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  • As if the Background checks were'nt enough!!

    Evan Brandt , [email protected] 07/03/2003


    UPPER POTTSGROVE -- When Mike and Susan Smithson’s Pine Ford Road garage caught fire Saturday morning, the first firefighting equipment to arrive did not come from the Upper Pottsgrove Firehouse, which is just a few miles away.

    In fact, the fire company never showed up.

    "If my wife and neighbor hadn’t been out there with a garden hose, I would have lost my whole house," said Mike Smithson.

    Jon Downey, president of the Upper Pottsgrove Fire Co., said the absence of a response to the fire at the Smithsons’ was largely a result of the fact that "the chief was on vacation and everybody else was at work. It was one of those fluke weekends. Obviously, we do regret not getting there."

    The first truck to arrive was from a Boyertown fire company.

    Also making the fire, which was confined to the garage and in which no one was injured, were trucks and volunteers from Pottstown, West End and Gilbertsville.

    And although at least one Upper Pottsgrove volunteer arrived along with his "primary" fire company from Pottstown, no Upper Pottsgrove fire truck arrived.

    Upper Pottsgrove Fire Chief Jason Tattershall is not surprised.

    "It’s the first time it’s happened in a while, but people better start getting used to it," said Tattershall, who took over as chief of the struggling fire company March 1. "Things are getting pretty bad."

    He said the No. 1 reason no Upper Pottsgrove fire trucks made it to the fire is that nobody wants to drive them -- "they are not mechanically sound," Tattershall said. "They break down on calls constantly. Every one of the three trucks we own was in the shop last month."

    "The brush truck breaks down every time we take it out, the tanker’s throttle is stuck, so who wants to drive a truck with a stuck accelerator? And the pipes in the (pumper) engine are broken," Tattershall said.

    "So why would any of our guys want to rely on fire equipment that could put their life in danger?" he said.

    "Some of our equipment is older than a lot of our volunteers," Downey confirmed.

    Tattershall does not hesitate in laying the blame for the condition of the trucks at the feet of the township commissioners.

    "They don’t support us and everything we ask them for one little thing, it takes an act of Congress to get it. They do everything they can to fight us," Tattershall said.

    "I think some of the residents are starting to figure out what’s going on, and if the commissioners don’t start doing something about it, they won’t be in power for much longer if you know what I mean," he said.

    "And we can’t buy a new truck because we have no collateral because we sold the firehouse to the township for $1," Tattershall said, adding that he was not involved with that decision and did not agree with it.

    "Other townships put aside money in a fund to pay for new trucks, but not in Upper Pottsgrove," said Tattershall.

    A new fire truck would cost the fire company at least $400,000. "I’d have to sell a lot of hoagies to come up with that kind of money," said the chief.

    Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners’ Chairman Ken Iatesta pointed out that the fire company does get the proceeds of a township wide fire tax, adding "we’re still paying for one of those fire trucks."

    Nevertheless, said Iatesta, "we’re looking into ways to get them some new equipment."

    Commissioner Julie Gallisdorfer serves as the township’s liaison with the fire company.

    She said with a dwindling number of volunteers and an escalating cost to firefighting training and equipment, the fire company is doing the best they can under difficult circumstances.

    "It’s not like people are breaking down the door to volunteer," Gallisdorfer said.

    The number of volunteers who actually respond to fires is down to nine and Gallisdorfer said, frankly, "there’s no guarantee something like this won’t happen again."

    She said the increase in the fire tax adopted this year raised only $40,000 and is specifically earmarked for new radio equipment required by Montgomery County.

    Mike Smithson said he understands and is sympathetic with the constraints under which the volunteer department has to operate.

    "I’m not trying to beat anyone down. I really feel for those guys," Smithson said. "I mean the guys who came out to our house were a super group of guys."

    But the bottom line should be whether fire protection in the township is threatened, said Smithson.

    "I can’t believe anyone is willing to accept this," he said. "I don’t know who is responsible for this, but somebody’s got to get moving on this."

    "My neighbors are all pretty upset about this," said Smithson. "They’re pretty scared."

    "They should be," said Tattershall when told of Smithson’s comment. "We’re scared to take that equipment out on the road."
    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
    "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

    Once a Marine, Always a Marine

    I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

  • #2
    Random thoughts:

    1. This is a classic example of my belief that the citizens choose the level of fire protection they want. It sounds as though, for years, the citizens of the Upper Pottsgrove were content to accept that they were underfunding the FD. They were willing to accept that the equipment was subpar, the volunteers had dwindled to almost zero and their commissioners didn't care. Now, it's time to pay the piper. Let's see if they pony up.

    2. Here's what civilians believe: If there are red trucks parked in the firehouse, if those red trucks drive down the street when the fire siren goes off, if all the fires go out, then they have a great FD. They have no idea what might really be going on.

    3. In basketball, when the outside shots aren't falling, you have to take it to the hoop. UPFD needs to take it to the hoop, now.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

    Comment


    • #3
      As usual, the people who run the place don't care until it directly effects their re-election or popularity. Who cares if the fire trucks are all broken and no one shows up, as long as I don't have to spend any money and the votes roll in because of it. That commisioner naturally talked about how bad she feels about all of this. BULL$(@!. It wasn't her house and she made herself and the commissioners sound compasionate in the newspaper. If it was her house, she would be livid about their lack of a response and would throw a fit about how horrible the dept is.

      Unfortunately, incidents like this one are what it takes to get people to open their eyes at what is really going on.
      Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

      Comment


      • #4
        nmfire to help explain that commissioner better. She is genuinely concerned with the Fire Co. She helps out at fundraising, when there is alot of rain and we have to pump out basements she mans the phones and prioritizes the calls for the guys on the street. We have not had a Fire Commissioner in the last 20 years who has even as much as stepped in the Firehouse. Her and one other Commissioner are always backing the Fire Co. but when the vote is always 3 to 2 against there's no way anything is going to get accomplished.

        Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners’ Chairman Ken Iatesta pointed out that the fire company does get the proceeds of a township wide fire tax, adding "we’re still paying for one of those fire trucks."
        Yeah we have a fire tax and yes that is paying for one of the trucks. The newest one, which is a 1991 Spartan 3000 gal Tanker. This should have been paid off years ago. They could never give us a definite amount as to what was in the Fire Tax. Each month it was different. We finally intercepted a bank statement and found out how much is really in there and where it is going. The fire tax is set up to buy the fire co. equipment and such, but the hydrant rental fees, a new oil burner etc.. are being paid for with those funds. To get them to purchase anything with that money takes an act of Congree just like the Chief said.
        Now there is supposedly a petition going around to get them to close the fire co.
        SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
        "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

        Once a Marine, Always a Marine

        I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Trafficjockey93
          Now there is supposedly a petition going around to get them to close the fire co.
          Oh now that is just brilliant. Isn't that kind of like collectively shooting one's self in the foot? If they are going to petition something, how about 3 new Fire Commissioners... preferably ones that are not morons.
          Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

          Comment


          • #6
            Convince the commissioners to volunteer for a while and respond with the dept. Then they will see what you guys go through.

            Our setup is a little different, we are an independent rural fire district (not a township) and all three of our commissioners are Firefighters.

            Comment


            • #7
              Here is another tidbit of information I should have included before but I forgot.
              With the exception of the Fire Chief all the firefighters live in a different township.
              So here you have a bunch of volunteers who don't even live in the Fire Companies first response area. Trying to help the residents of the Township and the Commissioners treat them like dirt. They should be kissing these guys butts, because without them they wouldn't have anybody.

              We just had a fully involved structure fire yesterday and the Police Officer who was first on scene gave a report of fire and smoke out of the windows. He then proceeded to tell the dispatcher to SKIP his fire company and dispatch someone else.
              BTW we had a truck on scene first.
              We will be taking this issue up with the township at their next meeting. Thank god for alpha pagers because the dispatcher put that statement in our page, so we have proof of what he said.
              SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
              "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

              Once a Marine, Always a Marine

              I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

              Comment


              • #8
                I read this story and the other subsequent responses and can not help to wonder what is the rest of the story? It is one of those things just makes you say..."There has to be more to this!"

                I mean...come on... A fire department that has only one (1) member living in the first due area?????????
                09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
                ------------------------------
                IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
                "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
                BMI Investigator
                ------------------------------
                The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I wouldn't think that the dispatcher putting the officer's statement in the pager would prove anything- he could say that the officer said that there were Martians running around the front yard if he felt like typing it in. The dispatch tapes are what you should be after.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yes there is only 1 person living in the Township who is a responding member. It's a White Collar bedroom community.

                    We have a hard copy print out of the entire dispatch.

                    As hard as this may be for any of you to believe, unless you have lived a similar experience, everything is absolutely true.
                    This has been an ongoing battle for years. First it was a battle with our social room, who controlled all the monies of the dept. We were just a minor problem for them to deal with so they could stay open and continue to line their pockets with money. The Township was aware that this was going on and refused to help the Engine room correct this. Now that the social room has been sucessfully closed we have to battle the Township for funding. It is not a pretty sight. Those of you who have all the support and monetary backing of your municipality may find this totally unbelievable. You may also not believe that there are Fire Companies out there who fight structure fires with a Brush Truck and no turnout gear. But there are!!
                    Last edited by Trafficjockey93; 07-05-2003, 01:25 PM.
                    SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
                    "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

                    Once a Marine, Always a Marine

                    I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      "My neighbors are all pretty upset about this," said Smithson. "They’re pretty scared."
                      Then why aren't they down at the station filling out an application?

                      I bet this situation is more common than we believe. There's a department near us that draws a significant number of their active members from outside their area and we were placed in a similar financial situation by a previous city government. They expanded the station in 1992 and then didn't pay a dime on the principal of the loan for several years. A county-wide fee bill gets implemented and guess what happens - a good portion of it gets used to pay the old debt.

                      As George said, in the end it is up to the town members to determine the level of protection they desire. The members of the department need to educate the district (without directly attacking sitting council members) citizens and see if they will step up, give their own time and demand more from their political leadership.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Have you guys put in for the FEMA grant? We have a town council that tries to back us in some respects, but an ancient mayor that will never vote to spend money. We are red-headed stepchildren in our town, with the police dept. right there with us.

                        We put in for 80 grand worth of bunker gear, radios, heavy rescue gear, and hose. We did luck out and get a new engine last year. Our first-out and reserve engines were down and we had to borrow one from a mutaid station. Nothing like the possibility of a lawsuit to motivate spending on necessities for the fire department.

                        It might be time for an open letter to the residents of your community. If they are white-collar, so be it, hose, halligans and helmets will fit them, too. If their house is next, will that get them moving to volunteer?

                        If FEMA does the grant next year, your station should jump on it with both feet. As far as recruiting, it may take a white collar house to get the point across that fires don't put themselves out, at least not til they run out of food.

                        Semper Fi, Devil Dog.

                        Bill
                        Engineer, SMFD
                        Sgt USMC (Once upon a time)
                        The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.

                        Pain is just weakness leaving the body.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Updates?

                          Hey Jockey...
                          Any updates on the ill-fated petition? Just curious.....

                          Stay Safe!

                          -Devil
                          Once again....the above views are my own and not that of my department. (And probably should not be construed as having any real meaning, whatsoever!)

                          IACOJ

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well nothing new on the petition to close us, but we are so far in over our heads that may be the only way out. 4 of the 5 Commissioners are backing us but they have been fed so much bulls**t over the years that they had no clue we were this bad off. The 5th Commissioner is one of the people who was feeding the other Commissioners bulls**t. They never heard the reality of the situation directly from us.
                            As far as the FEMA grants are concerned there is no way we are ever going to get one because of back taxes our Social Hall incurred and never paid. That has come straight from FEMA. We have to pay all the back taxes first. Hell we are having a hard enough time just trying to pay monthly bills and such let alone finding the money for back taxes. We do have $97,000.00 sitting and waiting to be released from Firemens Relief as soon as we can get back all the money our ex-Chief embezzeled from that fund. Once that's paid back Harrisburg will release those funds.

                            Has anybody been a part of a Fire Company that has closed and then reopened under a different name and Charter? If so I would like to hear from you.

                            George are you out there?? I would like to hear the legal and other issues regarding this type of action.
                            SAEPE EXPERTUS, SEMPER FIDELIS, FRATRES AETERNI
                            "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

                            Once a Marine, Always a Marine

                            I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Man....

                              Jockey...
                              Man, that's bad news. Best of luck with any attempts to educate your 'elected officials'.


                              As for the other legal stuff, I don't know how the state or IRS would handle a non-profit, for lack of a better term: going bankrupt. I'm sure that there's law and regulations behind it. I'll ask my wife (she's an accountant who's done some non-profit audits) if she knows anything. I'll drop you a PM if I find anything out! Hang in there!

                              Stay Safe....

                              Devil
                              Once again....the above views are my own and not that of my department. (And probably should not be construed as having any real meaning, whatsoever!)

                              IACOJ

                              Comment

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