Fire Company Gets Start From Ambulance Service
The story of the Hemlock Farms, Pa., Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company starts with the need for ambulance service in a community of 500 homes in 1969.
Ambulance service at that time was provided by volunteer fire companies 15 miles from the newly developed community in the Pocono Mountains that encompassed 4500 acres, but residents recognized a need for a local service.
Therefore, in September 1969, the Hemlock Farms Volunteer Ambulance Corps was organized. Donations paid for a 1970 Chevrolet suburban ambulance that went into service on December 16, 1969, at noon. Ten minutes later, the ambulance made its first run—to an auto accident. The victim was taken to a hospital 30 miles away.
In its first year of operation, the corps responded to over 70 emergency calls in a 20-square-riile area with a vacationer-varied population of 3000 to 10,000.
After a disastrous country club fire in the community, the corps formed the Hemlock Farms Fire and Ambulance Company in August 1970. A new, fully equipped 1000-gpm midship pumper with a 750-gallon booster tank was delivered in September, as was 600 feet of 4-inch supply line.
A retired New York City battalion chief, James McBride, was elected chief. He conducted basic drills weekly until the firemen acquired the necessary skills.
The fire company responds to an average of 20 fires a year, including mutual aid, with an average yearly fire loss of $30,000.
Because of a fatal auto accident in which a victim was trapped for three hours, the company bought the first metal cutting saw in the county and in 1971 bought a 1960 rescue van, which became the first rescue vehicle in Pike County. Since that time, other fire companies in the county have put rescue vehicles in service.
In the first years of operations, the fire and ambulance company operated out of a converted chicken barn, but in the spring of 1973, plans were drawn for a fire station. Three acres were donated in the center of the five-milewide development. The Community Association gave $20,000 and a mortgage was obtained. After donations of time, material and equipment, the red ripple concrete block building was completed in August 1973. The building and land have been appraised at $150,000, but the actual cost was only $55,000.
The main portion of the building is 84 X 36 feet with four bays, a meeting room, a kitchen and rest rooms. A 37 X 28-foot addition houses sheriffs deputies and the Community Association office. The rent covers the mortgage payments for the building.
Today the community has grown to 1400 homes. The water system has automatic pumps, 1 1/2 million gallons of water in two tanks and hydrants within 600 feet of each dwelling.
The fire company assisted in procuring a full-time building inspector, provides fire prevention articles for the Community Newsletter, sells fire extinguishers, distributes (in conjunction with Boy Scouts sponsored by the company) emergency phone number stickers, and assists in issuing burning permits. Portions of the fire station are available for use by various organizations for community meetings.
Police, fire and ambulance emergencies are reported through one phone number manned 24 hours a day. Key fire personnel have radios and normally an officer is at a fire before arrival of the apparatus. When a fire occurs, the deputy sheriff on duty (also a fireman) goes to the fire station and drives the engine to the fire.
When a health emergency occurs, the deputy responds in his patrol car with a bag mask, oxygen and first aid equipment to stabilize the victim until the ambulance arrives. The sheriffs deputies respond to over 300 first aid calls a year, saving many unnecessary runs by the ambulance and crew. In addition, key personnel in the fire and ambulance company are special deputies, so assistance is also available to the police in an emergency.
In 1973, the 1970 ambulance was replaced with a 1973 Dodge van. This vehicle was the first in the area to meet the new federal standards.
Today, there are 40 active members in the company, of whom 29 are firemen and 17 are men and women active in the ambulance service. Last year the fire company spent 580 man-hours in training and 330 man-hours fighting 18 fires that resulted in structural damage of $200 and the burning of 4 acres of woodland. The ambulance responded to approximately 100 calls in 1973.