NEW BETHLEHEM – Fire and rescue efforts in the Redbank Valley have been bolstered in recent months as new tools and more have been added to the toolbox of the New Bethlehem Fire Company.
“We’ve been extremely successful, and grateful, for the money we’ve received from foundations and grants,” fire company treasurer Ed Goth said on Monday.
He explained that via grants and other private donations, the local company has been able to add more than $70,000 in new rescue tools over the past several months.
The new equipment is a move away from the aging hydraulic powered tools, and toward new electronic battery-powered tools. The recent purchases include two new rams at around $9,000 each, two new large spreaders at around $13,000 each, two new large cutters at around $11,000 each and a combination cutter-spreader tool at around $12,000.
The new tools are manufactured by Hurst and carry the Jaws of Life brand.
“The tools that we had were becoming outdated and weren’t able to cut the materials used in new vehicles,” Goth explained, noting that about five years ago, the fire company set out on a plan to upgrade all of its rescue tools.
Other donations and constant work at fundraising by fire company members have also allowed the organization to add other important equipment. In addition to the purchase of new turnout gear, the company recently added a highly specialized washing machine for the gear that helps remove carcinogens. And a specialized forced air drying system gives firefighters the ability to clean and dry their gear in a matter of hours, rather than it taking days before.
Goth said the company was able to make the purchases due to “significant support from various organizations in the community.”
The fire company also received word recently that it will receive a $39,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will fund a major power generator and heating system replacement at the fire hall, which is also the community’s emergency operations center and an emergency shelter.
Currently, an old generator that came from Broadwood Towers following the flood of 1996 is housed inside the garage at the fire hall. Goth said the generator not only is so loud that it creates problems for those trying to work in the building, but having it inside also means the storage of diesel fuel on site.
With the new grant, he explained that a new natural-gas powered generator will be purchased and located in a noise-reduction enclosure outside the fire hall. The project will also include the replacement of the boiler system at the fire hall.
Goth said that after coming up empty for years in trying to obtain funding for the project, about two years ago the fire company took a new approach. In working with New Bethlehem Borough, fire company president Wayne Livingston began seeking funds from the USDA.
Also on tap is another grant from the USDA spearheaded by Livingston for the purchase of a 400-gallon mini-pumper truck to add to the fire company’s fleet of vehicles.
“It’s for the tight areas that you can’t get into with a bigger truck,” Livingston said, noting that New Bethlehem has a number of narrow streets and alleys that make it hard to access buildings to fight fires, especially in winter months.
Livingston said the order has been placed for the Ford mini-pumper, which will also have four-wheel drive.
“This is going to make a big difference in our firefighting,” he said.
Goth said that even though the fire company has had great success lately in grants to upgrade equipment and facilities, support from the community continues to be vital for the fire company’s operations.
He explained that during the pandemic, many fire departments have suffered as they’ve seen regular fundraising events canceled. Goth said that New Bethlehem Fire’s fundraising has mostly remained steady, and the department has been fiscally responsible.
“We still don’t know how this year is going to play out with other fundraisers,” he said. “Right now, we’re holding our own.”
Livingston credited the company’s members for working hard and bringing new ideas for raising money. Goth added that the company’s 2020 fund drive was its best ever, and the organization is hoping this year’s effort is just as successful.
“We want to thank all those people who have given money, come to our fish fries and supported us,” Goth said.