Two historic fire companies have decided to join forces to better serve their communities and seek some financial stability.
The Reliance and Hope fire companies, both in Philipsburg, are combining into the Philipsburg Fire Department, Fire Chief Jeff Harris said.
The merger was announced Tuesday during a meeting of Philipsburg Borough Council.
The companies have been trying to come together since a study recommended a merger in 2004, Harris said. It was difficult getting the companies to agree with a merger, he said, as members of each side wanted to hold the pride of their company’s name.
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The decision to come together was spurred by financial and manpower issues, he said. Funding for the departments is handled by a fire council, which takes in municipal contributions and distributes them among the two companies.
“Right now, we’re trying to support two buildings and two of everything when it comes to bills,” he said. “This way, we can have just one bill. We’ll have more money.”
With additional funds, Harris said, he would like to phase out some old equipment and downsize the fleet, purchasing new equipment as replacements. This would avoid affecting the municipalities’ insurance rating.
The merger will also likely add more members to the company, he said. Both companies have about 30 active members now.
“I think people left because they didn’t like the direction the companies were going,” he said. “Once we get under one roof, I think we’ll have more active firefighters.”
He would also like to move the company into a single building by next year, he said. As of now, there are five buildings between the two companies, and he said he would like to get rid of some of them.
“It’s going to benefit the fire company,” he said. “It’s also going to benefit all the municipalities we serve.”
Hope and Reliance serve Philipsburg borough and parts of Rush Township in Centre County. They also provide service to Decatur and Boggs townships in Clearfield County.
Both departments combined responded to about 360 calls last year, he said.
Rush Township Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Shannon said the merger would be a benefit to all communities, saying he saw no real advantage in having two fire companies with separate equipment and rosters when the municipalities could be serviced by one.
He said the municipalities’ financial contributions, which are based on population and an evaluation of structures in the community, should remain the same.
“We all believe they’ll be able to serve better, and be eligible for more grants” Philipsburg Borough Council President Barbara Gette said.
The idea to merge was well-received by everyone at the meeting, she said. While the lion’s share of the work is on the departments, the borough staff will help in any way they can.
“We’re just in the infancy stage,” she said. “We have a long way to go.”