On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Howard Fire Company grateful for gift, but work remains

February 19, 2014 

As firefighters, the Howard Fire Company members usually are on the receiving end of gratitude.

These days, however, they’re the thankful ones.

Graymont Inc., a lime and limestone producer in Pleasant Gap, recently gave the fire company a 2001 Ford F-350 crew cab pickup — an appreciated gift. The fire company plans to convert the pickup into a brush/utility truck for better coverage of Howard borough and Curtin, Marion and Howard townships.

Primarily, the modified pickup would be used to combat wildfires, but company firefighters also envision it carrying emergency medical services supplies, holding fire police equipment and even towing water rescue boats.

But first, the company needs a little more than $20,000 to modify the truck, on top of the $2,500 already spent on body and transmission repairs.

“It needs work,” said Mark Ott, fire company president. “It’s been used in the mine for however many years.”

Ott isn’t complaining. On the contrary, he couldn’t be happier about the donation.

For years, the company had been using an aging American LaFrance fire engine for wildfires. Currently, the engine is out of service because of a faulty pump and other problems.

Even before, though, the engine wasn’t suited for the job.

Its size kept it from getting close to remote fire sites. Mechanically unreliable, it suffered from the rocky terrain frequently encountered on calls.

“It’s not built for going into the woods, and that’s where most of these fires are,” Ott said.

Now Howard Fire Company has a four-wheel drive replacement that might have been unaffordable otherwise, Ott said.

“It gets us part of the way there,” he said. “If we had to buy a truck and then put all the gear in there, it would be much worse. It’s a great step forward.”

Much work remains.

To handle calls, the truck needs a custom utility bed, water pump, storage boxes for tools and gear, radios, emergency lighting and other equipment. The storage boxes alone will cost $5,000.

The company plans on applying for a state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Forest Service grant to cover some of the expense. In any case, the firefighters will need public support.

Donors can purchase $25 sponorship shares and specify which equipment they want their money to help provide — though Ott said the company will appreciate any contributions. Ten or more shares earns recognition on a plaque in the J.K. Yearick Center entryway at the fire station in Howard.

Send donations designated for the “Brush Truck” to the Howard Fire Company at P.O. Box 276, Howard, PA 16841, or call the station at 625-2761 or Ott at 470-0777.

If all goes well, the truck could be finished by spring of 2015. Once ready, it will allow the company to respond to wildfires and ATV accidents more quickly, said Ott, who put out a call of his own.

“Just keep supporting your local fire company — not just us but all of them,” he said. “We’re all in the same boat.”

Get ready to fish

It may be frigid now, but it’s not too early to plan for trout fishing season.

Bald Eagle State Park is offering a beginning fly tying workshop series for just $5, starting from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the park’s Environmental Learning Center. Monthly sessions will include fly tying classes, watershed education and casting instruction.

Sessions also will take place March 22, April 26 and May 24. On the last day, participants will fish with ties made during the series.

Register before Saturday by calling 625-9369, by stopping into the park office or mailing a check to Bald Eagle State Park, 149 Main Park Road, Howard, PA 16841.

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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