February 7, 2017
A garage that at one time served as the dispatch center for West Alexander Volunteer Fire Company in the days before 911 will soon be gone, but the property that is adjacent to the current building will still serve a purpose for the department.
The former Grimes garage on Main Street, where Ed and Dee Grimes once answered daylight calls and set off the tones for firefighters while Mary Aloe handled night calls from home, will be torn down to make way for a five-bay garage to house the department’s fire trucks.
The department, founded in 1931, has outgrown the current fire station, which was built in the 1950s, with a steel building added in the 1970s. The former garage was recently purchased by the department.
“We haven’t had enough room for 10 years,” said fire Chief Eric Graham. “The new building will be much more functional, and it will give us a little breathing room.
“And it is important that we stay in town,” the chief added. “We have a number of junior firefighters who rely on the shoe leather express to get here for training and calls.”
The department will continue to use the current building, with a hall being built to connect the old and new structures. Graham said the department is used by the community for various things, such as a warming center if there is a power outage. The chief said during a heavy snowfall several years ago, some people were without power for three to seven days.
Ed Malson, past president of the fire company, credited Graham with getting the ball rolling on the new building.
“If it wasn’t for Eric, we wouldn’t be getting this building,” Malson said. “Plus the good Lord has also looked out for us.”
Over the past 10 years or so, the call volume has doubled, with the department answering 319 calls last year. Fire department personnel spent 4,494 man hours in 2016 on calls and in training, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. The department is responsible for 45 square miles in Donegal Township, including a stretch of Interstate 70.
“We handle a lot of crashes,” Graham said. “That makes up about 32 percent of our call volume.”
The department has five trucks, two pumper/tanker combinations, a rescue truck, a medic truck and a brush truck. The space used to house those vehicles on the lower level of the current building will be used for truck maintenance.
Demolition is expected to start this month on the old garage, with groundbreaking on the new building in March.
The price tag for the new building is $276,000, and the department has raised all but $74,500 through donations and from fundraisers that have included a comedy night, a booth at the West Alexander Fair and Scare at the Fair. Some community members are making in-kind donations by volunteering the use of equipment or labor.
“We will get a loan for the balance, but we are still taking contributions,” Graham said.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the building fund can send checks payable to West Alexander Volunteer Fire Company, with building fund in the memo line, to P.O. Box 208, West Alexander, PA 15376.