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The history from one of our long time members...
Story By - Elmer Nearhoof
The community of Warriors Mark and the surrounding area was always dependent on outside fire protection until 1954, when the Warriors Mark-Franklin Volunteer Fire Company was formed. Previous efforts to form a fire company, such as occurred in 1931, had been short lived and ineffective. A number of disastrous fires in the early 50's pointed out the folly of relying on others for protection, and this led to the aforementioned company formation.
From humble beginnings, when a 1936 Chevrolet pumper was housed in a rented garage on the John Hoover property, site of the original fire hall, the company has grown to be the modern operation of today. The early years, from 1954 to 1959, saw those company founders struggling to build a building to house their equipment. Finally, in 1959, their efforts bore fruit when a 35' x 72' building was constructed. This building housed all the equipment, and, when cleared, could seat up to two hundred people for banquets. It was also during this time period that the ladies auxiliary became active, helping the firemen raise funds for equipment as well as the new fire hall. Along the same lines, a group of men, under the leadership of Earl "Gummy" Gunsallus, formed the company's first Fire Police Unit. Both of the organizations have grown and continued to perform their duties through the years.
Not forgetting their prime objective, fire fighting, the firemen took advantage of county-run fire training schools as well as local practice sessions, all the while continuing to upgrade their fleet, a 1947 Dodge with a John Bean high pressure pump and a 400 gallon water tank. Two years later the company added a 1200 gallon converted gasoline tanker on a 1951 GMC chassis.
Though these additions greatly increased the fire company's capabilities, the age of this equipment caused the firemen constant worry, as well as problems beyond description. To counter this, in 1964, the firemen took delivery of their first brand new piece of equipment, a John Bean HPV combination pumper on a 1964 Chevrolet chassis supplied through Harpster Chevrolet Company. Upon delivery of this apparatus, the company, for the first time, has a new, modern and dependable fire engine built specifically for the Warriors Mark area.
In August of 1966, with the help of the Ladies Auxiliary, the company was able to burn the mortgage of their building. With this debt cleared, the fire company embarked on a program to equip all of their trucks with two way radios. Upon completion of this project in mid 1967, the company began planning an addition to their fire hall in order to provide space for meetings and small social events. Starting in the summer of 1969, and continuing through the spring of 1971, the men of the fire company built and equipped a 32' x 38' addition.
In the spring of 1971, it was decided to replace the old tanker with a new and bigger piece. The job of building the tanker was given to the Brumbaugh Body Company of Altoona , PA. This truck, built on a Chevrolet chassis, provided with the help of Harpster Chevrolet Company, was delivered in the spring of 1972, just in time to be of yeoman service during the floods caused by Hurricane Agnes. By 1974, it was necessary to replace the Dodge with a four wheel drive mini-pumper from Brumbaugh Body Company. This unit, built on a Chevrolet chassis was one of the first of its kind in Central Pennsylvania .
From the beginning of the fire company in 1954 until early 1977, dispatch to emergencies was handled locally, first through the telephone operators, until the hand switchboard system was discontinued, then through a local funeral director. Due to illness of the funeral director, and the lack of any other local alternatives, plans were finalized in July of that year to join Huntingdon County Dispatch, operating of the municipal building in Huntingdon , PA. A radio room was built, radio equipment operating on the new frequencies was bought and installed, and finally, on October 7, 1977, Warriors Mark went on line as "Company 22 the twenty second member of Huntingdon County dispatch. With this problem solved, the firefighters of Company 22 began to plan the purchase of a new engine. Finally, in December of 1978, a new Pierce Suburban 750 pumper was ordered from Pierce Body Works of Appleton, WI, to be built on a Chevrolet chassis, again supplied through Harpstet Chevrolet. This engine was delivered in January of 1980 and officially placed into service in April of that year.
In 1983, the 1972 tanker was sent to 4-Guys fabricators of Meyersdale , PA to have a larger pump installed and bodywork performed. This, coupled with the ten inch quick dump valve installed by our own firemen, gave the tanker a new lease on life. At the same time, a new roof was installed on the firehall, replacing the one which had leaked for years.
By 1986, the opening of two farm supply businesses and a farm chemical sales and warehousing company had made it necessary to purchase a new and more efficient tanker. Turning, once again, to Pierce Body Company, the fire company ordered a 2000 gallon pumper-tanker built on a GMC Brigadier chassis. This diesel powered unit replaced the 1972 tanker unit which was then sold to a neighboring company. Officially housed in the spring of 1979, this efficient, high-powered 750 gpm unit pointed out a number of shortcomings in Company 22's twenty-nine year old fire hall. The fire company and the community had simply outgrown it.
For many years a small group of firefighters had harbored a dream of a new and enlarged firehall, situated on a piece of ground large enough to contain all of the fire company’s activities. As there was no room for expansion at their present firehall site, the hunt was quietly begun for a piece of ground upon which to build a new facility. At the same time, Representative Samuel E. Hayes, Jr. was contacted and meetings were held with representatives of various state agencies to explore programs which could assist in the construction of a facility. Finally in 1988, after exploring a number of possibilities, the firemen purchased a 16.5 acre tract from the John McClure farm immediately north of Warriors Mark. By selling five acres of excess ground from this tract, and with the continued help of Representative Hayes, the company paid off the land debt in April of 1989 and ended up with an 11.5 acre plot of land for future expansion.
Even though the company had no intention to build immediately, a building committee was appointed and empowered to investigate and develop plans for future construction, obtain pricing information, and develop a plan of action so the company could build as soon as possible. A phone conversation, and subsequent meeting with Representative Hayes in July of 1989, suddenly pushed the construction project onto the front burner once again. The building committee developed plans and solicited bids for a 12,500 sq. ft. building to be begun in the fall of 1989. Acting as their own general contractor, the company solicited bids for all phases of construction, from site preparation, to shell construction, heating, plumbing, and electrical bids, inside finish and final grading. Along the way, dozens of problems were confronted and solved. The members of the company donated tens-of thousands of man-hours to help finish the construction project.
In 1992, having paid off the new fire hall, the firemen of Company 22 turned again to the job of providing the best possible emergency protection for the community. A committee was appointed to develop specifications for a new pumper and to meet with manufacturers' representatives. In the spring of 1993, a contract was signed with New Lexington Fire Equipment Company for a new pumper engine. In the late fall of 1993, delivery was made by the company of a 1250 gpm pumper with a 1000 gallon water tank built on a 1993 Freightliner FL-80 chassis.
At about the same time a small group within the company began task of building a first responder unit composed of Co. 22 members, to assist local ambulance services which serve the community. The group began answering calls in early 1993, using the company van to assist them. As with any group of this type, new members bring new ideas and new challenges. In 1996 a number of younger members began to investigate the possibility of establishing a rescue unit within the company. In 1998, after two years of research and hard work, the company bought a Hackney light rescue unit and equipped it for rescue work. The firefighters trained hard and practiced for long hours to be able to use the equipment effectively and efficiently at accident scenes. The first responder unit continued to thrive, moving out of their old Chew van into a late model four wheel drive Chevy Suburban in 2000.
One of the dreams harbored for many years by a number of the "older members" was to see a custom fire engine placed in service. Beginning in 2001, a truck Committee began working on the specs for just such a rig. In 2002 an order was placed with New Lexington Fire Equipment for a 1500 gpm pumper on a custom Spartan chassis. In the fall of 2003, Company 22 took delivery of their new custom built fire engine. It included all the bells and whistles and for a fire company entering their 50th year of service it was a fitting beginning for a year of celebration.