West Hills Regional Fire Department
1000 Luzerne Street - Johnstown, PA 15905
Although many of the records of the Westmont Borough Fire Department were lost in the 1977 flood, its history can be traced back to the founding of the borough in 1892. Borough council records of that era refer to the horse drawn hose cart that was stored in the old section of Westmont, possibly near Fayette Street. Westmont Volunteers were assisted in the use of this hose cart by manpower and equipment brought up the Incline Plane from the City of Johnstown. The first account of concern about inadequacies in the Westmont fire protection is found in the Westmont Borough Council Minutes of March 2, 1908. In a letter to the council, Chief Burgess D. E. James states that, "Steps should be taken at once toward the reorganization of our fire department and the better equipping of said organization with apparatus to successfully fight a fire in case one should occur, which is only reasonable to expect". On September 12, 1912 another Chief Burgess, C. M. Rush, told the council in a letter that, "We are simply at the mercy of the City of Johnstown who could at any moment stop answering alarms". The matter was referred to the Committee of Police Watch and Public Safety. It was not until almost three years later that Chief Burgess N. H. Humphreys recommended the purchase of a chemical truck for $2,000 to $3,000 and recommended the hiring of three firemen at a cost not to exceed $2,100 a year. Taxes were to be raised by one mill to cover the cost. On July 12, 1915, James Boyd and Brothers of Philadelphia was awarded the contract to provide a 500 GPM pumper with a 40 gallon chemical tank and 1,200 feet of 2-1/2 inch hose. The cost was reported at $6,750. At the same meeting, specifications were submitted for a building to be built to house the new pumper and the police department. This building is still standing, with several additions, at the corner of Dartmouth Avenue and Wayne Street. At the December 6, 1915 meeting of the borough council, Joseph Morgan, Fire Committee chairman, reported that a meeting was held with the fire department. Fire Chief Logan Keller presented several recommendations to the council concerning equipment purchases and the hiring of "one good fireman". Thequalifications were the same as for the City of Johnstown Firemen, not over 38 andotherwise fit. William J. Baumer was hired as the first paid fireman at a salary of $75 per month. The new pumper was delivered in December 1915. On March 2, 1925, bids were opened for the purchase of a new fire engine and the bid was awarded to the American LaFrance Company in the amount of $11,500 with delivery to be within 10 days. The fire department continued over the years as a part paid, part volunteer company. The volunteers were contacted by phone and were picked up by the paid firemen at a predetermined street corner. This was a more suitable arrangement than installing a siren at the fire hall which "would disturb the residents from their rest". A fire department siren has never been used in Westmont. In the 1960s, firemen were paid $1.50 for every fire alarm to which they responded. In 1952, another American LaFrance pumper was purchased to replace the 27 year old chemical truck. The fire department continued and met on a weekly basis for practice. An American LaFrance pumper, a Pioneer Series, was purchased in 1973 to update a more sophisticated fire department. This pumper could deliver 1,250 gallons of water per minute at a fire scene. In November of 1990 the present pumper, a 1979 American LaFrance Century Series engine was purchased from the Lyndora Fire Department near Butler, PA. It was refurbished by the American LaFrance Company at Neville Island near Pittsburgh to meet current safety and performance requirements. This vehicle is capable of pumping water at the rate of 1,500 GPM. A new age was developed when the fire department purchased its first aerial ladder truck in 1984. The 1949 Mack 65 foot ladder truck,formerly owned by Belltown, Connecticut, allowed the firemen to specialize in aerial operations. It provided a service to the community and to its mutual aid companies surrounding Westmont that was needed for better fire protection. This Mack aerial was replaced in 1986 by a 1973, 100 foot aerial ladder truck which was purchased from the City of Williamsport, PA. In addition to the aerial ladder, the vehicle was equipped with an integrated pump with a capacity of 1,500 gallons per minute. In January 1995 the Westmont Fire Department took delivery of a $403,000, 105 foot Smeal Aerial Quint. The term quint refers to the five function capability of the unit. The truck has a 1500GPM pump, 500 gallon water tank, fire attack and supply hoses, ground and aerial ladder capabilities. The truck is the first to respond to all structure alarms in Westmont Borough and also first alarm calls in many of the surrounding municipalities. Emergency Medical service to Westmont and other surrounding municipalities has been part of the services provided by the Westmont Borough Fire Department for many years. The first ambulance was purchased by the department in the late 1930s. Paramedic service was established in 1982 and a paid ambulance service "Hilltop" was established in 1987. The Hilltop Ambulance Association, functioning under the direction of a municipality appointed board and fire department officers, provides advanced life support ambulance service to Westmont, Brownstown, and Southmont Boroughs. From the old mechanical resuscitators, the use of simple first aid and the load and go techniques of the past, the department has progressed to the establishment of a professional ambulance service with paramedics on staff and state of the art vehicles and medical equipment. The Westmont Borough Fire Department moved to its present headquarters building at 1000 Luzerne Street in 1987. The department continues to provide fire and emergency medical service to the community and surrounding neighbors with highly trained firefighters, some certified on a state and national level, and with trained emergency medical technicians and paramedics. The department has five state certified and one nationally certified fire instructor on staff. The department is an active participant in local, county, and state fire organizations. Westmont is one of the original "electronic" participants of the state fire incident reporting system pilot program "PennFIRS". The department continues to grow, working closely with neighboring mutual aid fire/EMS departments to provide the most cost effective, state of the art, fire and ambulance service.
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