East McKeesport Volunteer Fire Company No. 2
East McKeesport Volunteer Fire Company No. 2 was organized on March 21, 1921 and was granted an official charter from the state in 1930. The first officers of the company were G.C. Lancaster, President; J.J. Stanger, Vice President; C. R. Morgan, Recording Secretary; William Newton, Treasurer; William Santner, R.B. Monroe, and A.M. Taylor, Trustees; and J.K. Moore, Captain.
A frame building was constructed at the corner of Broadway and Punta Gorda Avenues to house the new company's equipment and to provide a voting place for citizens of that area. The first piece of fire equipment was a hand-drawn hose cart and a thirty-five gallon chemical tank. As the borough expanded, more modern equipment was purchased. In 1955 the company purchased a new Ford Howe 500 GPM pumper which served until 1979, when the current Ford Pierce 1000 GPM pumper replaced it.
In 1943, the first ambulance was purchased to serve the borough and surrounding communities. It was used during World War II to transport wounded soldiers from the County Airport to area hospitals. Several different ambulances were utilized throughout the years, including a Pontiac station wagon in the early seventies, a Dodge van in the late seventies and early eighties, a Ford Amliner van in the early and mid eighties, and a Ford modular unit in the late eighties and early nineties.
Rescue equipment purchased from Holmatro Inc. was added to the inventory in 1984, and a rescue truck was purchased from the Holiday Park Volunteer Fire Company in 1986 to carry all of the newly acquired rescue equipment.
The current fire hall was constructed in 1967-68 on the site of the original building and has been used for many events and services, such as Model Cities meetings, a preschool for borough children, and the borough's police station for a brief period. Numerous changes were made to the building throughout the years, such as the addition of a new kitchen, the renovation of the social hall, and the replacement of the two original garage doors with one large door.
Wall Volunteer Fire Department History
August 1907, a group of ambitious young men wearing rubber boots, coats and hats pulling two hose carts…this was the first Volunteer Fire Company of Wall. Dr.Parks was appointed by Council as the first Fire Chief. All members had to be elected by Council. The quarters were at 431 Wall Avenue (The old Borough building, now apartments).
Two minor reorganizations occurred when, in 1910, the fire company became the Wall Volunteer Fire Company #1 and again in 1925 when theFire Company became the Wall Volunteer Fire Department. Although members could vote on their choice of officers, Council still had the final say. In 1939, the fire department notified Council that their system was no longer acceptable and 43 members tendered their resignations. In the same year operating under its own new Charter and By-laws, the Wall VFD, Incorporated, began. Although some updating of by-laws and regulations occurred, the basic concept continued.
Community involvement beyond emergency service has always exemptlified the Wall Volunteer Fire Department. From 1908 and the organizing of the Wall Fire Department Fife and Drum Corps right through the late 1950’s and the Drum and Bugle Corps (with over 100 members), the banner of Wall was carried with pride in countless parades. Memories of 50 firemen along with the Ladies Auxiliary following the blue and white colors of the Corps…over 180 people of the street…still bring a glint of pride to the eyes of our Life Members. Economics, not a lack of interest, forced the department to give up the Corps. Although the drum corps was gone, the department never gave up its commitment to youth and in 1962 began one of the first Junior Fire Corps in the area.
In 1978, the membership voted to upgrade firefighting capabilities after a major structure fire occurred. A second engine was acquired. Then, in 1985, the old pumper was replaced with a 1000 GPM Diesel Howe fire engine. With the assistance of the Wall Civic Association, fire combat gear was replaced and new safety standards were initiated. The Wall Civic Assoc. really came through for us.
The 1980’s were packed with activity on the part of the fire department. Training at all levels was made a priority, EMT’s were trained and our first Paramedic received his certification making our ambulance more effective.
Firefighters, both male and female, received training at the North Park Fire Academy in all aspects of firefighting, safety, pump operations and command. Then came another first for the Wall Fire Department – after lengthy and low-key planning, the first local level training sessions were held here in the Borough. Before this, students had to drive to North Park to attend classes. This took away valuable manpower as well as putting a burden financially on the volunteers…remember the gasoline shortages?
Now, the members could just meet at the local fire halls to train. They would receive all of their certificates from the State and County, save wear and tear on the vehicles, save time in not having to travel back and forth. The other benefits to local-level training was that we had more people able to attend classes and that we were still able to answer calls during the sessions.
Returning to our old traditions, the Department revived the Battle of the Barrel teams that were so very popular and successful during the 1940’s and 1950’s. The new teams quickly relearned the winning ways of our Life Members, taking trophies at local levels and eventually taking First Place in Allegheny Country competition…Pride!
During the later 1980’s we also found that the Fireman’s Club that had served us so well for over forty years was now becoming a liability. It was more and more difficult to find volunteers to run the club, respond to ambulance and fire/rescue calls and to keep up with the training. Although the main source of income for the Department was the club, the members decided that it was best to close. The ambulance service, which had operated free of charge for all those years, had also become too much for the member-ship. Federal, State and County Emergency Service regulations were changing constantly, costing more and more money in both equipment and training. Reluctantly, the members voted to dissolve the ambulance service and turn the medical responsibility over to what was then the Wilmerding EMS (now EAPHS).
The downside to closing the Fireman’s Club and discontinuing the ambulance was that income was now very low. In 1982, we began a weekly Bingo Game in the Borough Building, which operated over 23 years, only to close in June 2005 due to limited hall venues, growing costs in utilities and, quite frankly, a decline in participation of players due to everyday rising cost of living…we always did and will appreciate the loyalty of the players and especially the members who gave up their time to run it. We also began an annual Fund Drive, which has been supported by many of our private citizens. We, like all other organizations, continue to look for revenue through fund raising as well as the Fund Drive.
During the 1990’s, it became apparent that the Wall VFD was facing the same problems that many other fire departments were having to deal with, namely low manpower and a serious lack of funding. It was at this point that the members began looking for ways to strengthen both the financial position and the membership requirements. As a Borough, we began pre-
liminary merger talks with Wilmerding. The Fire Department also began talks with North Versailles and East McKeesport Fire Departments to explore the possibility of merger. Talks with Wilmerding, though relatively productive, went to impasse and eventually ended. Merger discussions with North Versailles also hit some roadblocks. Through all of this, the Fire Department kept moving forward. The members, on their own time and talent, completely reconditioned a fire engine purchased from Maryland, saving tens of thousands of dollars. With wise spending of monies, many modern improvements were made.
Merger talks with East McKeesport VFC #2 continued and eventually resulted in a three-year trial period. The membership and officers of both companies worked long and hard to try to make this unusual merger work. The reason the merger was considered unusual was because it involved two separate communities as well as two distinct departments. With the help of the fire department officers and members and the valuable help of the Councils of Wall and East McKeesport, the merger was accomplished. The new organization is called United Volunteer Fire and Rescue. We operate two stations, one in each Borough. With the influx of members and the stabilizing of finances we are able to provide better and more efficient services to our citizens. A new fire engine was purchased and, through a Federal Grant, a modern Aerial Truck and equipment was acquired and put into service.
Many exciting changes are happening in the new Department. We are always looking for new members, not only for firefighting or ambulance, but also for administrative work such as record keeping, inventory control and repair, fund raising, etc. The Wall Volunteer Fire Department is now United Volunteer Fire and Rescue, but our mission and our people remain the same. (Many sections of this history are taken from the 1976 version of the History of Wall Borough, Pennsylvania as well as the 74 th Annual Convention booklet of the Allegheny County Volunteer Firefighters Association published jointly by the Wall VFD and the Wilmerding EMS…also, this history wouldn’t be possible if not for the courage and inspiration of Wall VFD Life Members, past and current members)