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History of Freeland, Pa.
Freeland Fire Department equipment

The Freeland Fire Department celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2008. To celebrate and commemorate the fine work of the fire department, Cal Herring is compiling a narrative of its history. Parts of that history are being posted here as I receive them from him. Please feel free to contact Cal Herring with comments and corrections.

Apparatus operated by the Freeland Fire Department

-- Compiled and contributed by Cal Herring

During these early years, many fires were fought with bucket brigades. First hand drawn pumpers and hose carts appeared in 1885 and 1888 and by the nineteen twenties, several of these and a hand drawn ladder cart were in service. These carts were all purchased and maintained by the borough. There is no record of a steam powered pumper ever being in service in these early years, although horses were used to a limited degree.

In late 1922, the first piece of motorized fire apparatus appeared in Freeland. The first engine was a 1922 REO and was equipped with a 1922 Hale Fire Pump. This engine was purchased by the borough and remained in service until 1954. The phase out of hose carts began as the motorized era had arrived for the Freeland Fire Department.

Mechanization continued as in February 1924, the Citizens Hose Co. purchased their first piece of fire apparatus. Seeing the need to replace the hand drawn ladder cart still in service, the company purchased a 1924 REO chassis to be retrofitted to haul ladders. The chassis modification to haul ladders and equipment were made by the Freeland's own Broskoskie and McFadden Iron Works. Along with ladders, a chemical tank and hose reel were installed on the new REO. This piece of apparatus started the Department's commitment to ladder (truck) companies operations.

The borough purchased a 1939 Dodge chassis to receive the back end of the Citizens Hose Co.'s 1924 REO, which was in poor condition. The rear of the REO was transferred intact to the rear of the Dodge. Some modifications to this chassis were later made to enable it to carry more ladders, as well as the removal of the chemical tank and reel.

The borough purchased a 1945 Seagrave 750 GPM engine and placed it in service. The new engine had a 250 gallon water tank thus doubling the 125 gallons capacity carried on the 1922 REO.

The borough purchased a 1966 FWD/Seagrave 750 GPM engine (Engine 52) and placed it in service. The engine had four wheel drive and a 500 gallon water tank. Also it was the first piece of borough front line apparatus that provided a roof for responding firefighters.

The borough purchased its first aerial ladder truck, a used 1943 Seagrave 65' aerial from Saint Louis, Missouri, Fire Department. The addition of a hydraulic aerial ladder was a great benefit to the fire department and replaced the 1939 Dodge ladder truck that was equipped strictly with ground ladders. The need for the aerial was becoming more obvious as serious fires in 1963 at the Marchetti Furniture Store in the Freeland business district and the 1964 blazes at the MMI Preparatory School (Foster Twp.) and Davis Feed Mill required the assistance of aerial equipment form the Diamond Fire Co. #2 of Hazleton City. The aerial quickly proved its worth at several serious dwelling fires in the borough as well as several mutual aid fires, one being the Methodist Church in White Haven in 1970. This was the first piece of aerial equipment in the area, aside from the two ladders trucks of Hazleton's Pioneer and Diamond fire companies. The aerial remained in service and played a major role in containing Freeland's worst fire, the disastrous A & P Store fire at Front and Washington Sts. in 1974. Exposed to intense heat, the aerial was severely damaged mechanically at this fire and soon after was replaced.

Sharp's Bakery donated free of charge a 1964 Ford Boyertown van for use as an equipment truck. After an intensive effort by the department volunteers, it soon was placed in service with rescue and support equipment.

The borough replaced the 1945 Seagrave with a FWD/Seagrave 1000 GPM engine (Engine 53). The engine carried 750 gallons of water, had a diesel engine, and an automatic transmission, all firsts for department apparatus. This engine is still in service as the structural attack engine for all structural box alarms in Freeland and Jeddo Borough. It has a phenomenal history in not only Freeland but in the entire region as it has been utilized at some of the largest fires in the area. Fires at the former Freeland Dress Co. (Falon Building), Main St. White Haven, Jeddo Shops, Genetti Dinner Theatre, Jeddo #7 Breaker, Fritzingertown Nursing Home, and 600 block of Centre St. are some but not all of the major blazes where this engine pumped.

The year brought another piece of apparatus that being a replacement aerial ladder. A1955 Maxim 85' aerial ladder was purchased by the borough to replace the 1943 Seagrave. This was the only piece of front line fire apparatus from 1945 to this date in service with the department that was not emblazoned with the Seagrave named plate. This truck originally served in Stamford, CT. It also fought the noteworthy fires at Jeddo #7 Breaker, Trails End Bar, and the Freeland Dress Co.

Due to the deteriorating water system in the borough a 1964 Ford C 1800 gallon tanker was purchased and retrofitted by the department's volunteers to provide an additional source of water at a fire scene. This tanker soon was responding to incidents not only in the borough but in the entire mutual aid system.

A 1976 Chevrolet C50 chassis with a Car Mar body was purchased by the borough to replace the overloaded 1964 Ford truck which was mechanically worn out. A breathing air cascade system along with support equipment were installed which provided for support to fire ground activities.

The Fourth Ward Fire Co. retrofitted a former Chevrolet utility van into a fire police van. This vehicle was equipped with emergency lighting, traffic directional devices, and barriers. It was donated to the Fourth Ward by Callelo's Used Cars.

The Citizens Hose Co. and Fourth Ward Fire Co. determined that the delivery of truck company functions to the community needed to be improved. The 1955 Maxim failed ladder inspection and certification which left the department with no aerial truck. A Seagrave 100' rear mount ladder (Ladder 57) was obtained from the Fairmont Fire Co. of Lansdale, PA. Through a massive fund raising effort and a loan both companies obtained the necessary funds to make this purchase a reality. The department emphasized further developing the ladder (truck) company operations and trained its personnel in this function. This truck became the signature piece of apparatus for the department and was recognized for its appearance and capabilities. Many noteworthy fires were fought by this truck including the 600 block of Center St., 400 block of Centre St., Main St. White Haven, and the Genetti Dinner Theatre.

The Citizens Hose Co. and Fourth Ward Fire Co. consolidated to from the Freeland Fire Department.

Through a joint financial agreement with the borough and the department a 1992 Seagrave 2000 GPM engine carrying 750 gallons of water was purchased. This engine replaced the 1966 FWD/Seagrave which was incurring many mechanical problems. This piece of apparatus designated as Engine 54 is in service as the hydrant (supply) engine in the borough as well as the motor vehicle accident/fire response unit. It is also designated to respond to all mutual aid incidents.

The 1974 FWD/Seagrave 1000 GPM engine received a major rehabilitation by Interstate Truck Equipment of Hagerstown, MD. A new water tank was installed, pump plumbing was upgraded and modified, body repairs performed, and mechanical systems analyzed and repaired. Also the engine received a new application of paint. In 1997 this engine received a new pump. These investments have provided the community with an effective piece of fire apparatus well beyond the normal useful life of a vehicle of this type. Engine 53 still proudly serves the residents of this community every time a response is dispatched.

The department obtained a 1974 Ford/FMC mini pumper through a lease with the Drifton Scotch Hill Vol. Fire Co. (Hazle Twp.). The pump and tank were removed and the vehicle was completely rehabilitated into a support unit. The Chevrolet fire police van was retired when this unit became operational. The department obtained title of the vehicle when the Drifton Scotch Vol. Hill Fire Co. was merged into Hazle Twp. Fire & Rescue which graciously donated the vehicle to the department.

Again the department was faced with a failed aerial device as the 1968 Seagrave 100' rear mount was no longer able to be certified. In order to continue to provide ladder (truck) company operations a search for an adequate replacement was pursued and a 1980 Seagrave 100' rear mount aerial was located in Vernon, IL, by Northeast Fire Apparatus. Again a joint financial agreement was arranged between the borough and the department and this piece of apparatus was purchased. It received a body rehabilitation and was placed in service. This aerial device has continued to uphold the strong tradition of ladder (truck) company provided by the department and has operated at numerous residential and commercial structure fires both in Freeland and the surrounding area. One of its most noteworthy incidents was the shoe factory fire in West Hazleton in 2007.

The department studied both its current and future apparatus needs and decided that the upgrading of the 1980 Seagrave 100' rear mount ladder (Ladder 57) was the priority. A review was performed of all the options available and the decision was made to contract with Seagrave Fire Apparatus to perform this extensive project. The most important part of this project was the complete rebuilding of the main aerial ladder and analysis and repair of all mechanical and electrical systems. A cab enclosure, compartment modification, body repairs, a new paint application, and the installation of numerous safety systems was also included.

The borough purchased a Ford F550/4-Guys utility vehicle to replace the 1974 Ford/FMC. This unit provides seating for five firefighters and is utilized to support the other department apparatus. It is equipped with a breathing air cascade system, Hurst Rescue Tool, dewatering equipment, emergency scene lighting, brush fire gear, emergency medical equipment, and various saws.

Disposal of equipment

-- Compiled and contributed by Cal Herring

 1945 Seagrave Engine – Mountaintop Hose Co.

1955 Maxim Ladder Truck – Private collector in Maryland

1966 FWD/Seagrave Engine – Fire Island, LI, NY

1974 Chervolet Rescue – Apparatus Broker in Ohio

1968 Seagrave Ladder Truck – Private collector in Maryland

1974 Ford/FMC – Used equipment vendor in Ebervale, PA

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