Beginning in 2014 three fire companies, Friendship Hook and Ladder and Keystone Steam Fire Engine, both from Boyertown, and Liberty Fire Company from Colebrookdale, will be merging to form the Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue Company.
Recently, the group took another step forward and elected its inaugural set of officers as follows:
Charles Neubauer will serve as Chief 95, Ryan Bingaman as Deputy 95, David Shainline as Assistant 95 (Personnel), Matthew Rothermel as Assistant 95-1 (Stations/Apparatus), Philip Nunan as Assistant 95-2 (Special Ops.), Ashley Neubauer as Captain 95 (Personnel), Captain 95-1 (Stations/Apparatus) as Glenn Trate and Tony Boyd as Captain 95-2 (Special Opertations).
Cindy Conrad, the Colebrookdale township manager, believes that the merger will provide a better service for the public.
“I think because everybody is so close. Everyone is competing for the same donation money. I think they can provide better service,” Conrad said.
Conrad said that in February representatives came to a township meeting and announced the merger, but they did not have much information at the time.
Friendship Hook and Ladder Company and Keystone Steam Fire Engine Company, located in Boyertown, and the Liberty Fire Company, located in Colebrookdale, have been discussing the possibility of merging since the mid-2000s and have been holding monthly meetings and joint training sessions since 2002. Each group’s governing body has approved the consolidation.
The newly formed organization will be known as Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue and will use the call name of Berks County Station 95, according to Jeff Bealer, a member of Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue’s board of directors.
Bealer said merging the companies will address a number of problems the groups have faced, including a lack of volunteers.
“They (the three fire companies) were all competing for volunteers, and by combining them together, everybody gets to use the same resources,” he said.
Bealer said the three companies on their own were also struggling to make ends meet, something not helped by the sluggish economy. By eliminating the duplication of services, he said, money and resources can be saved. “We are trying to make sure we have one, strong and efficient department that can take care of the entire area,” he said.
Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue will be responsible for providing fire and rescue services to Boyertown, Colebrookdale and the northern half of Douglass (Berks) Township.
Population shifts, the increasing use of cellphones and public education efforts have all contributed to the increase in calls received by 911 emergency responders, said David Shainline, a member Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue’s steering committee and the fire marshal for Colebrookdale Township. “Demand for service comes from a lot of different areas and you can’t pin it down to one thing,” Shainline said. “People are more aware of 911 and they know that’s the number to call, whereas perhaps before they were leery of calling.”
Consolidation will address the issue of fundraising, something each company has had to do on its own up until now. With the consolidation, the groups will no longer have to compete for limited funds, Shainline said, with Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue now getting the “whole pie” rather than having to split it three ways.
“We are competing for the same people and the same dollars, not only against each other, but with all the non-profit organizations,” he said.
Shainline said that the group’s current fleet of vehicles may be reduced, although the exact amount of apparatus Boyertown Area Fire and Rescue intends to keep is as of yet undetermined. “We want to be fiscally responsible and don’t want redundancy. The general feeling is that we probably don’t need five engines,” he said. Keystone Fire Chief Dave Eisenhard agreed. “By combining the apparatus, it is evident we can reduce the fleet and save money.”
Neubauer said consolidation of the three companies — all within a mile of each other — only makes sense.