The present Catasauqua Fire Department was organized April 15,1895 when the Borough Council assumed control of the Phoenix Steam Fire Company No. 1 and the Southwark Hose Company No. 9. In 1916 the Borough Council added the East End Hose and Chemical Company No. 1, having rejected them in 1911. In 1968 the Council accepted the Catasauqua Rescue Squad and the Catasauqua Fire Police to the department to ensure members coverage under the Borough and Fireman’s Relief Association. The active membership of each of the units consists of volunteers drawn from the Catasauqua community.
Governed by policies of the Borough Council, the Fire Companies own and maintain their respective fire houses. The Borough owns the equipment and pays an annual rental fee to the companies for heat and electricity in the facilities.
The fire department has set several standards for volunteer departments in the Lehigh Valley. James Paul, the first official Fire Chief, organized the first state local level fundamental fire school in Catasauqua, 1948. Catasauqua was the first to have home alert receivers, in 1958. The first to own large diameter hose with 3” and 3 ½”. They purchased the first large pumper with 1,250 gallon per minute capacity in 1973.
The fire department apparatus and members have received many awards over the years for training, dedication, equipment, and maintenance. The most recent ISO rating inspection awarded the Borough a class four rating, which exceeds most other volunteer and paid departments within Pennsylvania. This rating allows the lowest insurance premium possible to the residential community.
The fire department responsibilities have increased with growth and complexities of today’s society. In addition to firefighting the department provides Rescue Service, responds to hazardous leaks and spills, covers natural disasters and educates the public and fire department volunteers through fire prevention programs and training excercises.
Previous to World War II, the Borough Council annually rotated the Fire Chief position among the three fire companies. Beginning in 1946, a single person was appointed.
1946-1951 James Paul
1952-1977 Percy R. Rockel
1978-1984 Richard K. Fehnel
1985-2009 Samuel W. Burrows
2010-Present Richard C. Hertzog, Jr.
Each of the units within the Catasauqua Fire Department retains its own history.
Phoenix Steam Fire Company No. 1
338 Second Street
David Thomas organized the predecessor of the Phoenix, November 4, 1845.
Called the Humane Fire Company, its sole piece of fire equipment consisted of a used hand force pump attached to a large tank mounted on four wheels. A bucket brigade or hoses attached to the few fire plugs conveyed water to the tank. This primitive structure proved useless during the 1865 fire at the Crane Machine Shop, and was unceremoniously discarded and allowed to decay.
In 1866, the citizenry organized the Phoenix Steam Fire Company No. 1 replacing the Humane Company. The company was first quartered in the Crane Company Fire Hall on Front Street.
In 1868, James Fuller, Sr. sold a piece of ground, known as 116-118 Church Street, to the Borough for $1,116.50. Mr. Fuller placed deed restrictions upon the property, so that it “…is to be used only for the erection thereon of a “Town Hall” and “Engine House” and for no other purpose whatever”.
In late 1868, the Phoenix Fire Company moved into the new Town Hall. In 1914, its equipment consisted of an engine, two hose carriages, one gig, one hook and ladder truck, and twelve hundred feet of hose.
In 1976, the Borough abandoned 1118 Church Street and moved to the Municipal Offices at 118 Bridge Street. Although Mr. Fuller’s deed allowed their continued use of the building, restrictions in the Fire Company charter allowed and annual income of only $2,000.00 and real property of $5,000.00, thereby forcing the Phoenix to search for new quarters.
In 1987, an agreement between the Borough and the Southwark Hose Company No. 9 resulted in the building of a two bay garage next to the Southwark Hose Company, present address 338 Second Street. Money was provided for construction through community development funds, the firemen completing the interior with Company money. Today the property is owned and maintained by the Southwark Hose Company No. 9.
The Company currently operates a 1991 106’ Aerial Ladder Truck and a 1976 Heavy Rescue Truck which is due for replacement in the near future.
Southwark Hose Company No. 9
344 Second Street
Seeking to protect its extensive buildings from fire, the Crane Iron Company, in 1873, purchased a steamer “A” engine from the Philadelphia Southwark Hose Company No. 9. The company insisted that their name remain with the engine, donating additional books, seal, charter, hat, and belts.
After the Crane overhauled the engine, it was presented to the newly organized Catasauqua Southwark Hose Company No. 9 with the understanding that the Crane be granted use of the engine whenever needed.
The charter members of the Southwark were all Crane employees. The engine was housed temporarily in the Crane pattern house, Front and Wood Streets.
Erected by the Crane Iron Company, the Southwark moved into new quarters at Second and Church Streets. The Crane Iron Company contributed ten dollars towards expenses until 1895, when the Borough organized the Catasauqua Fire Department.
Today, the members of the Southwark operate a 1999 LTI engine with a pump capacity of 1,750 gallons per minute. The Southwark receives a rent subsidy from the Borough to assist in covering the costs of heat and electricity. The Southwark gathers additional funds from the rental of the social room for private parties, the operation of the member’s club room and the annual ham and turkey raffles.
The original building is still home of the Southwark Hose Company No. 9, but Engine 211 is stored in the quarters of the Phoenix Steam Fire Company No. 1 due to age of the structure. In early 2006, Rescue 241 was relocated to the Borough Waste Water Treatment Facility to allow room for the storage of Engine 211. Currently, the apparatus bay at the Southwark is used to store the departments All Terrain Vehicle and Spill trailer.
East End Hose and Chemical Company No.1
512 Race Street
In 1911, citizens of the newly organized Third Ward requested that the Borough recognize a new fire company, the East End Chemical and Hose Company No. 3, Borough Council refused, The fire company then changed the name to East End Independent Hose and Chemical Company No. 1 and petitioned the courts for incorporation.
Proceeding independently, the fire company erected a one story brick structure at 512 Race Street and enrolled eighty five men. In 1916, the Borough accepted the East End into the Catasauqua Fire Department.
Today, the East End maintains a 1978 Mack 1,250 gallon per minute pumper. The Borough also contributes to the heat and electric expenses through an annual rent subsidy. Additional operating funds come from annual ham raffles, and rental fees associated with the social room. Engine 212 is slated for replacement in July of 2012, with delivery close to the end of 2013.
Catasauqua Rescue Squad
338 Second Street
In 1961, a group of volunteers from the three companies organized the Catasauqua Rescue Squad. They solicited house to house for donations and purchased a 1961 Chevrolet truck, subsequently sent to the Christopher Company in New York for modification. The rescue truck began operations in August 1961, with a squad of men and women trained in first aid and rescue work.
In 1968, the Borough Council directed the Rescue Squad to become part of the Phoenix Steam Fire Company No. 1. Some of the members of this unit are trained to the 1006 Standard of Rescue as well as Technician level trained in hazardous materials, structural collapse, confined space rescue, high angle rescue, trench rescue, vehicle rescue, and trench rescue.
They currently operate a 1976 Mack Hammerly Heavy Rescue which is due for replacement shortly.
Catasauqua Fire Police
512 Race Street
In 1968, several concerns regarding insurance coverage demanded the attention of the Borough Council. The Council directed that the Special Fire Police Officers be organized under the leadership of a Captain and Lieutenant. These officers are under the command of the Borough Chief of Police and serve at the direction of the Fire Chief at emergencies, controlling people and traffic during fires or special events within the Borough.
Catasauqua Junior Firefighters
338 Second Street
In 1980, the fire department began to realize that in the very near future there was going to be a shortage of manpower due to lack of interest. Hoping to eliminate this problem the Catasauqua Fire Department developed the Catasauqua Junior Firefighters program. Seeking interested boys and girls, ages 14-17 who would learn fire department procedures and practices for future senior membership. This program has been proven very successful. Over the years the program has provided the department with many firefighters still active today. Currently there are four junior members in the program.
Catasauqua Firefighters Association
338 Second Street
On July 8, 1965 Fire Chief Percy Rockel summoned the members from Catasauqua’s three fire companies to a meeting at the East End Fire Companies quarters. He formed the Catasauqua Firefighters Association. Its primary purpose was to sponsor the Four County Firemens Association in Catasauqua, June 20-21, 1969.
The first officers were: President, Richard Schlicher; Vice President, Barry Matchette; Treasurer, Clifford Steinmetz; Secretary; Alfred Regits.
Today, the association continues as an organization representing the interests of the fire department members and maintaining harmony between the fire companies. It also provides funds for Fire Prevention programs throughout the year, holds an annual Easter Egg Hunt, and assists and donates to the Halloween Parade, the July 4th committee and other community and school district functions.
Revenues for these programs are raised during the annual informational fund raiser letter and numerous other dinner sales.
The fire department is also a participating agency in the State of Pennsylvania Fire Commissioners Firefighter one certification program and all department apparatus bear the seal of approval from the State of Pennsylvania.