Hull Disert was a fireman with Friendship Fire Company so he knew the smell of smoke. Though it was lunchtime, this was not the smell of burnt food. This smell was more pungent and it was coming from the truck bay. A fire station was not a place where there should be smoke.
As Disert walked into the bay, he heard a popping sound. His attention focused on the 1952 American Fire Apparatus 500-gallon pumper truck. Suddenly he knew exactly what the smell was because he had smelled it earlier in the year. He saw that smoke was filling up the cab of the fire truck.
“He promptly cut the battery cable of the apparatus, extinguishing the smoldering fire,” reported the Public Opinion in 1957.
An investigation showed that insulation that touched a wire leading from the cold side of the ignition switch to the temperature, oil and gasoline gauges had burned. “Because the wire came from the ‘cold’ side of the switch, it was explained, the wire was not fused. All other wires of the truck carry safety fuses,” the newspaper reported.
While it was embarrassing to have a fire truck catch fire in a fire station, what was worse is that it wasn’t the first time that this had happened with this particular pumper. The borough had purchased the pumper for the Friendship Fire Company in October 1952 for $11,000 (roughly $104,000 today) and it had run well until this year.
The American Fire Apparatus was only the third motorized vehicle for Friendship Fire Company. It had first become motorized in 1911 with the purchase of an American LaFrance Combination Chemical truck for $5,500 (about $129,000 today) nicknamed “Cootie.”
In January, an electrical problem hadn’t been caught as quickly and the resulting fire had caused $2,100 worth of damage to the truck. L.B. Smith, Inc. had spent months repairing the truck and it had only returned to service that summer.
And now it had happened again.
The pumper was returned to L.B. Smith for repairs, which only took a day, and a complete check of the truck’s wiring system to ensure that a third fire wouldn’t finish the job that the first two fires couldn’t.
Once the pumper had a thorough wiring check, it was returned to service and did its job without problems until it was replaced in 1962. The replacement pumper was a similar American Fire Apparatus model, though the new pumper had a 750-gallon capacity.
Friendship Fire Company currently owns a 1991 Pierce Lance Engine Tanker that has a 2,500-gallon water tank. A 2006 Pierce Enforcer, 1996 Spartan/Fire Cab and 1989 Ford E-350 Type III Road Rescue also operate out of the station but are owned by the borough.
The company was first formed in 1780 as the United Fire Company. It became Friendship Fire Company in 1830. According to the company’s web site, the name originated “when during a hot debate over the selection of a new name, member P.R. Hazlett extended his hand to member W. Reilly and said, ‘I extend my hand in friendship to all.'”