LEWISTOWN – United Fire and Rescue, along with the other two fire companies that make up the Lewistown Fire Department, protects about 9,000 people living in a two-square mile area.
Company Captain Greg Espigh said there are about 24 active members, and they are a very family oriented company.
“Many of our members are following after another family member who was or is currently an active member,” Espigh said. “One example is Derek Markley, who just fought his first fire. His dad is a member and his sister is a junior member.”
The members of United all work together to keep the three pieces of equipment and tools working properly. The company currently has a squad truck, ladder truck, and engine wagon in service. Being “in service” means the equipment is able to respond to a call when it comes across the scanner in the station. Squad 11-1 is a pick-up truck that is part of the Mifflin County automated external defibrillator program.
“This is a medical response program to assist an EMT or ambulance in anything that could be involved in a medical emergency,” Espigh said. “One example of this is in the case of a cardiac arrest patient.”
Assisting an ambulance, according to Espigh, can come in several ways. Espigh explained the squad could arrive at a home of a patient and start to administrate the first aid, and then turn the patient over to the ambulance EMT when the arrive on scene.
“In the month of March our company had one AED save,” Espigh said. “So for the entire year we have had three.”
Espigh said the squad truck can also respond to accidents, along with Engine 11-1, which they call “wagon.” The engine can hold 7,100 gallons of water and has a 40 gallon foam tank. The engine is used at a fire, as well as accidents, and can transfer water from
a tanker truck or connect directly to a fire hydrant. Jesse Sylvester Jr., a member of the company, explained how the engine can use the water in the tank.
“The truck can hold water, but the water does not go a long way, because the pressure coming out of the hoses is between 160 and 180 psi,” Sylvester said. “Connecting to a hydrant allows us to constantly have water coming in, when connected to a tanker that needs to be constantly filled, allowing a continued exchange of water between the two pieces of equipment.”
Like the engine wagon used at one of the other stations, Brooklyn Hose Company, the hoses on the engine can be used to put water directly on the fire or to connect with a ladder truck. Truck 11-1, a ladder truck, is also used by United.
“The main difference between the truck and engine is that the engine cannot hold any water,” Sylvester said.
The truck is used for two main functions at the scene of a fire. Espigh said one is for search and rescue, the other is for ease of access on the roof.
“Accessing the roof during a fire, like the one at Juniata Terrace, is important for several reasons,” Espigh said. “Fighting the fire from the roof can help to alleviate pressure from those fighting the fire inside, but also to allow those in the bucket to cut holes in the roof, which assists in venting smoke from the structure.”
Espigh said to keep the rigs ready to respond on a moment’s notice, members perform rig checks once a week, typically on a Saturday.
“During rig checks we not only check the equipment in each of the vehicles, but also the vehicles themselves,” Espigh said. “The equipment is checked for things like damage and to make sure it is running properly. Vehicles are checked to make sure lights and sounds are working, as well as the hydraulics on the truck.”
Periodically either during or after completing rig checks, members will have the opportunity to do some training in town. Both Espigh and Sylvester said this is an opportunity for members to practice skills prior to certification and for the juniors to practice new skills.
“To the public it looks like we are having fun,” Sylvester said. “While that is partially true, we are just big kids in a way, but it is really a great informal setting for training.”
The members take the engine to the vacant lot next to Kish Apartments to work with the hydrant and hoses. Sylvester continued to say that depending on how much pressure is coming out of the hoses, multiple people are needed to control where the water is aimed from the hose. Members from the company also do training at the fire academy, which is located at 104 State St., Lewistown. Training at the academy is scheduled and can come in many forms.
“We can do equipment training or classroom training at the academy,” Sylvester said. “Trainings there are scheduled in advance, but we can go to the lot and train when it is nice and the members are there for it.”
The members of the station welcome visitors and Espigh said the members are always willing to answer questions from the community.
“We would rather someone stop in and ask us what we are doing, rather than thinking all we do is sit around until we are called,” he said. “We are very open to the public.”
Being open to the public and having the training flexibility allows United to better serve the community and to be ready when disaster strikes.