History of Union Fire Company #1 of Leesport, Pennsylvania
A group of residents from Leesport and West Leesport met in Rahn’s Hall, Leesport, February, 1900 for the purpose of organizing a fire company. The official name adopted was “UNION FIRE CO. #1 OF LEESPORT.”
The first engine was purchased from The International Fire Company of New York City, at a cost of $637.00, in November of 1900. This was a hand pumper first drawn by manpower and later by horses. The engine was drawn by horses owned by members of the company. On a call to a barn fire in West Leesport, one of the horses dropped dead from exhaustion.
A Charter was granted January 14, 1901.
The first fire house was erected on South Canal Street in 1901 and currently serves as the social building. A 30 foot addition was constructed in 1911 adding the stage to the hall. During the early years of the fire company, many social activities were held at the Fire Company, such as card parties, dances, suppers, movies, and basketball games. These were commonly held as fundraising and social events for the community.
On September 3, 1920, the company decided to purchase its first motorized fire apparatus from Hahn Motor Company at a cost of $5,000.00. This truck was equipped with a 350 gallon per minute pump, two chemical tanks and was on solid rubber tires. The truck was received on February 3, 1921 and put into service with an additional $2,000.00 for hose and other firefighting equipment. The housing of the new truck took place on June 18, 1921. It is unknown as to who the current owner is and where the apparatus is. The last piece of information known about the 1932 Pumper is that it is sitting along Route 1 in Maryland.
In December, 1921 Fire Company Officials tried to encourage Borough and Township Officials to impose a 1 Mill tax for fire protection. Even though this never materialized, the fire protection never lapsed or dwindled, but continued to grow and prosper.
A fire siren was purchased for $291.67 and installed in top of what was then Graeff’s Garage on November 7, 1923. This siren was removed for safety reasons in 1988 from what is now Berman Freightliner.
March 4, 1925, the Leesport Fire Company Relief Association was organized.
May 6, 1925, a canvass was made throughout the community for purchasing additional hose. This canvass produced $937.00.
April 11, 1932, the Company’s second piece of apparatus was purchased from Hahn Motors at a cost of $3,500.00. This apparatus was equipped with a 500 gallon per minute pump and 100 gallon booster tank. This was the first truck the company owned that had pneumatic tires. Hahn Motors used this truck as a demonstration model. The Fire Company also remodeled the 1920 Hahn, a new booster tank replaced the chemical tanks.
May 4, 1932, the Fire Company organized a social club for its members. This club has been in operation ever since.
In 1936, additions and renovations were made to the fire hall at a cost of $3,500.00.
A barn fire in January 1936 gave Chief J. Fred Huff national fame through the press, as he assumed the role of “Motorized Paul Revere.” When the call came in, the siren would not sound because it was frozen. The operator called the Chief and he immediately got into his truck and picked up several active firemen. He routed them from their beds and soon had enough men to respond. Other active fireman heard the sirens of the responding apparatus. Chief Huff was then known as “Paul Revere.”
February 7, 1940, the Company decided to refurbish the 1932 Hahn with a new engine, dual wheels, and booster brakes for a cost of $2,500.00. This truck was then considered a 1940 model fire apparatus. To this current day it is unknown where the truck is and who the current owner is, but we do know it is currently being used as a drag race truck.
On September 5, 1945, the Fire Company received bids from four apparatus manufacturers. On the recommendations of the Apparatus Committee, the Company voted to accept the bid from Mack International Motor Truck Company for the price of $9,438.99. This truck was equipped with a 750 gallon per minute pump, 500 gallon booster tank, and a 205 horsepower motor. An additional $2,000.00 was spent for hose and firefighter equipment.
To defray part of the cost of the new apparatus and equipment, the Company asked residents in their district for contributions. This was the first major fund drive since 1925. The contributions totaled $6,258.50.
The Fire Company did not have enough room to house the apparatus, so the former “Schuylkill Valley House” next to the fire hall was purchased at a cost of $8,500.00. This property was remodeled to house one of the fire engines. The remainder of the property remained as apartments.
February 6, 1947, the Company sold the 1921 Hahn truck to Paul Zipp for $126.00.
On June 1, 1949, the showing of movies ended due to a state law requiring chairs to be permanently secured to the floor.
October 7, 1950, the Company celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a Banquet at the Rajah Temple in Reading.
Preliminary negotiations regarding the property of the old ball field along Wall Street took place in April of 1950. However, it wasn’t until 1955 that an agreement was reached with the Borough of Leesport to lease this property along Wall Street to construct a new apparatus building. A lease for 99 years at a cost of $1.00 was written until a building was erected. The new engine house construction began in the fall of 1955 and was completed in the spring of 1956. The new four bay engine house was built for a cost of $353,000.00. In February 1956, the Borough of Leesport deeded the property, 200ft. x750ft., to the Fire Company as previously agreed. This is the site of our present building which houses four pieces of apparatus.
In November, 1951, a 1952 Chevrolet emergency truck was purchased at a cost of $1,600.00. This truck carried a portable generator, lighting units, turnout gear, and all types of emergency equipment.
During 1954 and 1955 the Company purchased radio equipment for all trucks for dispatching and communications.
May 17, 1956, the apartment building, formerly the “Schuylkill Valley House” was sold for $8,500.00.
During 1957, improvements were made to the social Quarters at a cost of $4,400.00. Expansion of the Social Club to include the former engine room was proposed at this time, but was not accomplished until many years later.
In 1960, a 1946 Ford tank truck was purchased at a cost of $600.00. This truck was equipped with a pump and 750 gallons of water.
To liquidate the debt incurred constructing the new apparatus building, the Company started an intensive fund-raising drive which continued to January 1963. On August 17, 1963, the Company participated in a joint mortgage burning ceremony with the Schuylkill Valley Ambulance Association of Leesport. It was a great success realizing for the Company a $1,500.00 profit from the venture.
During the summer of 1964, the Company realized the need for a new tank truck. In October of 1964, a new tank truck was ordered. The cab and chassis were ordered from Degler Chevrolet at a cost of $4,500.00 and the pump and body from Hahn Motors at a cost of $10,500.00. The new tank truck was delivered February of 1965. This tank truck is equipped with a 250 gallon per minute take-off pump, 100 gallon water tank, two booster reels, 1-1/2” preconnected line, and full height compartments for carrying equipment.
July of 1965, the 1946 Ford tank truck was sold for $600.00.
June of 1968, the Company authorized the planting of a White Birch Tree between the engine house and the ambulance building, in memory of Chief J. Fred Huff by the Huff Family.
Renovations to the Social Club were approved in April of 1969. These renovations included paneling of the walls, new lights and door at a cost of $1,800.00. Also, a new tile floor was installed in the Social Hall by the members at a cost of $1,000.00.
January of 1970, the Company decided to restart the Junior brigade for members of our community between the ages of 16 and 21.
In 1970, the Company realized their need for a new pumper to replace the obsolete 1932 Hahn pumper, and a committee was formed to develop specifications and receive bids. April 7, 1970, the Company approved the purchase of a 1970 Chevrolet cab and chassis from Degler Chevrolet, and a pumper placed on the chassis by Hahn Motors of Hamburg at a cost of $28,000.00. This pumper is equipped with a 750 gallon per minute pump, 500 gallons of water, booster reel and 1-1/2” preconnect line. Additional equipment such as Scott Air Pack, ladders and hose were also purchased.
From 1970 to 1975, the Fire Company progressed in the line of firefighting equipment. Through the courtesy of the Leesport Jaycee Wives, a Homelite Multipurpose Saw was acquired. Other equipment purchased included a Portapower rescue kit, a 24 foot 3 section extension ladder, 8 foot collapsible ladder and a 750 gallon per minute deluge gun.
January of 1971, the 1946 Mack pumper was repainted by Ron Hamerly at a cost of $1,196.00.
April of 1971, the 1940 Hahn pumper was sold to Wolfe Dye & Bleach for $260.00.
On August 7, 1976, the Fire Company celebrated its 75th Anniversary. The Leesport Fire Company Junior Brigade presented the Company with a new siren erected at the engine house. The Junior Brigade raised $1,294.00 through car washes and bake sales to make this project possible.
Following the 75th Anniversary, the Fire Company began to consider the purchase of a new fire apparatus. In order to finance a new truck, new fund raising activities were initiated. Among the most successful were the carnivals which were held from 1977 through 1982.
March 21, 1977, the Company voted to install new doors at the engine house at a cost of $2,800.00.
October 5, 1977, the Company approved renovations to enlarge the Social Club to include the old engine room at a cost of $7,000.00.
January 1, 1978, the Company’s fire calls began to be dispatched by Wells Fargo, Reading, Pennsylvania. This greatly improved the response time and communication resources for our community. This was made possible with the cooperation of the Temple Fire Company and Central Fire Company of Laureldale.
May 15, 1978, the Company awarded a contract to Windsor Service to repave the Social Quarters parking lot at a cost of $8,896.00.
After many meetings and truck demonstrations, the committee recommended to purchase a new Pumper-Rescue truck. In January of 1979, the Fire Company signed a contract for a new 1,000 gallon per minute Pumper-Rescue truck from Hamerly Custom Products built on a 1979 International chassis purchased from Lowe & Moyer, Inc. The total cost of this truck was $55,000.00. An additional $15,000.00 was needed to purchase equipment for this truck. The truck was received on September 1, 1979 and placed into service on October 30, 1979. The Company received $27,524.00 from the State’s 2% Loan Fund to help finance this new truck. In addition to it being a Class A , 1,000 GPM Pumper, this truck is fully equipped to function as a Recuse Truck. Other equipment carried on this truck includes breathing apparatus, 6,000 Watt Electric system, 15,000 pound power take-off winch, 1,700 feet of 3” hose, two preconnect 1-1/2 inch attack lines and a 500 gallon booster tank.
In May of 1980, the “Lukas Rescue System”, Jaws of Life, was purchased at a cost of $7,500.00. This greatly improved the Fire Company’s rescue capabilities.
Also, in May 1980, the Company approved renovations to the Social Club and Social Hall to include a new 400 amp three phase electric system and a new air conditioner at a cost of $11,000.00.
August 23, 1980, was the housing of a 1979 International 100 GPM Pumper-Rescue truck.
September of 1980, the Company voted to remodel the Social Hall. This included a new heating system, paneling, new ceiling, and insulation at a cost of $3,000.00.
In February of 1981, the Company resumed Thursday night bingo as a fund raising project for new firefighting equipment.
May of 1981, the Company accepted an offer of a 1960 Diamond T truck from Leesport Borough Authority at a cost of $1.00. Conversion of this truck to tank truck was accomplished by the members. The cost to remodel, paint, and equip the truck was under $7,000.00
September of 1981, the Company voted to sell the 1952 Chevrolet Emergency Truck for $1,278.00.
May of 1982, the Company approved of replacing the roof on the social Hall at a cost of $5,115.00.
October of 1982, a Fire Alarm System was installed in the Engine House by Commonwealth Security.
The need for a new and larger tank truck was realized and a committee was approved in January 1983.
June 1, 1983, the Company approved installation of new windows in the Social Hall at a cost of $3,200.00.
In October of 1983, the Company voted to purchase a new 2,100 gallon tank truck. The cab and chassis were purchased from Berman-White, Inc. at a cost of $48,481.00 and the tank and pump from Four Guys Fabrication at a cost of $35,895.50. This truck is equipped with a 500 GPM pump, 2,500 gallon portable pool, 8 inch dump valve, and 2,100 gallons of water. The truck was received in March of 1984, and put into service May of 1984. This was the first truck purchased without borrowing funds.
January of 1984, the Company voted to convert the 1970 Chevrolet 750 GPM pumper to 1,000 GPM pump at a cost of $1,700.00 from Hahn Motors of Hamburg.
On August 1, 1984, the Company awarded a contract to Northern Berks Construction for new bathrooms and a storage room to the Social Hall at a cost of $78,495.00.
August of 1984, the Company voted to purchase 1,600 ft. of 5 inch hose. This greatly improved the water supply capabilities of the Fire Company.
January of 1985, the Diamond T tank truck was sold to the Blandon Fire Company for $2,000.00.
August 24, 1985, was the Parade and Housing of the 1984 2,100 gallon White tank truck.
May of 1989, the remodeling of the Engine House was completed including a new heating system, upgraded electrical system (200 amp service), installation of new thermopane windows, new lighting inside, interior painting, and exterior stucco aluminum capping.
To keep up with the changes in communications, all radios were replaced with new upgraded capability units; this includes 7 hand-held portables, 4 new radios in the apparatus, and 4 new officer radios for their personal vehicles at a cost of $14,400.00. All radios contain six working channels for communication with our surrounding companies.
Also in 1989 the 1946 Mack Pumper was sold for $5,100.00 to Marvin Kauffman the owner of Kauffmans’s Barbeque Chicken Ranch Resturant in Rehrersburg, Pa.
March of 1990, 45 new Minitor 2 channel Pagers were purchased at a cost of $16,055.00.
To keep up with changes in firefighter personal equipment, 35 complete sets of Turnout gear were purchased from the relief 2% Fund at a cost of $28,000.00.
October of 1991, the purchase of a new Pumper was fulfilled with the acquisition of a 1991 Pierce 1,750 GPM pumper, with a top mount pump panel, 1,000 gallon booster tank, with a six man enclosed cab, the cost of the new pumper was $235,000.00 and has an additional 1,500 ft. of 5 inch hose.
In 1992 the 1965 Chevy Hahn Tank Truck was sold to Jan Adams a local farmer and the truck was converted into a farm truck.
In 1995 the membership decided they should look into replacing the 1979 Hamerly Rescue/Pumper. The company decided to purchase a 1997 Pierce Quantum Rescue/Pumper. This truck is equipped with an 8 man cab, 1,500 GPM pump, 500 gallon booster tank, 30 gallon foam tank, 15 ft. light tower, built-in Amkus rescue system, and other miscellaneous equipment used for firefighting and rescue calls. Cost of this apparatus was $350,000.00.
In 1996 or 1997 the 1970 International/ Hamerly was sold to Woodbine VFD in Corbin, Kentucky and is still in service.
In the year 2003 the White 4-Guys Tank Truck was sold to Atglen Fire Company in Chester County. In 2005 the truck was sold again to Republic Fire Department in Republic, Missouri and is still in service.
In 1970 the Chevy Hahn Pumper was sold to a fire truck collector in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Shortly after that in 2005 it was sold to a collector in Roanoke, Va. Then in 2006 it was once again sold to Anthony Blazek of Riverdale, Maryland. In October of 2008 the truck was sold to its current owner Randall Strause and the truck was brought back to Leesport, Pa.
After 21 years of being owned by the Kauffman family they decided to donate the 1946 Mack Pumper back to the Leesport Fire Company in 2010. This was due to an increased interest from some of the members. We are truly grateful for their generous donation.
In July of 1932, President of the Fire Company, Edwin McElroy called the ladies of the community together to see if they could start a Ladies Auxiliary. The next few weeks were busy ones – telephone calls were made, personal contacts, and telling all the ladies about the Auxiliary. Finally the first meeting was held on August 1, 1932 with approximately 20 women present.
The following officers were elected: President, Mrs. Alfred Kunkelman; Vice President, Mrs. Nataniel Zimmerman; Secretary, Mrs. Arthur Miller; Financial Secretary, Mrs. Lester Strausser; and Treasurer, Mrs. Calvin Moser.
All meeting were to be held the first Wednesday of every month. Institution of the Auxiliary came on August 3, 1932. A charter was granted to the Auxiliary of January 3, 1940, ad so the Ladies Auxiliary of the Union Fire Company No. 1 of Leesport was organized.
Records of the meeting were kept. Membership grew with charter members and regular members attending meetings. Card parties, dances, and dinners were held. Regular kiddie Christmas parties were held for the children of members and community residents since December of 1939. Annual Egg Hunts were also held for the children each year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.
As of the year 2000 Ladies up to the age of 45 were welcome to join. Also, the Ladies Auxiliary would support the firemen at all major emergency incidents. Luncheon menus were prepared for zone meetings, wedding receptions, birthday parties, and Christmas parties.
Before the Ladies Auxiliary failed to have enough interest from the new and upcoming firefighter’s wives they donated and contributed many things to the Union Fire Company No. 1 of Leesport. These items include: Chairs for the Fire hall, First Aid Kits, Donations to the Lighting Fund, a new 10 Burner Stove for the kitchen, $5,000.00 to the Building Fund for a Deluge Gun, a Walnut Plaque for the Union Fire Co. #1, a Walkie-Talkie Radio (cost $689.05), a Slicer for the kitchen (cost $640.24), to the Equipment Fund – $1,000.00 each year from 1978 to 1982, to the Social Club – $900.00 for tables, to the Equipment Fund – $750.00, to the General Account – $750.00, to the Computer Account – $5,000.00, and a Gas Monitor ($2,100.00). The last meeting for the Ladies Auxiliary was in June 2002.
The Leesport Fire Company Junior Brigade was first organized in early 1961. Participation and membership dwindled and in 1970 the junior Brigade was reorganized. A large influx of members followed and the group ran smoothly until most of the members turned 21 and they joined the regular membership.
The Junior Brigade is comprised of all members ages 16 – 21. Over the years they have been responsible for purchasing a Craftsman Mechanics Tool Box, a Fiberglass Stokes Litter, Hydrant and Spanner Wrench Combinations, an eight foot Collapsible Ladder, Pocket Spanner Wrenches, the Engine House Siren, and other equipment.
Our future depends on youthful volunteers which are greatly needed to fulfill the demand on the Fire Department.