The Franklin Fire Co. was organized December 8, 1903 , as the successors of the Hope Hose Company which had been disbanded by the Borough Council less than two weeks before. The Hope Company was previously known by many as the “rabbit hunters” because of their promptness and speed in which they responded to alarms. The Hopes had made an illustrious, although a somewhat stormy, name for themselves. No records can be found of them before 1830 because of their house, equipment and minutes being destroyed in the burning of Chambersburg in 1864.
In 1830 the Hopes were situated where the Reeder Hotel stood and in 1840 when the town was divided into two wards it became the Northern Company. In 1856 it was reorganized and again became the Hope Fire Company. During the Civil War, because of so many of its members being in the Service and the destruction of its fire house and apparatus, the company practically passed out of existence. During the reorganization of the Chambersburg Fire Department in 1877 the company was reactivated and became the fire company of the Fourth Ward. New equipment was purchased for it and it became known as the Rabbit Hunters because of its speed. Its new quarters were located on what is now Lincoln Way West . The company occupied this building until 1888 when Council erected a new house on the corner of Franklin Street and Martin Avenue . The company remained here until it was disbanded in 1903. in January of 1903, the Hopes refused to recognize the Chief Engineer appointed by Council and was disbanded by Council for insubordination.
In the law office of Thomas Z. Minehart, without loss of time a small group of men were constructing plans for a new fire company. A petition was presented to Town Council requesting a fire company in the Fourth Ward. The request being granted, an organized meeting was held, and Mr. Minehart was unanimously elected president. Francis Russ was chosen secretary.
Confronting the new organization was the construction and furnishing of a new building. This being complete, Council built the present fire house of the Franklins and the dedication ceremony was February 7, 1905 . Mr. Minehart accepted the keys to the building from the late Alson Stager, Sr., President of Town Council.
In the next few years the Franklins strongly desired to become a motorized company. Town Council then provided the company with a Ford chassis to accommodate the bed of the hose wagon, as a temporary arrangement until a pumper could be secured. This was the first hose wagon to be drawn by a horse. All other apparatus up to 1903 were drawn by hand.
FRANKLIN FIRE COMPANY’S FIRST HOSE WAGON
In 1925 the Franklin Fire Company received its first modern and practical fire engine, a new American LaFrance Pumper.
In 1931 the Franklin Fire company started the ground work for a possible fire truck for the surrounding area of Chambersburg . The feeling and enthusiasm of the company greatly favored such an idea.
The selling of the idea was much harder than anticipated, and many disappointments were encountered in an attempt to raise the monies needed. In raising the money needed Mr. Augustus Dorner put thousands of miles in making contacts for contributions.
Working with Mr. Dorner were: G. Stewart Klenzing, Val Vanderau, Edward Harmony, Bard Miller, Sr., Francis Kuss, Ralph Evans, John K. Berger, Elmer Gabler, Augustus Seelig, and John Suders.
In 1933, after thousands of hours of work, the Rural Service was finally started. In 1933 the first Rural Community Pumper arrived, a new Ward La France . Its first run came July 4, 1933 , a roof fire which was quickly extinguished.
In the early hours of July 22, 1936, while responding to a call near Fayetteville the pumper was involved in an accident which claimed the lives of 19 year old David Gabler and 29 year old Harold Snider.
COMMUNITY PUMPER – 1941
In 1941 a new white Peter Pirsch was purchased. This new pumper carried 300 gallons of water and had a 500 gallon per minute pump.
TANK TRUCK – 1949
The first tanker in Franklin County was purchased by the Franklins in 1949. This was a G.M.C. Tanker carrying 1000 gallons of water.
In 1951 the Franklins again purchased a new pumper, a Peter Pirsch with 750 gallons of water and a 500 gallon per minute pump.
In 1958 a Ford Tanker with 1000 gallons of water was added to the company fleet.
1962 brought the Company another new piece of fire fighting apparatus, a 750 gallon tank capacity and 500 gallon per minute pump Mack was put into service. This piece of equipment would undergo many modifications and improvements for its 16 years of service.
In 1972 a 1800 gallon Diamond Reo Tanker Pumper was added to the company’s line of equipment. This piece was later cut back to 1250 gallons of water.
1968 brought about a time for expansion. The Franklins were growing faster than their house would permit. Two new bays were added and the building was dedicated to David Gabler and Harold Snider, who lost their lives during the line of duty in 1936. Gabler’s mother and Snider’s wife unveiled the dedication plaque.
In 1975 it was time again to expand, this time in the area of a parking lot. Two houses on the corner of Franklin and King were purchased from Robert and William Gonder. The company then started appraising its equipment and found that it was time to purchase a combination rescue and squad type vehicle. A 1976 Dodge power wagon was the unit. This vehicle carried 250 gallons of water, a 250 gpm pump, 11/2″ hose and medical supplies. It was named Special Unit 44. The medical supplies include back boards, splints, trauma kits, oxygen, obstetrics kit, along with portable Indian tanks, shovels and brooms, for brush fires. S. U. 44 carried everything that an ambulance does but did not have the space to transport victims.
In 1976 the Borough of Chambersburg took delivery of a new ladder truck and offered the old truck to the Franklins . . . we accepted. The tractor was a 1967 Peter Pirsch and the trailer was made in 1941. This truck responded on all major calls in the rural and was second due in the borough of Chambersburg .
In 1977 it was time to replace the Diamond Reo tanker with another engine. In August of the same year a new Ward La France arrived with much company enthusiasm. This engine carried 1000 gallons of water with a 750 gpm pump and a new color – green.
In February of 1978 the Franklins took delivery of another new Ward La France carrying 1000 gallons of water and a 1000 gpm pump. Both these new trucks were purchased and paid for by a lot of men giving up countless hours of time to raise money through block parties, dinners, drawings, fund drives and other money raising projects. Without the support of every man in the company, and you the public, we could not have succeeded in doing this. Each and every one deserves a pat on the back and extra thank you for a job well done.
It was in 1979 that the Franklin Fire Company purchased the former Franklin Street Elementary School . It was used for storage and for training at first, then it was demolished to make room for more parking for our bingo customers. In 1980 and 1981 Paul E. Lehman Inc. was awarded a contract for the construction of a new two story building at a cost of $500,000. This included a new social hall upstairs and new offices, a new bunk room, game room, lavatory facilities and shower area. It also included a storage facility for housing the 1925 American La France so it would not be in the way.
We then took the old one story social hall and did some modifications to it, such as knocking out some walls to enlarge our apparatus room area. Now we wouldn’t have to move our apparatus outside anymore to set up for bingo. We parked our apparatus back to back and three deep.
We then purchased the old Franklin Street Fire station from the Borough of Chambersburg. We moved everything out of this building to our new addition and then tore down the old building to make more room for parking for our bingo customers.
During this time period we purchased our first Chief’s vehicle which was a Chevrolet four door sedan. This was a used vehicle purchased from auction. Also in this time period we purchased a new Light Rescue Unit which was a Ford utility truck with a walk in back door and a bench seat that could seat up to five personnel. We put our Hurst tool( the “Jaws of Life”) on this vehicle.
It was in 1986 that the company decided it was time for a new fire engine as the Ward La Frances were now ten years old and had been rehabbed twice to get rid of the rust. A committee was appointed and they sat down with various apparatus dealers and specced out what the company would like to have on it. When the bids came back the committee recommended that we take the E-One bid as this bid met our specs the closest. The company agreed and they signed a contract with Federal Signal Inc., the company who builds E-One.
The committee kept a close watch on how the apparatus was being built and made several trips to the E-One plant in Ocala , Florida .
We received the twin E-Ones in early November of 1986. Much to everyone’s surprise, they were just what the company needed.
They had four doors and could seat six in the all enclosed cab compared to the Ward La Frances that only seated four and then two of them would be out in the cold. We also upped the pumping capacity from 1,000 gallons per minute to 1250 gallons per minute.
Throughout the rest of the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s the fire company started purchasing properties to the east of our station on King Street toward Hood Street .A total of about eight properties were purchased. During this time the fire company became landlords and rented the properties out. As we would see fit we would tear one down to make more parking for our bingo customers. We would then buy another and do the same thing all over again until we owned to the corner of the alley.
During this time the company decided to upgrade their ladder truck, since the old one we got from the borough was constantly giving us trouble. So the company decided to go looking for a better one. The committee came back with its recommendation that we buy a rehabbed New York City piece which was being sold by Northern Fire Equipment in Watertown , NY . We made several trips to Watertown to see how the piece was coming along. On the one trip, after they called and told us they had it painted, we saw it was not the right color green that we ordered but instead it was olive drab and looked like an army vehicle. This was very unacceptable and we got into a slight disagreement over it. The committee then made a decision that we would just take it like it was, bring all the pieces that went with it back to Chambersburg, and take it to Rife Motors where we would rehab it ourselves. The company members got together and sanded down the apparatus and Rife Motors painted it our color of Kelley Green. This unit was a 1984 Seagraves 100 foot rear mounted aerial.
In 1995 while responding to a kitchen fire on the Warm Spring Road and while going back a farm lane to the house, Engine 45 was traveling at a very slow speed because the dirt lane had a lot of ruts and groundhog holes in it. The engine hit a small groundhog hole near the edge of the road and the dirt road caved in under the weight of the fire engine causing it to roll down a small hill and come to rest on its roof. The fire engine had a full crew of six on it. No one was seriously injured, but all were taken to the hospital to be checked out and all were released. Upon the roll over this engine was then sent back to the E-One plant to have the damage repaired. In the mean time we were down to one fire engine. Since we are a two piece engine company, the fire company decided to buy a used engine until we could get ours back. A committee was appointed and they went looking for a good used piece that would fit our needs. An engine was found in Strasburg , PA, for the price of $35,000. We would keep this engine until Engine 45 was repaired and back in service. This engine would be known as Engine 41.
Also in the 1990’s, a committee was set up to buy a medium duty squad. We again looked at E-One as one of the bidders. The new squad was built on a Ford chassis with a walk- in rear box on it. This also had a new extrication tool called the Amkus System on it. It had two pre-connected reels on it- one to go out either side of the box so as to save time while working at an accident scene.
Then in 1994 it was again time to upgrade our ladder truck. Again a committee was formed and they set out to draw up specifications for a new ladder truck. When the specs were approved they were sent out to various apparatus makers and three sent bids back. They were E-One, Pierce and Ladder Tower Inc. The bids were spread on three different tables for the members of the company to look at and compare. The company then chose Ladder Tower Inc. at a bid price of $430,000. The new unit arrived the following year, 1995. It was a steel ladder on an eight person cab. The cab and body was constructed of aluminum. The aerial had a height of 104 ft. reach with a pre-piped, extendable waterway to the tip of the ladder. This unit replaced the 1984 Seagrave aerial truck.
With the new ladder truck coming in, we had to modify the old apparatus bay door so the new ladder truck would fit. We had to cut six inches more off the upper door opening. This was done with a masonry saw. We had bought this truck because we had already started preparations to build a new building with larger door openings.
In 1997 the company gave approval to put out feelers for architects and contractors to build us a new fire station or add on to what we already have. After much discussion it was decided that it was not feasible to keep the old building or to upgrade it. So it was decided to tear the old part down that was built in 1962 and 1968 but keep the part that was built in 1981.
So the process began. First a group of our people, with the help of the Hamilton Township Supervisors, built an open front -end pole building to house one fire engine, a squad and the Borough fire engine. The rest of our apparatus was housed at the township building on Crottlestown Road where we could get to them easily day or night. We would like to acknowledge the Hamilton Township Supervisors for all their cooperation in our time of need. We are fortunate to have such a good relationship.
It was decided to keep the corner stone from the old building and to see if there was any kind of a time capsule in it or not. After the removal, there was nothing found so it was decided to keep it to put in the new museum. Then it was time for the demolition of the old building. The demolition contractor had a buyer for the concrete beams, so he removed them one by one placing them on a tractor trailer rig for transportation to another site.
Ground breaking then took place with the Architect, Contractor, Bank Officials, State Representative, Township Officials, Borough Officials, and fire company representatives present.
The committee members for the new building are as follows:
Charles Goetz, Jr., Richard L. Trace, Richard Landis, Stacy Ingram, Randy Negley, Gary Himes, Marvin Stoner, Joel Preisler, Mike Kessinger and Jeff Clopper.
The building was completed in 1999 as our first piece of apparatus rolled through the bay doors. This building and renovations to the 1981 part cost over three and a quarter million dollars.
After this was completed the fire company then appointed a committee to spec out a new Heavy Duty Rescue Squad. Specs were sent out to various apparatus dealers and we received several back. The dealer who met our specs was a company called KME Inc. They are a Pennsylvania based company about two hours from Chambersburg . This unit cost over $300,000.
At the time this book is being published, a committee has been set up to spec out a new fire engine(s) to replace our 1986 E-Ones.
The Franklin Fire Company has always been a progressive and proud fire department that has been serving this community for the past 100 years. We hope we can keep on serving you for another 100 years.
With the Engine Committee being set up, specs were sent out and the bid awarded to E-One. Once again, the Franklin Fire Co. ordered 2 identical 2004 E-One Cyclone II Engines. The 1986 Twins were sold. One of the engines was purchased by the Andover, Maine FD, which they ran for many more years.
The “twins” settling in nicely, their first big test would be on September 2nd 2005. Just after dinner, at 1845, The Franklins were sent 1st due to 2047 Loop Rd at the Chambersburg Waste Paper plant for a building on fire. They arrived to find multiple buildings, tractor trailers and trash piles already well advanced with fire conditions throughout. Chief 46 (Buzz Hammond) called for multiple alarms. The fire would rage through the evening and into the next day. Subsequently, that fire would be an all but everyday part of the Franklins response for the next several months, with the company trying to rebuild operations and hot spots flaring up. The fire was ruled Arson with 2 young males being charged with the crime, charges were later dropped on both parties. Since the fire in 2005, the plant has fully recovered and remains at full operation. They have built a 300k gallon water tank, fire pump house, hose reels and trained their employees on quick fire attack.
2007 fast approaching, the need for a new brush truck arose. Brush 44 was closing in on 30 years old and had seen better days. The new unit would be built on a Ford chassis and would have a 1 piece poly construction body attached. This unit would be designated “Special Unit 44”. SU-44 has a 300 gallon water tank, a 200gpm pump, 300ft hose reel, 200ft pre-connected 1 ½ line with 300ft of dead load 3 inch supply line. It carries multiple forestry tools, med supplies and sits 2 firemen. The unit is first out on all brush fires and outside investigation calls.
The next few years were relatively quiet other than the usual 50 some medical assist calls, auto crashes and house fires…
This all changed in the early morning hours of March 19th, 2011 at 0243. The Saturday night duty crews were all asleep, Franklin 911 alerted the Franklins to “Frank Rd in the area of Bengate Dr” on Box 44-05 for an outside investigation of “smoke in the area”. The crews…
E45 – Driver Gary Himes, Asst Chief Jason Kuehler, FF’s Nick Stefany, Tyler Myers and Josh Carrotazolla
SU44 – Driver Cameron Knotts and FF Matt Bigler
Responded and were arriving in the area when 911 advised they had received a second call from a neighbor reporting a mobile home on fire. The box was immediately upgraded starting additional Sta4 units and mutual aid depts. The next mere 7 minutes of their lives would be etched with what is arguably a fireman’s worst fear. Units found a “privately renovated” mobile home with smoke showing, a handicap ramp and a single vehicle in the driveway. The engine crew along with FF Bigler entered the structure preparing for fire attack and victim rescue. By this time, the other units were just done being alerted with most not even responding yet, however Truck 42 was already responding with hearing the conditions. With fire already advancing through the home, crews were met with high heat and black out conditions. Crews encountered an “extreme” change in fire conditions all but 20ft inside the front door. The fire grew so rapidly and violently and with the renovations of the home, the crews were inside of their own oven. Fire started burning along side of the structure and burned through the initial attack line at the front door. Crews lost their water pressure almost immediately. Asst Chief Kuehler, being with his crew on the line, was showered with water which instantly turned to steam. At this same time, FF Stefany and FF Carrotazolla suffered burns to the hands, wrist, arms and face. Asst Chief Kuehler being severely burned and incapacitated remembered he had preformed a quick search of the kitchen area; he was able to find refuge in this same kitchen. Chief Kuehler attempted to radio a MAYDAY report but was unable to fully depress his PTT on his radio; the only radio transmission from Chief Kuehler was “AC49…MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY”. Command not yet being established, FF Knotts from SU44 assumed Command 44 and acknowledged Chief Kuehlers MAYDAY. Truck 42 was just arriving, with most of the first engine crew suffering burns and already self rescued, Command ordered the crew from Truck 42…Driver LT Huey Brown, FF’s Paul Stoops, Tony Jones and Craig Kauffman and remaining members to initiate a full FF rescue operation of Chief Kuehler. Command met with the crew as they entered the structure and advised them that Chief Kuehler had radioed the MAYDAY and was unaccounted for. Fire conditions were still growing. Through training and the size of the structure, the crew knew that Chief Kuehler would not be far off from his hose line, no matter what its condition. FF Paul Stoops and FF Josh Carrotazolla, who suffered minor burns to the wrist and face, were able to locate and remove Chief Kuehler and pull him to the driveway. Remember, this all happened within 7 or 8 minutes! Once all members were rescued and accounted for, LT 44 Huey Brown assumed the command, requested a second alarm, additional ALS/BLS units for 3 burned firemen and a helicopter to land at Chambersburg Hospital.
FF Carrotazolla suffered 2nd degree burns to his face, wrist, and ears. He would be transported, treated and released from Chambersburg hospital.
FF Nick Stefany suffered 2nd/3rd degree burns to wrist, arms and ears. He was transported to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, PA where he would spend the next few days in their burn unit. He was able to make a full recovery and return to his duties in about 1 month of the incident.
Asst Chief Kuehler was transported to Chambersburg hospital where he was stabilized and then air lifted to Johns Hopkins Bay View Burn Center in Baltimore, MD. Chief Kuehler would end up suffering 2nd/3rd degree burns to almost 40% of his body. He would spend the next 33 days in the burn unit, undergoing multiple skin graft surgeries, pins/rods in his hands and fingers to reduce movement, intense rehabilitation and the agony of his fellow fireman feeding him. The Franklins started an “around the clock” staffing of his hospital room, completing chores, helping with meals, assisting in rehab, mowing his lawn back home, accommodating his house for his new needs and would make sure his transportation needs to and from appointments were taken care of. Asst Chief Kuehler was brought home from the burn unit by E45…and all of its original crew from that morning along with a few special escorts and tons of friends and family. E45 backed into the firehouse and Asst Chief Kuehler radioed to Franklin 911 that E45 was in service and PAR from the incident on Frank Rd. Chief Kuehler would make a full recovery and be able to return to full duty in about 1 year.
Since this incident, the Company has immensely improved and focused on in house training, maintaining that level of training and purchasing of the most up to date equipment and gear. We work hand in hand with PPE Manufactures by providing insight and actual “on scene” testing of upcoming products.
It’s now 2012, nearing 2013 and the 104ft 1995 Simon-Duplex Ladder truck is up for replacement. The aging 2002 KME Rescue Squad and 2004 Engines are running more calls and fires than ever due to area manpower issues, response areas, needs and arguably…the Franklins “aggressive firefighting” and “get the job done” reputation. The Franklins keep a chart of each respective Franklin County Box Alarm area, which unit responds and in which order. In 2012, The Franklins ran 77% of all Box Alarm areas for structure related responses in Franklin County. This didn’t include Adams and Cumberland Counties.
In the years to come this number would only keep growing. Seeing this progression, the need for more modern fire apparatus and up to date equipment, a committee was formed to look at completely replacing the entire fleet of apparatus to the winning bidder. The vote to replace the fleet passed on the meeting floor by only 4 votes. In the months to come the economy still wasn’t at its finest, the company realized that the apparatus may not sell in an affordable amount of time. It was now decided that the Ladder Truck had to be replaced no matter what.
In mid 2013, Pierce MFG was awarded the bid to build what would become “42 Truck”. It would be a 2014 105ft Pierce Arrow XT on a tandem axel chassis, a 500hp diesel, a 500lb working tip load, it would have no water tank, no pump, seat 6 and carry a whole host of Truck Co and rescue equipment. The new Truck far surpassed its predecessor with all the latest and greatest gadgets, improved turning radius for getting into the tight alleys of Chambersburg along with a host of new capabilities.
The 1995 Ladder Truck had some major issues with being sold. With nationwide manpower issues, the truck offered no pump and no water tank for small rural departments to better utilize what they had to work with. In September of 2015, the old Truck 42 was sold to the Corvallis Fire District in Montana. They have since refurbished the entire truck front to back, a new paint job and new equipment. The Company is very pleased with their purchase and love running the ladder truck.
In 2014 Franklin County 911 introduced a “tear n’ go” system for the local FD’s. This system is “unit driven” from the counties respective CAD system. The printer is located in the engine room and has its own alerting system. This greatly improves our response time; the paper gives most of the CAD information of the call to the crews heading out the door. At this same time, the department started utilizing technology to enhance our response even more; a voice alert of the dispatch was able to be sent to members’ mobile devices. Since that time Franklin 911, the Franklin Fire Co and the mobile app “Active 911” have worked countless hours to enhance the system even further. Members, county wide, now utilize the Active 911 app for their own department’s day to day operations. The app alerts members to calls, gives running routes, shows members who are responding, their GPS location, what their intentions for the call are and additional information about the response.
The Franklins couldn’t stop there. The department has purchased 5 Apple IPAD’s to be utilized in the 4 front line rigs and the fifth installed in the Chiefs buggy. The IPAD’s are installed and mounted at the officers position with all the run books, Department SOP’s, vital first due area information, the active 911 app, all mutual aid departments run books, hazardous materials apps, vehicle extrication apps and come from Apple with all the normal software to include text and cell phone capabilities.
Nearing the end of 2015, The Franklin Fire Co was notified that they were awarded a $13,000 grant to completely overhaul and replace the current station alerting system. The grant will be used to purchase multiple LED TV’s for placement around the firehouse, visual light towers to represent which unit is due on the call and an upgraded speaker system.
The current Fire Chief, Mark E. Trace is the longest “consecutive” Fire Chief in company history. At the next election for 2017, he will mark his 10th year as the Acting Chief. He joined the department in 1995, rose through the ranks and was elected Chief in 2006.
It is now the end of 2015; The Franklin Fire Company has ran almost 60 working fires, approx 20 extrications and a total of almost 1000 responses, currently with no ambulance in house. We continue to respond with an average of 10 volunteers and within 20 seconds of the alert.