Jul 03, 2023

Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Co.: Modern building gets equipment upgrades to match

Aug 30, 2023

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette CorrespondentPlenty of room to stretch out lines and test hoses is a welcome feature of the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Company's new fire hall on Penn St. in Muncy on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

MUNCY — New gear rooms, technology and live-in quarters are among the added amenities needed for a functional Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Co. and were designed and added to the new station on East Penn Street.

The older station was a traditional firehouse, where firefighters’ gear was hung up around the truck bay along the walls, said Station 39 Assistant Chief Dan Knapp.

Now, firefighters’ health and safety are ensured with a clean room, separate from the fire truck bays, entered via a door, company Chief Scott Delany said.

It has firefighter turnout gear that has been cleaned and sanitized — removing any smoke effects, chemicals, debris, or anything from combustion, which can be carcinogenic.

The room is ventilated with clean air, away from the truck bay.

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette CorrespondentSleeping quarters are shown at the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Company's new fire hall on Penn St. in Muncy on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

“It is helping to reduce the chance of cancer-causing agents,” Knapp said.

Each firefighter is equipped with structural firefighting helmets, wearable turnout gear and some have a rescue gear set, which consists of a lighter material designed for dealing with vehicle extrication, brush fires and other environments.

The lighter wear is flexible and gives firefighters another option from the heavier fire gear, which can be cumbersome, with a vapor barrier and heat barrier to protect the firefighters from heat and smoke.

“What’s nice is when having the rescue gear set, such as at a vehicle accident response, we are not damaging the more expensive turnout gear,” Knapp said. “Having the rescue sets is making a huge difference.”

That said, the gear is not inexpensive, ranging from about $3,000 on up for a set.

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette CorrespondentWater rescue vehicles are shown at the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Company's new fire hall on Penn St. in Muncy on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

Water rescue equipment includes dry suits, helmets and specialized equipment.

The radio room is the main room for communication. Base stations can monitor radio traffic and communicate with Fire 1, the primary channel for Lycoming County 911 fire dispatch, among other frequencies.

Should there be a natural disaster such as a flood, the room will be invaluable in gleaning information about where services are most needed, Delany said.

The radio room was designed to integrate with the next-door conference room, which creates an emergency operations center. The furniture will arrive soon.

It allows officials to work on different aspects of a case and be in communication with the radio room.

The chief alluded to the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway Project, the bypass around Lewisburg, Northumberland and Shamokin Dam, that has opened its northern route and when the southern route is complete, is expected to triple traffic along I-180, Delany said he was told.

The company can network and integrate its computers in the event that FEMA, the state EMA or whoever might need to set up a base, they can go into the company network and instantly communicate with each other.

The equipment is new but not overwhelming to the station leadership who have years of experience.

“This is my 45th year,” Delany said. Knapp has 15 years in and Deputy Chief Kevin Rupert is going on 25 years.

“It is a combination of education throughout the years on what would make things better,” Delany said.

Technology is changing dramatically. When a call happens, the pagers go off, cell phones go off and then there is a system that allows the firefighters to alert by cell that they are responding. When that happens, every chief officer with a smartphone and those in the fire station can see who is responding on the screen.

It will show who is responding to the station and their estimated time of arrival.

A fire chief can then see and surmise, “‘I’ve got 10 guys coming, we can handle it,’ or I only have two guys coming, I better call for more help,'” Delany said.

Other fire companies and departments that are in a mutual aid agreement, especially the East Lycoming Ambulance Association companies, which operate during the day hours, when they respond they are integrated in the system, so the company can see the mutual aid response.

The East Lycoming Ambulance Association comprises Muncy Area, Hughesville, Picture Rocks and Muncy Township fire services.

The chiefs switch a duty vehicle each week.

“We each have a duty week,” Knapp said. Whoever has that vehicle, has the main job of responding directly to the scenes.

It allows the other chief officers to ensure other apparatus and equipment gets out.

What’s nice is as duty chief, with the technology at hand, he can see exactly who is responding to the station, and anticipate what kind of manpower and leadership is available responding to the scene.

“It’s a great tool,” Knapp said. It is web-based and the firefighters don’t have to maintain the infrastructure.

“We’ve had it for seven or eight years,” he said.

The building also has ample space for emergency medical service office needs, where EMTs conduct charting and maintain documentation.

“We run seven days a week, from 6 in the morning till 6 in the afternoon,” Delany said. That offers two paid EMS personnel through the East Lycoming Ambulance Association. They cover Muncy, Hughesville Picture Rocks and Pennsdale on a first-need basis.

“Our company, from 6 at night until 6 in the morning, then provides one paid EMS person,” he said.

“We are working on getting two at night,” he said.

If there are two ambulance calls simultaneously volunteers will pick up the second call, he noted.

There is a room for the officers, captains and lieutenants in the company.

The administrative office provides space for the president, treasurer and secretary to operate.

Unique to this company and station is the museum room.

“We have a lot of historical items,” Knapp said.

Among the apparatus and memorabilia is an 1861 hand pump, an antique hose cart.

The fire department history takes one back to when it started in Muncy Borough, he said.

In 1949, Clarkstown Muncy Creek Township started and there is a lot of memorabilia in the museum room for viewing.

“We don’t want to lose our history,” Delany said. “We want to move on but don’t want to lose our history.”

The museum will have the former telephone booth covered in wood. Before radios, that is how communications occurred.

The women’s prison once was the 911 center. The call was placed into the fire department by phone and the air sirens would operate. The firefighters would respond and the first firefighter went to the phone booth, picked up the phone and figured out where the call was at, and wrote down the address.

“It is hard to believe the original dispatch was run out of the Muncy prison,” Delany said.

Leaving the museum, there is a chief officers’ office room. It is for the chief, deputy chief and assistant chief, they said.

The building contains a large training room, with tables and seats, similar to a classroom.

The station has an ample kitchen and day room.

“We have paid staffing,” Delany said.

He added the live-in program also provides young men and women who are going through schooling or are in college with housing basically for free. The only thing required is they take an emergency medical technician course and help pick up ambulance calls while at the station.

“They need a space to hang out,” he said.

They could attend Pennsylvania College of Technology, Lycoming College, Bloomsburg University or a technical school or trade school.

One man went through the continuing education part of the program. “We’d like to pick up some more,” he said.

This facility is hoped to attract firefighters for the future.

“You are not going to get more modern than what this one is,” Delany said.

There is a live-in area that is used by overnight ambulance staff and a separate residence treated as a private space.

Each room has its own bathroom with a shower. “Everything that you might need,” Delany said. “All the comforts of home … like living in a dormitory.”

Each of the live-in staff has his or her own personal laundry units.

Staff can hear the calls — as soon as the alarm comes in, it will beep in the rooms and a red light will flash.

The recessed light will illuminate allowing those slumbering or in the dark to see and move with the trouble of turning on a light to get out of the rooms. There will be a public address system allowing those in the rooms to hear the dispatch as their pager goes off.

The building has its own mechanical rooms, and a second entrance into the truck bay. The larger laundry room allows the turnout gear to be cleaned. It was under construction during the tour. The room has a gear dryer in it. The extractor sanitizes the turnout gear.

There is a room that fills the self-contained breathing apparatus, the bottles that provide oxygen in firefighting situations. The compressor fills the bottles and those bottles fill the smaller bottles worn on the backs of the firefighters.

This material used to be jammed into the other building. One truck bay in town had five pieces of equipment, three in the middle and two facing out on each end.

The placement is spread out and in logical locations.

The volunteers had 100-foot sections of hose laid on the rear paved area. The hoses were broken down into 50-foot sections and were tested. The firefighter hoses have a rubber lined jacket inside and the outside is a durable canvas material.

The tests consisted of the inch and three quarter lines, the main attack lines that are pulled out of the trucks.

“We are constantly testing and making sure our equipment is safe,” Delany said.

Whenever cleaning or sanitizing equipment, it is checked for damage and also lines are pressurized to ensure they are fully functional for the truck.

“We make sure every time we respond all our equipment is in order,” Knapp said.

These upgrades would not have been possible before.

“The community has been very supportive,” Delany said. “This is on top of the normal donation for the fire company, Muncy Borough paid for a Generac generator using rescue funds.”

Muncy Creek Township also used COVID-relief funds, to cover costs associated with stormwater management and waterline infrastructure outside, he said. “Plus, it was on top of what they give us for a stipend,” he said.

The fire service is handling about 1,200 calls annually, which eliminates such former activities as Bingo, a carnival and dinners and breakfasts. However, they are considering a gun raffle, which was done at Muncy Creek.

“We are talking about doing another one here, probably in the fall,” he said, adding that it would require pulling out the trucks and setting up tables.

“The guys go out and sell tickets and then you got a one-night-show,” he said.

“Our annual fund drive campaign letter that we send out to all the residents in our coverage area, that is what is paying for this building,” Delaney said.

“We are not getting rich but it is enough to make the fire company function,” he added. “What money remains in the building fund will be put toward the mortgage.”

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