In 1856, the Mechanicsburg Gas and Water Company put into service a new pumping station. Although the borough already had a fire engine, it lacked the organization to use it effectively. For the first time in its history, the borough had a water system sufficient to support organized fire protection in Mechanicsburg. To complement the improved water supply, the borough fathers purchased a new pumper. It arrived in the borough on December 29, 1857. That evening the Washington Fire Company was organized. With no station or other facilities, it was decided to use the Town Hall on South Market Street to meet and house the equipment.
Newspaper of March 25, 1858 reads: Presentation of Engine.-The Washington Fire Company assembled on the Square, on Monday after-noon, for the purpose of receiving the new Engine, which was presented in a neat address by Cal. W. C. Houser, on behalf of the Town Council. The address was responded to in an appropriate and feeling manner by Rev. A. C. Marlatt, President of Irving Female College, on behalf of the Company. After the presentation, the Company proceeded to Irving for a trial of the engine which resulted very satisfactory. It threw water over the spire of the College at a distance of 125 feet from the building.
The Officers of the original organization were:
President – R. Wilson
Secretary – A. N. Green
Treasurer – Dr. J.B. Herring
Engineer – C. Mathews
Assist Engineer – W. Dornbaugh
A group of gentlemen were sent to work, with the assistance of the Union Fire Company of Carlisle, on writing the companies first Constitution and By-laws. With their work completed, the Washington Fire Company #1 was formally constituted on February 22, 1858. The new organization was named for our first president whose birthday coincides with the company’s constitution. This date, February 22, is still used as a basis for the company’s yearly Awards Banquet.
The authors of the original constitution and Bylaws were:
Dr. J.B. Herring
To attest to the company’s history of public attention, the newspaper of January 28, 1858 reads: “New Fire Company. -The New Fire Company was out on parade, on Saturday, accompanied by the Keystone Cornet bands. They proceeded to the Cumberland Valley Institute, west of town where the power and efficiency of the engine was fairly tested in presence of a large crowd of spectators.”
An article from about a month later: “Firemen’s Parade. -Our town was visited by the Cumberland Fire Company of Carlisle. On Monday last, in acceptance of an invitation given by the Washington Hose Company, of this place.” They paraded through the principal streets making quite a creditable display, after which they proceeded to the square for a trial of the power and efficiency of their engines. The test resulted in favor of the Washington, though when worked by its respective company a different conclusion was arrived at. The Cumberland Company, when owing to their experience were asked to work the Washington Engine, for it was not until then that its superiority was apparent.
To assist the new fire company in their efforts, the Town Council purchased a used hose carriage, additional hose, and other equipment from Citizen’s Fire Company of Harrisburg. The Hand Pumper and Hose Carriage made up the extent of the firefighting equipment in the borough at that time.
With the fire company needing a home with a classroom and meeting space, and since buildings were in short supply, a three-story building was erected at 53 East Main Street. This building was to be used by the fire company for running their operation, the school district for high school classrooms, and as meeting space for town council and other town business. The original building was three floors. The original building was remodeled in 1907 and the upper floor was removed. In 1958, the building was again remodeled and the original narrow doors were replaced with the larger overhead door. This is still the home of the Washington Fire Company to this day.
In July of 1869, the company bought its first piece of equipment. An 1820 Pope and Young Hose Cart which was purchased from the Neptune Hose Company of Philadelphia. This hand drawn unit is still owned by the company and is currently on display at the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum.
On July 18th, 1870, town council purchased a third class Silsby Steamer Model 9600 for the fire company from the Silsby Manufacturing Company of Seneca Falls, New York. It had a pump rated at 600 gpm and pulled by horses. It was the first mechanized fire equipment in the fire company.
Additional equipment history can be found by visiting Historical Apparatus
On July 5, 1872 the company placed hooks and ladders in various locations around town for use in emergencies.
Fire Police were first appointed in 1875.
In 1907, the original three story firehouse was demolished and a new two story building was erected. Since then, it has undergone various renovations including a addition of a kitchen area in 1950.
In 1917, the fire company had its first motorized apparatus. It was a Luverne Chemical truck.
In 1924, the company received an American LaFrance 750 gpm Pumper. It replaced the Silsby Steamer and was the first gasoline pumper placed in service.
In January 1931, the Washington Rural Service was formed. This service was to assist the surrounding communities with fire protection and give the membership added experience and opportunities. With modern mutual aid agreements, this practice has gone by the way side with lives and property in all communities being the priority. The fire company received a Sayers and Scovill hearse to use. It was donated by S. Harper Myers, a local funeral director.
On January 28th, 1936, a fire began in the Myers Furniture Store and soon spread to the Union Church located next to the firehouse. Firefighting efforts included the use of hose lines from the second floor window of the firehouse.
In 1938, the fire company purchased the first of many fire engines which had a pump manufactured by W.S. Darley. It was on a Ford Chassis. Other models which have had the Darley pumps include a 1942 Diamond-T, two 1948 Diamond-Ts, 1962 GMC, 1972 CMC, 1980 Ford, 1985 Ford and a 1995 Spartan.
In 1942, the first house siren was installed on the firehouse to alert firemen of an emergency. The siren underwent upgrades, which included a fresh coat of paint and a tune-up in late 2011 and early 2012.
During 1955, the first fire radios were installed in the apparatus.
In 1956, the fire company purchased its first emergency truck. Since then, the fire company has has had 5 rescues/squads.
In 1972, the borough purchased a Mack Baker Aerialscope 75 foot tower truck. In 1990, it was rehabilitated by the borough. In 2005, the borough council gave full control to the fire company. This truck was replaced in 2012.
In 1982, the first female was elected to the fire company.
During 1985, the fire company purchased a Ford Darley pumper. It has a 1250 gpm pump and 1000 gallon tank. It was built for response on the PA Turnpike. It was refurbished in 1989. The engine is dedicated in the memory of Harry D. Trace Jr, a former fire chief and Honor Member. This engine was sold in 2016 and is continuing its service in the Ukraine.
In 1987, the Constitution and By-Laws were changed to allow Junior Firefighters to join the fire company. At first it was for ages 13 to 15. Later on, they were chanced to only allow 14 and 15 year olds due to the Child Labor Laws.
In 1994, the fire company purchased Rescue 28. It is a 1994 HME/4guys with a 18 foot walk in box. The old rescue was sold to a chemical company in Northern Pennsylvania. Around 2008, the vehicle appeared on ebay for sale. The location of the vehicle is currently unknown. This vehicle was sold in mid-2016 to the New Portland Fire Company of New Portland, Maine.
In 1995, the Hose Carriage was placed on display at the Pennsylvania National Fire Musuem. It remains there today as a main attraction to visitors in the original engine bays.
Also during 1995, the fire company took delivery of a Darley Engine purchased by the borough. It has a 1500 gpm pump and a 500 gallon water tank. It replaced the 1980 Ford and currently serves as Engine 228. The Borough of Mechanicsburg sold the Ford to the Sacremento Fire Company in Schuylkill County, Pa. The engine was later replaced with a federal grant and taken to a local scrap yard.
In 1999, the firehouse was used as a makeup room for the film “Girl, Interrupted,” featuring Angelina Jolie and Whoopie Goldberg. The firehouse was shown in the background when the actors and actresses ate ice cream at Eckel’s Drugstore.
Also in 1999, the fire company purchased a 1997 Ford F-350 extended cab pickup truck to be used to haul firefighters and equipment. It was designated Utility 28.
During 2002, it was determined that the fire company needed more space. After doing some research, the decision was made to expand the present fire house. Although ground has not been broken for the project, floor plans have been drawn up and a capital campaign was started to help raise the needed funds. This has been put on hold depending on the outcome of a proposed merger between both fire companies in town.
In 2004, the fire company purchased the property at 55 East Main Street. This property was bought with the intention to provide more land (without tearing the house down) for the future expansion of the fire company. Today the house has 3 apartments that are rented out.
At the February 21st, 2004 Fire Company Banquet, Ryan Taylor was the awarded the first Joseph D. Beigh Memorial Award. The award is awarded to a junior member.
Also in 2004, the fire company was awarded 2 grants. The first was from the Department of Homeland Security, Assistance to Firefighters Grant. It was used to replace 23 sets of turnout gear and 20 self contained breathing apparatus. The second grant was a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant also through the Department of Homeland Security. The grant was used to purchase 7,000 smoke detectors and 20 carbon monoxide detectors. Each residential unit in the Borough of Mechanicsburg received a smoke detector as well as most of the elementary school students.
In 2006, the fire company was awarded another Assistance to Firefighters Grant. It was used to replace the air cascade system on Rescue 28 and replace the in-house air system with a Scott Revolve Air fill station and a Eagle Air Compressor at the firehouse.
During 2007, Cumberland County 911 went live with their new 800 MHz radio communications system. It replaced the low band system that was in use for many years. The new radio system covers 95% of the county and included a new feature called V-Tac. Once a V-Tac is engaged on a fire ground, the emergency responders on the inside of buildings can connect better to the network to communicate with each other.
In 2007, the fire company received a Assistance to Firefighters Grant for communications equipment which included upgrades to our mobile radios and headsets in the apparatus.
In 2008, Ronald Trace was awarded the first Robert E. Dietrich Memorial Award. “Bobby,” sadly passed away in 2007 while living at the firehouse. He was at the time, President of the fire company and a great asset to the department and the community at large.
In 2011, we were awarded 2 more Assistance to Firefighter Grants. The first was for several sets of turnout gear and other equipment. The other was an apparatus grant to replace the current Truck 28. We were awarded $750,000. The Fire Company selected Ferrara Fire Inc. of Holden, Louisana to purchase a 85 foot mid-mount tower truck. The delivery of the new truck was in May of 2012. The Mack Aerialscope was sold through by bid by the Borough of Mechanicsburg to the Kittanning Fire Department, Kittanning, Pa and is in service as Tower 110.
In 2012 and 2013, the Washies used State grant monies to replace and upgrade our current gas meters as well as installing tablet computers in 3 of our apparatus. The tablets will replace outdated run books and provide better assistance to firefighters on the scene of an incident.
Today’s “Washies” are more dedicated to history than ever. Great steps have been taken to preserve and restore our historic legacy. Our goal is to pass a viable, highly respected organization to our future members just as our forefathers did for us.