Beech Creek-Blanchard Fire Company turns 80

Centre County Commissioners recognize department

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County commissioners got a history lesson about the Beech Creek-Blanchard Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday morning.

The commissioners’ Proclamation No. 19 of 2019 recognized the 80th anniversary of the fire department.

David Orr and Nathan Shadle were on hand to represent the fire department and accept the proclamation. Orr is the committee chair for the 80th anniversary, while Shadle is the department’s assistant chief.

Orr has done his research about the department, which he said actually began in 1938.

“There were many fires and the two towns got together,” he said. “There was a fire at the east end of town which left 17 homeless. One man passed (away) due to his burns. They decided that something needed done. Beech Creek had installed a pressurized water system, so there was a need for a fire department.”

According to Orr, the fire truck was purchased in 1939. It was originally a feed truck, he said.

“They got it for $200 and they equipped it then to fight fires. The first fire was a lightning strike,” Orr said.

Through the years, the fire department has faced many hurdles – most of which have been financial.

“It has been a roller coaster. Money has been an issue. When I joined the company, I remember we had to borrow money for our carnivals,” Orr said.

The Beech Creek-Blanchard VFD is somewhat unique in the fact that it serves both Centre and Clinton counties.

Commissioner Steve Dershem wondered what areas did prior to having volunteer fire departments.

“What did the picture look like in 1900? Were there bucket brigades? How were fires fought back in the day?” Dershem asked.

Orr said that he did some research about just that.

“There were some major fires in Beech Creek and businesses burned,” he said.

According to Orr, there was a “line of duty death” that claimed the life of a Lock Haven fireman.

“There was a fire and they summoned the Lock Haven Fire Department and they brought a steamer up on a flatbed car. They trained it up and when they were unloading it, it got away from them. One of the firefighters fell and the wheel ran over his head, killing him instantly. The date was April 28, 1885. The date I was researching this was April 28, 2019. It just gave me goosebumps,” Orr said.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary, the fire department will hold a banquet.

According to Shadle, the banquet will be extremely special.

“We want to celebrate our 80th year, celebrate our history and celebrate our volunteers that help us operate daily,” Shadle said.

Shadle said that the department has more than 30 volunteers and more than 100 members.

“We can’t say it enough — the service you provide to the community, the time you take from your families, your livelihood, is much appreciated. The reason why this company continues to survive and move forward are because of individuals like you. The torch is being passed to the next generation. We truly appreciate all you do,” said commissioner Michael Pipe.

In other business Tuesday, the commissioners:

∫ Adopted Proclamation 18 of 2019, which proclaimed July 19 as Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day in Centre County.

∫ Approved for fiscal year 2019-2020, a grant-in-aid application and agreement with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The application total is approximately $107,000 for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

∫ Approved for fiscal year 2019-2020, the State Offender Supervision Fund agreement, which enables the county to receive reimbursement for a portion of offender supervision fees collected by probation and sent to the Board of Probation and Parole. The agreement total is approximately $325,000 for the period of July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.

∫ Tabled a FirstEnergy application for electric service under the West Penn Power Company’s net energy metering rider. This agreement allows Centre County to connect the proposed solar array to the FirstEnergy/West Penn Power system.

∫ Announced that the commissioners’ meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6 has been canceled.

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23 at the Willowbank Building in Bellefonte.