to inspect the new E-733 at Pierce in its different production stages. Once everything was finalized, we saw delivery of Engine 733 on May 22, 2009. Being that this engine was quite similar to the first one, members did need to spend much time to get acquainted with it. Members spent the entire day and worked late into the night on the 22nd as well as a full day on the 23rd to mount equipment and to get everything straightened out between the two engines. Engine 733 was officially placed in service on May 23rd, 2009.
September 12th, 2009 exactly 2 years from the date of our devastating fire we held a triple housing and building rededication. Around 100 pieces of apparatus came to Schuylkill Haven on a rainy day to help us celebrate this milestone in our history. The ceremonies were a fitting tribute to everyone who helped us through the toughest time in our 117 year history of serving Schuylkill Haven and its surrounding communities.