CONNOQUENESSING VOL. FIRE COMPANY
Serving Township & Borough since 1935.
Line Officers for 2017:
Fire Chief: Lou Zimmerman Jr.
Deputy Chief: Glenn Goehring
1st Captain: Randy St. Clair
2nd Captain: Bob Beige
1st Lieutenant: Tom Vrabely
2nd Lieutenant: Joanna Belles
Fire Police Captain & Lieutenant(s) for 2017:
Fire Police Captain: W. M. Shalbot
Fire Police 1st Lieutenant: Norm Angerett
Fire Police 2nd Lieutenant: Eugene Bartlett
Company Officers for 2017:
President: Daniel R. Cox
Vice President: Glenn Goehring
Recording Secretary / Personnel Secretary: Tracy St. Clair
Treasurer: W. M. Shalbot
Board of Directors: Randy St. Clair, Bob Beige, Tom Vrabely
- May 20, 2016 -
Message from the President - May 3, 2016
CONNOQUENESSING TOWNSHIP (KDKA) ?
Prospect House Fire
Flames destroyed a house, just south of Prospect.
No one was
home at the house on
Historic truck may come home
By Tom Victoria
Eagle Staff Writer
CONNOQUENESSING Pete Kaufman will never forget when he was 21 on New Year's Eve in 1957. Members of the Connoquenessing Volunteer Fire Company were celebrating the holiday at the fire hall.
A Constitution Street resident stoked the coal furnace in a neighboring home in preparation of a new family moving into the house.
A fire subsequently broke out in the vacant home.
Kaufman rode to the blaze in the department's homemade fire truck, a 1937 Chevrolet truck chassis with a makeshift body.
"We spent the rest of the night fighting the fire," he said.
Kaufman used to drive the patchwork truck hauling water to farmers when their springs ran dry.
Around 1960, the department sold the truck to a contractor intending to use it to hose down bridges.
Kaufman was glad to replace the old truck, which only carried about 500 gallons of water in its stainless steel tanks, with a new vehicle.
"Compared to today's standards, it's an antique," he said.
Kaufman didn't think he would ever see the truck again.
Earlier this year, an Ohio man, Rick Knife, bought the truck as part of a package deal.
Only wanting the other vehicle, an authentic fire truck, Knife contacted the borough to see if anyone was interested in buying the former Connoquenessing fire truck.
Fire company president Mike Kaufman, Pete Kaufman's son, said the department wants to buy the truck from Knife, but needs to raise the money.
The younger Kaufman said with skyrocketing fuel prices, he can't justify using existing funds.
"We need to manage our money," he said.
The department has $10,000 budgeted this year for diesel fuel alone.
"I can't be writing a check," Kaufman said.
To obtain the $2,500 needed to buy the truck from Knife, the department is starting fundraising efforts.
Upon buying the vehicle, which still runs, the department would periodically display it in the borough, take it to events and drive it in parades, such as the Saxonburg Fireman's Carnival.
"We want to keep it in the borough," Kaufman said.
Although operational, the truck needs to be refurbished.
Along with meeting Knife's asking price, the department needs to arrange for a flatbed truck to carry the antique vehicle from its current storage site 20 miles north of Dayton in Casstown, Ohio, back to Butler County.
Fire Chief Lou Zimmerman said Knife hasn't set a deadline for the full $2,500 price and is willing to take a down payment for the truck.
Zimmerman was surprised the truck was still in one piece and running.
"It's part of our heritage," he said. "The guys are really excited about it."
Guys like Pete Kaufman, who used the truck, and others who appreciate the department's history, agree.
"That was probably our first engine back in the day," Zimmerman said.
The Connoquenessing Volunteer Fire Company is accepting donations to buy an antique fire truck last used in the borough in the late 1950s.
Checks should be made out to the fire company and sent to the station at: P.O. Box 242, Connoquenessing, PA 16027
VFDs feel pinch from diesel
By CAITLIN BAUER
Eagle News Intern
Fire companies are feeling pressure to stretch their fuel budgets as the price of diesel steadily rises, surpassing $5 per gallon in some areas of Butler County.
In Pennsylvania, diesel prices are nearly $2 higher than at this time last year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Chief Lou Zimmerman of the Connoquenessing Volunteer Fire Company has noticed huge increases in fuel costs. Three of the company's six vehicles run on diesel.
"In 2003, our fuel cost for the entire year for the fleet of trucks was right around $3,800," Zimmerman said. "In the first quarter of 2008, we already surpassed that."
Diesel fuel cost $2.79 per gallon nationally in the second week of June 2007. In June 2008, the price the same week was $4.69 per gallon, according to the EIA.
Zimmerman estimates fuel costs for the six vehicle fleet will run between $10,000 and $12,000 in 2008.
He said the fire engines typically get no more than 7 miles per gallon.
"When we go to fill those up, we just cringe," he said.
The Butler Fire Department tries to keep the fuel tanks of its vehicles about three-quarters full.
"It's generally approaching the $100 range," said Chief George Ban of putting diesel in their tanks. "Fifty-gallon tanks are about the average for engines."
Diesel has historically cost less than gasoline, but diesel prices have been rising steadily since September 2004. The price increase is due to factors such as higher worldwide demand, the U.S. transition to cleaner burning low sulfur diesel fuel and state and federal taxes, according to the EIA.
At 24.4 cents per gallon, the federal excise tax on diesel is six cents higher than on gasoline. The state excise tax is the highest in the nation at 38.1 cents per gallon, with a national median of 22 cents per gallon.
Despite the cost, diesel engines are necessary in larger vehicles, said Mark Lauer, chief of the Unionville Volunteer Fire Department.
"You get better performance with diesel motors," Lauer said. "There's more power, more torque and the engines last longer."
All five vehicles operated by Unionville fire company have diesel engines and get between 4 mpg and 6 mpg.
The company also has two fire engines and three smaller vehicles. The company has no plans to buy any gasoline powered vehicles.
The company now allows firefighters to use the smaller company vehicles to travel to commitments such as training classes, Lauer said.
"Instead of using their privately owned vehicles, they can use the squad vehicles,"Lauer said. "They're all volunteers who've given their time and commitment, so the least we can do is provide the vehicles."
The Connoquenessing VFC has been using its smaller, gasoline powered vehicles more often to minimize costs, Zimmerman said.
"We tend to run the smaller vehicles as much as possible for nonfire calls," he said. "On medical calls, once we get on the scene and no longer need the siren, we shut off the truck."
On fire calls, the engines are constantly running and using fuel.
"The trucks have to run to pump water,"Ban said. "You can't have the truck shut off and still have access to the water to put the fire out."
Running the engines to pump water does not use a great deal of fuel, Zimmerman said.
"Going down the highway or up hills is going to use more fuel than pumping water," he said.
It is difficult to estimate the fuel mileage of fire trucks, Zelienople Fire Chief Rob Reeb said, adding that you normally consider how many hours the trucks are used rather than miles driven.
"The vehicles do sit around and pump more than they're driven on the roads," he said. "It's not uncommon to have a fire truck that's 20 years old with 12,000 miles on it."
The department has two fire engines, a ladder truck, a rescue truck and a squad vehicle, all with diesel engines. The command vehicle is the only one with a gasoline engine.
The fuel costs of the command vehicle are also becoming a concern, Reeb said.
"I just put $95 worth of fuel in the command vehicle and it wasn't even entirely empty," he said. "I was in shock."
To offset high fuel costs, the Connoquenessing fire company has eliminated nonessential expenses such as casual fire department hats and T-shirts for the firefighters.
"We cut back as much as we can," Zimmerman said. "We make sure we have adequate personal protection equipment and bypass the other stuff."
Fire departments will be absent from many summer parades and festivals in an effort to conserve fuel.
The Connoquenessing department will not take part in any parades this summer.
"We actually cut back on that, too," Zimmerman said. "We haven't gone to a parade in quite a while."
The Unionville fire company will be limiting its parade involvement, Lauer said.
"We're not hitting so many festivals or parades this year," he said. "If we are, we're taking the smaller vehicles instead."
The Butler Fire Department does not participate in parades.
The high cost of fuel affects the fire departments as well as the people they serve, Lauer said.
"Somebody better do something soon, he said. "Or there are going to be a lot of broke families."
Reeb remains optimistic and thinks diesel prices will eventually decrease and once again cost less than gasoline.
"Even though diesel is more expensive right now, I believe that sometime in the future, that will change,"Reeb said.
But Dad was in the delivery room -- virtually. He watched the delivery and saw his wife holding his new son. Randy and Tracy St. Clair of Connoquenessing were united by a video teleconferencing link in the UPMC Mercy delivery room Friday when Tracy gave birth to their first child.
"He was right at my shoulder through giving birth. I could see him," said Mrs. St. Clair about the scheduled Caesarean section. "It was a little emotional for me because I saw him crying."
Thanks to technology -- and some charitable supporters, some in the military now don't have to miss out on milestone events like the birth of a child.
The connection was arranged through the Freedom Calls Foundation -- a nonprofit charitable organization that provides free phone, videoconferencing and Internet service to troops in Iraq and Kuwait.
Sgt. 1st Class St. Clair, 37, is a paramedic with Medevac Ambulance in Ellwood City. Deployed to Iraq in November, he is serving as a combat medic with the 339th Support Hospital and is based in Al Kasik. His wife, 34, works at Louis Charles & Co., a Butler salon and day spa.
Mrs. St. Clair found out about the opportunity available to military families and began exploring the possibility of the video link a few weeks before her due date. Things were complicated because Al Kasik isn't one of the sites in Iraq where Freedom Calls has a camp access point, but they were able to arrange a connection through the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. It also provides phone and Internet access for U.S. forces in Iraq and does have an access point in Al Kasik.
The equipment was set up in the delivery room so that Sgt. St. Clair could see every second of the birth and provide support.
"It was good to have him there so that he could witness everything," Mrs. St. Clair said. "We had that live connection. It was wonderful to have that opportunity."
After Connor was born, the monitor and equipment was moved to her room, and Dad was able to re-connect and see other family members greeting the new arrival.
The Freedom Calls link set up for the St. Clairs used standard videoconferencing technology -- the kind used by corporations to link meeting participants in multiple sites.
This was the second birth/teleconference done at UPMC Mercy, and everything went smoothly, said Vicki Vukelich, a registered nurse and team leader for labor and delivery at Mercy.
"It couldn't have gone any better," said Ms. Vukelich, who was in the delivery room for the birth. "In my mind, Dad was present just as he would have been if he would have been here. It was also rewarding to be able to have shared that with the family, and to see their joy."
Arrangements for Freedom Calls are made by the family, the overseas serviceman or servicewoman or their commanding officer. The hospital's information services sets up the teleconferencing equipment at the other end.
The Freedom Calls Foundation began in 2004. The organization built a satellite network that connects service members in Iraq and Kuwait via phone and Internet to 10,000 sites in the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. It was founded as an alterative to long-distance phone bills that military personnel in Iraq were getting from AT&T, which has an exclusive phone carrier contract.
"It's the 21st century. People should be able to talk like this," said John Harlow, Freedom Calls executive director and founder. "With the technology we have today, there are all kinds of alternatives" to the traditional phone call.
In addition to offering free phone and Internet access to troops, the organization does hundreds of teleconferences like the ones the St. Clair family took part in: Last weekend there were five births in the United States beamed overseas to military service members. Freedom Calls also connects military families for other big events, like graduations, weddings and christenings. Some of the family events aren't celebrations: They've also linked service members back home to talk with seriously ill relatives.
"It's good for morale. It enables them to share all of these milestone moments," Mr. Harlow said. "It saves the military money because they don't have to send people home from the battlefront."
The teleconference and Internet connections are free to military families. It costs the organization around $1,000 a day to keep the connections happening.
Freedom Calls is funded by individual and corporate donations. Some high-tech companies, including Lenovo, Logitech and Expedite Video Conferencing Services, have donated hardware and support services for the network.
Freedom Calls hopes to expand its presence beyond Iraq into Afghanistan and other areas where U.S. troops are deployed. They are working on continuing the collaboration with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, and hope to add its many access points to the network.
"It would enable families to communicate on a regular basis to every military camp in the world," Mr. Harlow said.