The First Twenty Five Years
The organization of Rose Tree Fire Company was brought together in 1953 by the desire of a few dedicated men in the community trying to better serve their neighbors and overcome the rising costs of fire protection.
Early in this year, Nick Bartolone was called upon to assist a neighbor in difficulty. While involved in this incident he talked with Mr. Frank Dotts, a prominent township resident, indicating his interest in starting our own fire company within the township. Nick was informed that there was a small group of young men in the Five Points area who were also talking of a volunteer fire company. Mr. Dotts then put him in touch with a Mr. Rex Graham.
At this point a committee consisting of Rex Graham, David Rue, John Brown, Robert Brown, and Nick Bartolone looked into the feasibility of our own fire company. They talked about the problems and requirements, the type and cost of equipment needed, how and where to buy the equipment, the need for a charter, how to raise money and how to get enough people to do the job. There were many things to consider.
The self appointed committee met in the basement of Nick’s home on Eastwood Road in May of 1953. At that meeting they selected the name of Rose Tree Fire Company #1. The temporary officers selected were: President Rex Graham, Vice President Nick Bartolone, Financial Secretary John Brown, Recording Secretary Robert Brown, Chief Albert News, First Assistant Chief Clarence Mills, Second Assistant Chief Raymond Roche and Chief Engineer David Rue. Also at that meeting they discussed the type of equipment needed but no decision was made. Later that year, at the first public meeting in the township building, an International Chassis with an American LaFrance 500 GPM pumper was selected as the desired first piece of apparatus.
The Township Supervisors permitted our group to use the rear of the township building on Providence Road near Kirk Lane as our “Headquarters”. After obtaining our corporate charter in July 1953 the first official meeting was held at our new home. An election of officers was held resulting in the same slate selected previously at Nick’s home. A motion passed to purchase an International Chassis from Charles Limburg Motors, Media PA and to have it shipped to the American LaFrance plant in Elmira, NY where it would be fitted with the 500 gallon pump and other equipment.
A very active fund drive was begun that year with Charles Wilkins as chairman, and a publicity program followed in the local newspapers with Nick as the chairman. The township was completely saturated not missing a house. A story recounted by Nick himself, went on to say that he stopped at a home on South Orange Street where an elderly lady invited him inside her home and told him that she had been expecting the firemen. She gave him 100 pennies from a piggy bank, counting each one to be sure that there were 100 exact. The first annual carnival was held in 1953 and it was a huge success! And at this time a committee was formed to visit surrounding fire companies and solicit their support and cooperation.
In October 1953, Rose Tree took delivery of our first fire truck, “RT1”. About this time, we were given the front bay in the township garage which was a corrugated steel building on Providence Road where the By Pass now crosses. We also had a number of experienced men join the company and held some meetings wherein the citizens of the township, who were concerned about the adequacy of the fire equipment and the skills of our firemen could engage their concerns.
Our first fire call was in November 1953 and was an open flare on the side of the road that had turned over and set fire to the straw covering the recently poured concrete. The call came in during our weekly meeting and there were so many men on the truck it looked like a circus act.
Our first major fire occurred shortly before Christmas in 1953. It was a house fire at Providence Road and School Lane. The fire was knocked down quickly from within using a 2 ½ inch hose but there was still major damage.
By 1954 we were in business answering alarms with Media responding as a back up company. Our men had been trained at Westinghouse fire school and the leadership now included Al News, Clarence “Boots” Mills and Ray Roche. As you might imagine, one pumper was insufficient for our township, because of the numerous structures, woods and fields we protect. Along with this need came the need for manpower to operate additional equipment. After much discussion and research, a used Hahn custom pumper was purchased from Brandywine Hundred Fire Company, Wilmington, DE for $1,000.00. Soon after the purchase we realized it was a challenge to drive and needed repairs, so the pump was overhauled by qualified Chief Engineer Dave Rue.
In the early days, our fire calls came through the Media Police Station. They would activate our house siren and also alert our township police by radio.
Our Ladies Auxiliary which was organized in this year and continues to support the firefighters by raising money in many ways. They sell food, cater for wedding receptions, hold dinners, card parties, dances, flea markets, and Election-Day luncheons to name a few. They also have an emergency food committee that reports to the firehouse at the time of a major fire to see that the firefighters are supplied with drinks and sandwiches.
By July of 1955 we were able to pay off the loans on RT 1, the first truck, and so in August we voted to buy two mobile radios and a base station. Now we were really efficient, no longer needing runners between trucks or broken hoses. In 1956 we began thinking of another truck and ordered another International pumper, “RT 2”. This was officially housed on October 12, 1957 with a large parade and ceremony.
Soon after this, our home was in jeopardy because the township decided to move to a better location. We moved out the trucks, literally, as the rafters were coming down from the wrecking crews. As we were looking for tarps to cover the equipment out in the field, Mr. William Wasche, of Media Lawn Equipment Company at Five Points, offered us his garage in the alley behind his store. Adjustments had to be made to the doors so that the trucks would go in one at a time and come out the same way. It was a juggling act, especially if the lead truck would not start.
Our house siren was now located at the new township building nearby on Providence Road. When the siren blew our radio operator went to the radio shack at its base and the men responded to the garage on the alley. The location of the call was received by radio message.
In July of 1959 the new township building was completed and we were offered the police garage as a much needed space to store our equipment. About this time, a building committee was formed to look at some vacant ground near Evergreen Avenue and in November of 1961 the first 100’ x 100’ lot was purchased.
In 1963, the Hahn truck had to be retired. It was placed in Mrs. Creighton’s barn (township resident) in order to make room for the new piece of equipment RT #4. This piece was housed on May 25, 1963. And to build up our fleet more, we acquired a Dodge 3000 gallon tank truck loaned to us by Mr. Toomey from Rose Tree Road. There are a few of us that can tell you it took intestinal fortitude to drive it but it sure was handy to have 3000 gallons of water available. Even the companies we assisted were glad to see it come chugging in.
In 1965 we fought a major fire at the Brookwood Nursing Home on Ridley Creek Road with only one fatality. We were familiar with the layout of the home which proved invaluable. Many of the residents had to be rescued from the fire and it was televised and in the newspapers.
In this same year, more land was purchased at the Evergreen Avenue site and plans were started for our present building. On April 26, 1966 the building contract was signed and ground breaking took place one month later. After a long a tedious process our new building was finished. This was a great day for all who had dreamed of having our own fire house for over 13 years. The building was dedicated on May 30, 1967.
Things were now running much smoother with lots of room and easier planning. There was still much work to do in the way of finishing touches to complete the new station.
By 1970 we felt the need for an equipment truck. We purchased a used 1953 Ford from Cardington-Stonehurst Fire Company for $1753.00. It was repainted, lettered, equipped and we even added a small air bank.
At about this same time, we changed our run procedure so that our gear was hung on the wall instead of being stored on the truck.
In 1971 we voted to go on the County fire board communications system which means we would now be alerted by radio from the court house radio room. This has helped to hasten our response since many of the members get the alert tone by radio in their home or by pocket pager. A local number was established for emergency calls in the township and siren tests were performed weekly.
With the construction of many new apartment buildings and the rumors of many more to come, the members felt that there was need for a ladder truck. In 1973 a committee was formed to investigate this situation. Several trucks were considered and priced but the final decision was for a Seagrave 100 foot Rear Admiral Custom ladder with a 1000 gallon per minute pump. In June 1974 the contract was signed for its purchase at a price of $104,000.
This same year we lost the opportunity to hold our annual carnival which had been a great money maker for 21 years. We had to concentrate on our mailing fund drive and appreciate all the residents that generously donated. The Ladies doubled their efforts to help with the purchase of the new truck and the township supervisors also helped with this major expenditure. Finally after two years of anxiously waiting our Seagreave ladder was delivered on February 21, 1976.
The Next 25 Years of History…
The 20 year Lifetime Membership Award is established and Clarence Mills is the first recipient. The following month was Walt Jones, Bob Rock (Rocky), Bill Pennell, John Ramsey, Mike Mattia, Sr. and Sam Smith.
In 1982 the Captain position was established and in June a motion was passed to purchase a new E-One custom 1500 gallon per minute pumper with a 750 gallon water tank and we proudly received delivery of the truck in April 1983.
With an increase in the number of accidents in the township, we decided to improve our vehicle rescue capabilities. In 1986 a new hydraulic rescue system and “Jaws of Life” were purchased.
This same year the Nomex gear was replaced with PBI materials which offered more protection for the firefighters.
This decade saw many changes for Rose Tree. Computers became the way for doing business and training. Our budget was revised, and the radio codes were changed from the police-like “10-codes” to common language. We began researching PEMA loans for new apparatus and the township became a partner in the next apparatus purchase and future planning. We started recycling, rebuilt the front sidewalk, added a handicap ramp and resurfaced the entire parking lot.
After much research, Saulsbury Apparatus Company in New York was chosen as the vendor for our 1992 “Rescue Engine” and that same year we purchased a Chevrolet utility truck with an air bottle cascade system. About this time, we also got new air packs, Cairns 4500 psi with 45 minute bottles to replace the old Scott packs which were heavier and only lasted 30 minutes.
On Saturday, June 19, 1993, both the new Rescue pumper and the Chevrolet utility truck were housed and Rose Tree celebrated forty years of dedicated service.
In 1994, we started to experience the dreaded sewer back ups in the basement and there was a massive flood in March of 1995. Portions of the building were quarantined until June, new furniture had to be ordered, many items had to be discarded, the loss was over $150,000.
An ADA bathroom was added, we started a flower sale to raise money, began getting Hepatitis B shots and completely changed our dress uniform style and supplier.
In 1996, the company agreed to replace the old 73-5 with a new Quint and in 1999 we signed a contract for the purchase. The long and tedious process involved many hours of meetings and had many hurdles. After two years, we had to change vendors and start the process all over. We decided to work with American Lafrance to build a 75 foot Quint.
The engine room walls received a face lift and the pale green was replaced with a fresh red and white paint. The event hall has been completely redecorated as a combined effort of the members, Ladies and Williamson Trade School. The engine room interior needed to be redesigned in order to house our newest ladder truck, and so the members all pitched in a major effort to demolish our engineer’s room and built a new smaller one at the rear of the center bay.
We implemented annual physicals for all of the active firefighters due to the increased demands that emergency response places on our bodies and we purchased a Thermal Imaging Camera through a large order combined with multiple fire companies from around the area.
After a very long strategic planning process, we finally received our brand new American Lafrance 75 foot Quint and just shortly afterwards, followed through with our long-term goal to replace 73-2 (Engine 73). The arrival of the new Engine 73 puts it at exactly 50 years older than RT1, our first fire truck.
Our original first fire truck RT1 has been beautifully restored and in now in the process of getting an engine overhaul to bring it back to its original appearance and function.
New Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus’s (SCBA) were purchased. The new units are lighter in weight and have integrated personal alert safety systems that will alarm if the firefighter is in trouble.
A new SUV Command vehicle was added to our fleet and we purchased two more thermal imagining cameras.
Many efforts were made to obtain grant money to assist with funding and this allowed us to acquire an air compressor station to fill up the bottles for the SCBA’s and a diesel exhaust system to help keep the air inside the engine room clean when the trucks are running.
A huge undertaking was the work to develop and properly install a private radio system which was to put into operation in 2007 and this same year we launched the new website rosetreefire.com.
In 2008, The Fire Service Certification Advisory Committee of the Office of the State Fire Commissioner recognized Rose Tree as a Participating Fire Department of the Pennsylvania Fire Service Certification Program. Members of the company have worked hard in various training disciplines including: Firefighter I; Firefighter II; Driver / Operator; Hazardous Materials Operations Level; Fire Instructor I; Fire Instructor II; Fire Officer I and Fire Officer II.
Stay tuned for more updates…
Thank you for taking the time and interest to learn more about Rose Tree Fire Company. We look forward to continued growth and dedicated service to a fine community.