Community citizens concerned with the lack of fire protection in the Borough of Camp Hill met on May 5th, 1908 at “Squire” Henry N. Bowman’s with the purpose of organizing a volunteer Fire Company. The Borough already had purchased a chemical fire engine from Larre Fire Department which was presently housed in Frank Cooper’s barn (rear of 2321 Market Street).
“Squire” Bowman, the owner of the former Orphan’s school bell, donated same for the purpose of alerting new volunteers of a possible fire. The bell was to be placed on the roof of Mr. Cooper’s barn.
The first formal meeting of the newly organized Fire Company was also held at Bowman’s on June 16th,1908 with a listing of forty-seven charter members. H.S. Musser was elected the first company foreman (chief line officer) and John M. Major its first president.
The new Fire Company met quite frequently in its infancy to develop a constitution and by-laws which were submitted to the town council for approval; to place the used chemical engine in service; to locate and purchase a plot of ground for the location of a new fire house; to design and construct a new fire station; and to determine means of financing these various projects. A plot of ground was eventually purchased from Mrs. Alice H. R. Flenders located between the post office (2305 Market Street) and Flenders Cigar Store (2163 Market Street).
The Company officers were given approval at the November 5th, 1908 meeting to apply for its incorporation papers with the company charter of incorporation approved and data January 4th, 1909. Approval was also given to purchase the land for the new fire station.
The following month drawings for a two-story brick building with a basement were approved as the design of the new fire station with bids being received in April of the following year.
By May 25th, 1909 the company was ready to purchase the land from Mrs. Flenders. The new fire station was to be constructed for use with both gas and electricity. The company also receive a request to participate in the Borough’s Memorial Day Parade on Saturday, May 29th, 1909.
The cornerstone ceremony for the new fire station occurred at 3:00 pm on July 24th, 1909 with a variety of memorabilia having been placed in the cornerstone that had been donated by the Hummelstown Brownstone Company.
All the prior planning and work finally brought about the first meeting held in the new quarters of the Camp Hill Fire Company No. 1 on December 7th, 1909.
During the year of 1911, the Borough council started holding its regular and special meetings at the new fire station, and it 1912, the school board rented the hall for classroom purposes. The year of 1912 witnessed the interest of the Fire Company in fire prevention with the appointment of a public safety committee to assist the Borough fire protection committee in their endeavors to prevent fires.
Nineteen fourteen saw the erection of the bell tower on top of the fire station for sounding alarms and approval of purchasing suits for firefighting which were delivered the following year. This protective gear consisted of four coats, four caps, four pairs of rubber hip boots and one respirator for less than $35.00.
During 1915, the members started looking for a more efficient way to be alerted in the event of a fire and in the spring of 1917, an air whistle and compressor were installed.
The company voted to purchase its first motorized fire apparatus at the March 30th, 1925 meeting. The new 1925 Hale Fire Engine was delivered, tested by Middle Department of Fire Underwriters, and approved for purchase for a total of $6,370.00 on July 28th, 1925. This year also saw the change in the title of Foreman to Fire Chief with A.C. Blaine being elected in December as the first elected Fire Chief of the Company.
In 1926, the Fire Company met with the Borough Council in a special meeting to discuss the possibility of fire hydrants being installed in the municipality. The Riverton Consolidated Water Company was to be requested to install eighty-three “plugs” on four inch and larger mains as soon as possible. During the following months the water company began laying new mains and would add hydrants at the locations specified by the underwriters and approved by the Fire Company. By November, twenty-six hydrants had been installed and painted yellow.
Another noteworthy event occurred during July 1926 Fire Company meeting with correspondence concerning the formation of a county fire organization. Mr. John T. Mohler was approved to attend as the Fire Company representative. The meeting was held at the Empire Hook and Ladder Company of Carlisle with fifty to sixty persons representing approximately thirteen fire companies. During this meeting, the Cumberland County Fireman’s Association was formed with Mr. Mohler elected to the post of trustee.
The Middle Department of Fire Underwriters performed an extensive survey of the Borough during 1927 including the testing of five of the new “plugs” recently installed. This year also saw the approval of the purchase and installation of a Federal Code Alarm System with fire alarm boxes located throughout the community which remained in service until the middle 1950’s with the advent of two-way radios and a central dispatch center.
In 1928, a sad time was observed with the memorial services for the dedication of a monument to Wilber Sadler, company member who lost his life while fighting a fire on May 8th, 1927 at the State Printery in the City of Harrisburg. He is remembered every Memorial Day by placing of flowers at the grave site during the Memorial Day Ceremonies.
A teacher’s training class sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Department of Education was established in 1936 with representatives from all West Shore Fire Companies in attendance. The course taught by “trained teachers from several well-known colleges” and the “trained teachers will return to their own fire companies trained to teach fire-fighting methods” was another indication of the interest of fire training throughout the area. This was followed in 1937 with the Red Cross offering a First Aid Class to the West Shore Fireman at the Citizens Fire Company of Lemoyne.
The cooperation among the various companies was demonstrated many times with the various companies assisting each other in times of emergency. Another indication of fellowship among the various companies was displayed by the loaning of a “chemical truck” by a New Cumberland Fire Company to take the place of the 1925 Hale fire engine while it was “out of service” for modifications and repainting.
Interest in training continued with Ralph Berneker attending the First Annual Fireman’s Conference held at Penn State College in 1939.
With World War II on the minds of the citizens, the Fire Company became involved with the National Defense Council for Camp Hill in July 1941. The Pennsylvania State Defense Council offered a fire school involving thirty-two hours of training.
On October 23rd, 1947, a 1947 Mack 750 GPM Engine purchase by the Borough, was tested and accepted, and in 1951 the Middle Department of Fire Underwriters surveyed the community and determined that another 750 GPM Engine and a ladder truck were needed for proper insurance coverage. With this information in hand, the Fire Company purchased a used 1925 American LaFrance Ladder Truck from Coatesville in February 1951. The tractor was replaced the latter part of that year with a 1951 Ford tractor and in 1953, the Fire Company decided to have the frame of its 1951 Ford tractor lengthened and converted into a 750 GPM Engine and sell the ladder truck. The conversion work was done by Oren-Roanoke of Virginia and was placed in service in the spring of 1954. The ladder truck was purchased by the Lower Allen Fire Company No. 1 and placed back in service to maintain this piece of equipment and its availability to the communities of the West Shore. May 14th, 1954 saw the sale of the 1925 Hale Engine to Ernest Clouser who used it in establishing the Silver Spring Volunteer Fire Company.
In January of 1952, the Fire Company approved the formation of the Camp Hill Fire Ladies Auxiliary. They have supported the Fire Company since that time with numerous projects to improve the delivery system of the Camp Hill Fire Company No 1.
A letter was received from Cumberland County Civil Defense and presented at the November 1953 Business Meeting concerning the purchase of two-way radios for the fire apparatus. The radios were installed in both engines and the Fire Chief’s vehicle by the end of March 1955 with the Company’s first fire call dispatched by radio January 13th, 1956 to a grease fire in an oven at 222 South 18th Street. Thus, the age of electronics in the form of two-way radio communications had entered the fire service in Cumberland County.
During the year 1955, the Fire Company purchased from the Wolf family several tracts of land on which the present fire station is located.
June 13th, 1958 saw the start of another major improvement in fire suppression in the area with demonstration of several types of self-contained breathing apparatus with the first pieces of the breathing ordered in the fall of 1959. These units were placed in service in 1960. Aluminized proximity suits were approved to be purchased at the March 1961 Business Meeting as a joint project with the Ladies Auxiliary.
A 1959 Chevrolet Panel Truck was purchased and eventually placed in service as an emergency truck which carried support and rescue equipment as well as a 110-volt AC generator and self-contained breathing apparatus.
Nineteen-Sixty saw the Fire Company and Borough Council discussing the construction of a Fire Station on the land owned by the Company. During this year the land was deeded to the Borough and the architectural Firm of Lacey, Atherton and Davis was hired to draw up plans for new fire station. The construction of the building was approved by the voters as part of a referendum bond issue and construction was begun. During this time renovations to the present fire station areas were started to accommodate the expansion of the Borough offices and new council chambers and were finished shortly after the relocation of the Fire Company to its new quarters. The new fire station was accepted in December of 1962 and was dedicated January 12th, 1963. With the move to the new station, a point system was adopted at the October 1963 business meeting establishing an active member classification which is still in effect today.
In 1962, the Middle Department of Fire Underwriters’ letter was read indicating that we were now as a class 5 community. An emergency truck committee was also established for the replacement of the 1959 Chevrolet Panel Emergency Truck and at the March 1965 business meeting, BRUCO was awarded the bid to construct the new emergency truck.
During this same time, the voters of the community approved the purchase of a 1965 Mach 1000 GPM Engine at the May 1964 primary election. The new 1965 Mack Engine was placed in service in April 1965 with 1000 feet of 2 1/2 inch and 1000 feet of 3” hose, a front preconnected 5” soft sleeve for hydrant hookup and self-contained breathing apparatus in walk-away brackets installed in the jump seat area.
The new emergency truck was received at the beginning of 1966 and the old Chevrolet emergency truck was sold. This new piece of equipment was purchased by the Fire Company with substantial financial assistance from the Ladies Auxiliary.
The Fire Company approved the formation of an Ambulance Association to provide ambulance service to the residents of the community during 1965. The following year saw the purchase of a used 1965 Cadillac Ambulance from Wolfington Body Company and the establishment of a Red Cross First Aid Course o train the membership. At the completion of the First Aid Course, several members attended the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s new ambulance attendant program offered at the Harrisburg Hospital. With training established, the ambulance was placed in service the first day of April 1966.
The following year saw the implementation of the mutual aid program put into effect at the West Shore Radio Control Center. The June 1968 business meeting gave approval to the Fire Company radio committee to proceed with procuring the area coordinates of a second radio frequency which was assigned to the Fire Company as 46.12 MC and all radios were converted o two frequency capabilities by the close of that year. Eventually, this frequency became the second fire frequency for Cumberland County.
The period of 1969 was another busy time with the purchase of a 1940 American LaFrance Ladder Truck from an American LaFrance Salesman and was completely refurbished by members of the Fire Company. The ladder was pulled by a 1954 Mack tractor and had been in service previously in the City of Harrisburg. A new Cadillac ambulance was delivered and placed in service during January of this year and the 1954 Ford Engine was sold to the Wormlesyburg Fire Company No 1. The Ford Engine had recently been replaced with a 1969 Mack 1000 GPM Engine purchased by the Borough. This engine was similar in setup to the 1965 Mack Engine.
After considerable deliberation, the Borough decided to join the county dispatch center and effective 10:00 am on November 2nd, 1971 the Fire Company calls will be dispatched through the Cumberland County Fire and Police Communication Center which eventually led to a county wide communications system and by January 1972, the pretone concept of dispatching was in effect.
The Cumberland County Ambulance and Rescue Association was formed consisting of the various Ambulance Associations in the County in 1972 and in 1974, the Fire Company purchased the Hurst “Jaws of Life” as a joint venture with the Borough.
The cooperation with Borough Council continued with the Fire Company presenting its first major long-range plan to Council in the fall of 1974. This plan has since been modified slightly over the ensuing years, but its major content is still being followed in apparatus acquisition including the ordering and receiving of the Company’s first modular ambulance in 1974 which was built by Swab Wagon Works and rehabilitated by them in 1977.
The Junior Fire Company program was started in 1975. That same year the 1940 American LaFrance ladder Truck was removed from service and sold in January of 1976. A joint effort of both Borough Council and Fire Company in the replacing this piece of equipment with a more modern truck became a reality when an LTI Ladder/Tower was ordered in 1978 and place in service December 24th, 1979. These were also busy times with the approval in the latter part of the 1977 to purchase a 1978 Chevrolet chassis and to award a bid to Swab Wagon Works to rehabilitate the 1965 Emergency Truck now designated as a Squad.
In 1977, the Borough received approval for a local government frequency which eventually was installed in all Fire Company apparatus and officers’ vehicles, Police Department vehicles and various other borough vehicles. The changeover improved communications among the municipal agencies. In 1977, all active Fire Company members were issued personal pagers to inform them of calls by radio.
The county wide 911 emergency telephone system became operational in 1977 and the phantom box system instituted for automatic dispatching of fire and ambulance equipment.
The 1969 Mack Engine receive a major change with the addition of 5” large diameter hose for supply line operations in 1979, and in 1980 5” hose was placed on the 1965 Mack thus improving the water delivery capability of the Fire Company.
With this increasing number of ambulance calls during the daytime and the availability of volunteer personnel during this time period becoming less and less, the Borough and Fire Company discussed the possibility of the addition of paid Emergency Medical Technician personnel. In September 1979, the two daytime paid ambulance personnel were added to the Borough employee roster.
In 1980, the offices of Captain and Lieutenant were approved by the body. Personal protection equipment was upgraded to meet OSHA and NFPA Standards and the acquisition of a Med Radio for the ambulance was accomplished during the same year.
The line officers had been meeting monthly for several years in the operations of the Fire Company as given them by the Constitution and Bylaws, but at the beginning of 1981, the line officers and president met and established the team management concept for the day to day operations.
The installation of a new type III Swab Ambulance placed in service with then new Med radio in 1981. The Hurst Rescue System was upgraded, and the chief and president of the Wormleysburg Fire Company were present at the October 181 business meeting to discuss the possibility of both Wormleysburg and Camp Hill Fire Companies co-hosting the 1984 Cumberland County Volunteer Fireman’s Association Convention and Parade in conjunction with the celebrating of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversaries of the two companies. This action was approved by the Camp Hill Fire Company at its February 1982 business meeting.
In 1984, the Fire Company awarded a bid to Salisbury Fire Equipment Corporation to construct a new squad to replace the present squad. The present squad will be relocated to East Petersburg Fire Company in Lancaster County upon completion of the new squad.
Some of the major fund-raising activities that the personnel have been involved with over the years include establishing and operating of a miniature golf course, renting of the original hall, dinners, festivals, chicken Bar-b-ques, door to door canvasing and mailings.
In 1984, the Borough was rated as a class 4 community for fire protection by Insurance Services Organization with only nineteen-hundredths of a percentage point away from a class 3 rating. The Fire Company is presently in the process of attempting to improve itself with the hopes of establishing the community fire protection at a class 3 rating. Other long-range goals of the department are the upgrading of the present breathing apparatus and the addition of a computer to assist in daily operations.
The Fire Company has made numerous changes over the years and will strive to continue to improve with the help of the Community, the Borough Council and its various Agencies, the Ladies Auxiliary and the unselfish giving of time by the volunteers of the Fire Company in service to their community.