THEY CALLED IT LIVERPOOL, in York County, way back when...And it wasn't Union Fire Company No. 1 of Manchester until just after the turn of the century.
One Gallant "lady" remembers it all. In 1858, what is now sentimentally known as the "Always Ready" became the backbone of today's modern firefighting arsenal.
"Always Ready," a hand-drawn and hand-operated pumper, still workable, reflected the vision of Liverpool citizens who acquired it through public subscription from the American Acme Company in Emigsville, PA.
She was manned by the townspeople without an organized fire company, and found a home in the building on the northwest corner of the Union Cemetery after the Village of Liverpool citizens became incorporated Borough of Manchester in April 1869.
A growing citizenry dictated Borough Council's acquisition of a second apparatus on January 6, 1905. The companion for "Always Ready" was a horse drawn engine purchased from the Howe Engine Company of Indianapolis for $700, including 200 feet of fire hose and 20 feet of suction hose. It was housed in Jacob Wolf's barn.
In the same year, a fire company was organized and a street parade heralded the arrival of the new apparatus. In 1909, council purchased a blacksmith shop for a fire station in the first block of South Main Street from the Peter Atland Estate for $600.
Then on February 23, 1912, the fire company officially was titled Union Fire Company No. 1, headed by John Cockley as President, Jacob Schroll as Vice-President and Samuel Melhorn as Secretary.
WOMEN RALLIED TO THE CAUSE soon afterward. Though early records are hard to come by, information places the advent of the fire company auxiliary at about 1917. Mrs. Lillie Hake was its first President. The auxiliary was instrumental in raising funds to help pay the firehouse mortgage, buy new equipment, and expand the headquarters. Sponsoring public games, food sales and many other events to benefit the borough’s fire protection service did this.
By 1920, the company had its first piece of motorized equipment. Council purchased a twin chemical unit mounted on a Belmont truck. And, in 1927, a modern pump with booster tank was added. Until that time, Manchester Borough Council owned all of the equipment.
Public fund solicitation and fundraising activities enabled the company for the first time to buy its own apparatus, a Darley Champion pump mounted on a 1949 Chevrolet chassis.
The need for a new and larger building became evident with a growing fleet and a wider membership. The company purchased its present site in 1952. In March 1957, Union Fire Company No. 1 occupied its new home. The $37,000 investment embodied a complete engine room, a temporary kitchen and lavatories.
Another piece of apparatus, a 1933 Seagraves chemical truck donated by the disbanded Conewago Fire Company, was added in 1958.
It was converted to become the company's first tank truck with a capacity of 750 gallons of water. In 1962, Paul Musser donated a 1946 Chevrolet chassis on which the Seagraves tank and pump were mounted.
Keeping pace with the community it served, the company delegated a committee in 1967 to draft specifications for a new pumper. In February 1968, a Darley Champion, 750-gallon-per-minute, three stage pump went into service. The pump was mounted on a 1967 Ford chassis. The apparatus carried 1,000 feet of three-inch supply line, 1,000 feet of two-and-a-half-inch hose and three hundred feet of one-and-one-half-inch hose.
THE YEAR 1968 ALSO SAW the inception of a new service - the Manchester Ambulance Club. Alvin A. Zeigler donated the 1960 Cadillac ambulance and volunteers served as crew members and dispatchers. Meanwhile, the fire company obtained a 1954 International Metro truck, contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Yinger. Members converted it into the company’s first Service Truck.
In 1972, the ambulance club replaced the aging Cadillac ambulance with a new van-type ambulance. This new style ambulance allowed the crews to more easily treat their patients.
In 1974, a 1970 Chevrolet step-van was purchased to replace the Service Truck. The truck carried a portable pump capable of 385 gallons per minute, a 3,500 watt generator with lights, two smoke ejectors, air packs, and emergency rescue gear. A Dodge pumper-tanker also joined the fleet that year. Built by Car-Mar, the stainless steel tank had a capacity of 2,000 gallons of water and a 750 gallon-per-minute Darley Champion, two-stage pump.
Satisfied with the versatility of the van-type ambulance, the ambulance club purchased a 1976 Chevrolet van ambulance to replace the 1972 model.
CONSTRUCTION OF A NEW social hall, was approved at a joint meeting of the company and the Ladies Auxiliary on March 19,1977. A formal groundbreaking was underway just a few days later in a continuous downpour of rain. After heavy rains, high winds and flooding twice impaired progress on the addition, general contractor Louis R. Poe finally gave the go-ahead to hold the first public function - a dinner-dance and open house for area businessmen and fire company members on November 12, 1977. With the inclusion of a new kitchen in the social hall, the old kitchen was converted into a lounge and office space for members.
HELPING PLAN THE NEW SOCIAL HALL was one of the last functions for the Ladies Auxiliary. After some 60 years of loyal service, membership had begun to decline. With the change in times, more and more women opted for the job market and found less time for volunteer work. Finally, in May 1978, after a poll found too few members with available time, the auxiliary disbanded.
With a growing need for more specialized firefighting and rescue equipment, a committee was formed to draw-up specifications for a new service truck. In 1982 the company took delivery of a SWAB medium-duty rescue body, mounted on a Chevrolet chassis. The sixteen foot, walk-in box carried a 12 kW on-board generator, a 3,500 watt portable generator, 385 gpm portable pump, stokes basket, medical supplies, salvage covers, saws, jacks, cribbing, porta-powers, come-alongs, SCBAs and spare air cylinders.
A growing population also increased the need for ambulance service. In 1986 the ambulance club responded to this need by purchasing a Braun mini-mod. The new ambulance increased the working space badly needed by EMTs, while conserving space shared by four vehicles in a three bay fire station.
AN INCREASING POPULATION also meant an increase in residential building as well as industrial and commercial complexes. Updating fire apparatus again became a priority. In 1989 the company took delivery of a Pierce pumper-tanker. The 1500-gallon tank and top-mount 1250 gpm Waterous pump were mounted on a six man, Pierce/Lance chassis. The unit was equipped with six pre-connected handlines, 1500 feet of large diameter supply hose, a 7.5 kW on-board generator and pole lights, smoke ejector, SCBAs and spare cylinders.
In 1991, anticipating the arrival of a new and larger engine as well as a new, full size modular Braun ambulance, the Manchester Ambulance Club purchased property and built a new headquarters on Devco Drive in the East Manchester Township Industrial Park. This decision allowed both organizations the room needed to grow and better serve the community.
In 1992, a KME Renegade engine became the latest addition to the Union Fire Company fleet. Complete with a six man enclosed cab, the 1,000-gallon tank and top-mount 1250 gpm Hale pump replaced the aging 1967 engine. The new engine had six pre-connected handlines, 1500 feet of large diameter supply hose, 7.5 kW on-board generator and pole lights, a 20 inch positive pressure ventilation fan, 1000 gpm deck gun, 20 gallons of AFFF-AR foam concentrate, SCBAs and spare cylinders.
THE GROWTH OF MANCHESTER BOROUGH AND EAST MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP had not slowed, but continued at a rapid rate of development. In January of 2000, a committee was charged with upgrading training, equipment and drawing specifications for a new Rescue truck. A growing number of vehicular and industrial accidents were evident in the area. The committee established a three-year plan to address the growing need. With training completed, the company took delivery of a 2003 American LaFrance/Eagle Rescue in September. The 31 foot long vehicle carries six men with an incident command work area. An on-board 30 kW, Harrison generator, 6000 watt light tower, (2) 1000 watt GenLites, Hurst on-board simul-unit with pre-connected combi-tool and "O" cutter, portable Hurst simul-unit, 18"- 40" Ram, on-board 4500 psi low pressure air system for air tools, cribbing, (4) Ajax stabilization struts, (4) high stand jacks, 5 and 10 ton porta-powers, chain and cable come-alongs, an 8000 lb. portable winch with front, rear and side receiver hitches, absorbent, Haz-Mat booms and pads, 24 foot extension ladder, 14 foot roof ladder, 10 foot attic ladder, Little Giant ladder, backboards, trauma bag, oxygen, AED, stokes basket, 24 inch positive pressure ventilation fan, MSA Orion gas meter, and 385 gpm portable pump.
In 2006 members endeavored to ensure the community with 24 hour per day Duty Officer coverage. A 1998 Ford Crown Victoria, a retired Pennsylvania State Police patrol car was purchased and converted into the Company’s first Duty Officer vehicle with the radio name – Car 23.
2008 was a very busy year. The Crown Victoria, with high mileage, was in serious need of extensive bodywork. A 2003 Ford Expedition was acquired as a replacement for Car 23. The new addition expanded the capabilities of the Duty Officer and provided four-wheel-drive capabilities. Car 23 and Rescue 23 were both certified by the PA Department of Health as QRS (Quick Response Service) units. Both vehicles are capable of providing non-transport Basic Life Support service to the ill and injured of our community. Additionally, the State Fire Commissioner’s Office recognized the Company for voluntarily meeting training requirements, with members certified to the National Professional Qualifications Standards at the 50% level. All this while the Company was planning and celebrating 150 Years of continuous service to the community. A formal banquet was held to celebrate the milestone. Company members, local and State politicians, neighboring Departments and the community celebrated the occasion in Fire Department tradition with assistance of the York Kiltie Band. While smaller events highlighted the achievement through-out the year, Company Members again put their best efforts together as they hosted the 2008 Annual York County Firefighters Association Convention. York's first Shine-and-Show was held at the John C. Rudy County Park. Fire, Rescue and EMS Companies from all over south-central PA met for a day of camaraderie and competition, car show style.
2008 brought yet another change. The 1992 KME Engine, after 16 years of service, was beginning to experience costly repairs and up-keep. With record fuel prices and budget shortfalls from a failing economy, Company Members endeavored to find a replacement apparatus in the form of a used vehicle. Just such a vehicle was located, and by late September a 2004 American LaFrance Eagle Engine was purchased from the Huntington Fire District of Long Island, NY. The new addition carried 780 gallons of water, a 2000 gpm, 2 stage Hale pump and a 1000 gpm Apollo deluge gun. The apparatus was sent back to the American LaFrance factory in Hamburg, NY to be retrofitted to meet the needs of Union Fire Company. Following delivery of the engine and training for Company Members, the apparatus was ready, and went into service as Engine 23-1 in late January, 2009.
In 2010, after 21 years of reliable service, the 1989 Pierce Lance Pumper-Tanker was in need of replacement. Having succeeded in 2008 in locating a suitable used apparatus, the Company embarked again on this mission. Soon, a 2003 American LaFrance Engine was located. The engine was recently traded-in from the Salisbury Fire Department, in Salisbury Maryland. The apparatus is built on an Eagle chassis, has a 1250 gpm Hale Pump, carries 1000 gallons of water, and is equipped with 1000 gpm Akron Stinger deluge gun. After minor modifications to meet the needs of Union Fire Company, the apparatus was delivered in April of 2010. Following driver and firefighter training, the unit was ready for service. The apparatus went on-line in mid-June of 2010 as Engine 23-2.
IN UNION FIRE COMPANY'S 104 YEARS of incorporated history, 30 others have followed John Cockley's lead as President. They were: Levi Small, 1924; Paul Gross, 1925-26; Arthur L. Welch, 1927; Harry Deihl, 1928 and 1930-34; Harry Bowers, 1929; Luther Shriver, 1935-37; Earl Rentzel, 1938 and 1940-44; Fred Kling, 1939; Millard Strine, 1945-47; Alvin Hyde, Jr., 1948-50; Charles Bowers, 1951; James Good, 1952; Curtis Bupp, 1953-56; Joseph Hopwood, 1957; Samuel Schroll, 1959; Gordon Zeigler, 1960-62; Ray Myers, 1963-64; Roger Weigel, 1965; Vincent Stevens, 1966-68 and 1979-86; Wesley Kirby, 1969; William Little, 1970-71 and 1977-78; William Kirby 1972; Dane Hale, 1973-75; Oscar May, 1976, John Watters, 1987-90; Randy Querry, 1991-97; William McGrath, 1998-2001; Matthew Fires, 2002-2003; Thomas Blodgett 2004 to 2007; Ryan Rodgers 2008 to 2010; Matthew Waltz 2011-2014; and Christopher Krichten 2015 to present.
One hundred and four years of organized leadership, and more than a century and a half of history are told here. Untold volunteer hours, a forward-looking community, and a generous public have given, first Liverpool, then Manchester, a progressive fire company which continues to grow, as witnessed today, and still stands - like the gallant "lady" which started it all - "ALWAYS READY."