Cherry City Volunteer Fire Co. celebrates centennial
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 | 12:01 AM
Cherry City Volunteer Fire Co. is celebrating its 100th anniversary in a time when fire departments across the company are struggling to recruit members and secure funding.
“I do believe it’s coming of age that these volunteer companies are not going to be able to survive,” company president Richard Fowler Jr. said. “First of all, the recruitment is very difficult. It’s very difficult to get someone to join to make that kind of commitment. They may join, and then they see what’s involved, they see how much time they are away from their family and friends and their other activities to be committed, you know?”
Shaler residents chartered the 41-member fire department Oct. 6, 1919, in the growing Cherry City neighborhood, on the hilltop between Millvale and Etna. According to Fowler, George Seavey donated a school building to the fire company that same year.
“It was partially dismantled, rolled up Parker Street on logs and reassembled at our station’s former location, 300 Parker St., at the intersection of Koehler Street,” Fowler wrote in a document for a centennial celebration event.
In 1974, the company constructed its current Davis Avenue station and social hall.
Today, the department protects approximately 2,000 residential units and 10 businesses within 1.5-square miles. The crew has answered more than 300 calls so far this year.
The department is seeking new members. The company has five junior members, ages 15 to 17, who may become active firefighters upon turning 18 and completing 188 training hours at the Allegheny County Fire Academy. Fowler, who has served with the department for 31 years, started as a junior firefighter.
The company’s 24 active firefighters have completed a minimum of 36 training hours.
“This is a very easy way to see immediate results,” Fowler, who also is a Shaler police sergeant, said of volunteer firefighting. “If you go out on a call, you can save somebody’s life. A customer has a car, you can drag someone out. We just had a call a couple of weeks ago, we dragged an elderly woman out of a house that was on fire. Thank God, we saved her life. There’s plenty of opportunities to see good. You can definitely make a difference in your local community by volunteering.”
“We also have active fire fighters who said, ‘I’m going to hang up that helmet; I’m not going to fight fires, anymore.’ So, they went from an active fireman to an active member. You can become a life member after you have had 25 years of good service,” he said.
The department developed the business member category for people who want to support the station through fundraising without actively fighting fires. Weekly bingo at 7:15 p.m. Thursdays is the company’s largest moneymaker. Members currently are selling 2020 lottery calendars for $25 to raise funds.
At the October Shaler commissioners meeting, township Manager Tim Rogers recognized the Cherry City Volunteer Co. for its legacy.
“That’s 100 years of providing a public service — we all need fire protection — which includes volunteering their own time, raising their own money and operating a first-class volunteer fire operation. One hundred years of the finest trucks in the community and 100 years of a really quality building in a neighborhood.”
“… I cannot underestimate a staple like a volunteer fire company and the contribution to the community in terms of saving us money in fire protection and public safety problems. And also, just the fact that they have to raise their own money for the most part to do what they do, and I think they should be recognized for that.”
“Nothing gets to 100 years without a lot of hard work and dedication.“