New Anthracite fire truck is finally 'home'
MOUNT CARMEL - Everybody loves a parade, especially when firefighters earn their deserved turn in the spotlight.
Saturday's parade celebrating the 18th annual Picnic in the Park festivities featured firefighters, emergency medical services personnel and police from a three-county area. The emergency responders and the apparatus in which they were riding delighted a large crowd as they traveled through borough streets.
The two-mile parade and spectacular fireworks display later in the evening were among the highlights of the three-day celebration sponsored by Mount Carmel Volunteer Emergency Services Association Inc. (MCVESA) that raises funds for the borough's fire companies and local charitable organizations.
Firefighters, community officials and residents also had another reason to cheer as a housing ceremony for a new ladder truck and building rededication were held at Anthracite Steam Fire Company No. 1, located at the front of Town Park at Market and Third streets.
After the parade, an 11-foot, 8-inch 2011 KME Arielcat, which has a ladder that can extend 100 feet, was officially christened and the fire
company was blessed during a 30-minute program. The ceremony included remarks by various fire officials about Anthracite's history that dates to 1882 and the laborious process involved with housing the truck in its rightful home.
Anthracite Fire Company Secretary David Berezovske, who served as master of ceremonies, opened the program by stating, "There's been many ups and downs, twists and turns, good times and bad with this project. But it's finally all done."
In his invocation, the Rev. Frank Karwacki, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, blessed volunteer firefighters for their dedicated service to the community.
Jim Williams Sr., captain and president of Anthracite Fire Company, and his brother, Jack Williams Jr., assistant fire chief with Anthracite, discussed the history of the company, renovations to the historic fire house and the persevering efforts of everyone involved in securing and housing the new engine.
Ashland Fire Chief Phil Groody, who has 43 years of firefighting experience, talked about the great mutual aid relationship Mount Carmel and Ashland firefighters have enjoyed over the years.
Groody compared the truck housing ceremony to welcoming a new family member.
He said the planning process and staying within budget for the new engine were difficult endeavors, but commended fire company members for overcoming setbacks in attaining their goal. Groody proudly stated, "Firefighters are the most creative people on earth. They can overcome all obstacles."
Jack Williams Jr. presented plaques of appreciation to Joseph J. Stutz III, Mount Carmel Area Rescue Squad, Mount Carmel Borough Council and Francis Latovich, a local machine shop operator, for their outstanding support with the project.
Karwacki, who was assisted by seminarian Matthew Cannon, blessed the engine and building before Anthracite Fire Company Lt. Sean Williams performed the christening ritual of smashing a bottle of champagne on the truck.
Fire company members then pushed the new engine into its quarters with company captain and MCVESA president Eric Troutman manning the wheel.
The truck was built to 2010 National Fire Protection Agency standards and, as a result, was too tall for Anthracite's original station. Anthracite officials went ahead with the purchase, knowing they would have lost $500,000 in grant money had they not purchased the $700,000 truck when they did.
After considerable debate between borough councilmen and fire company members, which included opposition to altering the unique look of the Anthracite building, Mid-Penn Engineering, Lewisburg, devised a plan to fill in the basement area below the Anthracite two-bay truck room and lower the floor by two feet.
The project, which was finally approved by council and fire company members, was delayed while workers painted and installed trim and garage doors. It also took time for the concrete to harden.
The truck, which replaced a 1980 Seagrave, went into service in November 2010 and was housed in the Mount Carmel Area Rescue Squad truck room free of charge until Oct. 26, 2013, when it was moved into the fire company.
During renovations that started July 8, 2013, Anthracite's pumper truck was housed free of charge in a garage owned by Joseph J. Stutz III at Fourth and Orange streets.
The location of the trucks in two different areas caused confusion among members at times.
In January 2013, borough council approved a resolution to loan the fire company $188,000. The 10-year loan at an annual interest rate of 1 percent helped pay off another $101,000 loan for the ladder truck, and the rest is being put toward the renovation work, which was estimated at $137,000. Anthracite put up the rest of the money for the project.
Anthracite is paying $19,780 a year on the $188,000 loan.
Kristina Baluta, treasurer of MCVESA, who organized the Picnic in the Park festivities with Troutman, was very pleased with the great weather and outstanding turnout for the event.
"It was one of our bigger crowds in recent years," Baluta said Saturday night. "The fire engine housing ceremony and rededication of the building definitely attracted more people for us and fit right into the festivities."
Baluta and Troutman thanked all the volunteers, sponsors and customers and especially commended Caterina (Scicchitano) and Gilbert Dobak and the Scicchitano family for donating the fireworks that were set off at about 10 p.m. on the Mid Valley Mountain overlooking Mount Carmel.