The Beginning: The Phoenix Fire Company
Community Fire Company #1, Station 42, Riegelsville, was incorporated in 1929. However, the departments origins are those of a bucket brigade instituted in 1898 as a result of a hardware store burning.After the building burned, several men of the community formed the Phoenix Fire Company. The name came from the first piece of equipment they bought: a Phoenix steam pumper from Allentown; purchased in 1897.
From 1897 until 1898 this steam pumper was stored in a carriage factory. Then, in 1898 the men of the settlement built a brick firehouse behind the historic Riegel building; opening onto Durham Road.The Riegel family donated the land for this building. The public donated the labor. There were two men who were in charge of different parts of the construction: William Wolfinger, who supervised the masonry work, and William Clymer, who supervised the carpentry. Since there weren't any motorized vehicles, the steam pumper was pulled by two horses owned by Jacob Kohl, a local baker who lived across the street. The townspeople considered themselves lucky that they didn't have a fire while Mr. Kohl was using his horses to pull his bakery wagon.
In 1915, the Phoenix steam pumper was retired and replaced by the Lafayette; another steam pumper pulled by horses. This apparatus was bought from the Easton Fire Company. At this time, the Phoenix Fire Company still only had one piece of equipment. Then, in the 1920s, several men from Milford, New Jersey, and Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, formed the Riegelsville Fire Association, transforming the Phoenix Fire Company. In 1928, the borough council took over the reins of running the Fire Association. With the council being in charge, they were able to raise funds to buy new equipment.
The Lafayette steam engine only served the Riegelsville community until the early 1920s. At this time, motorized fire apparatus became more useful. With the borough's fundraising they accumulated enough capital to purchase an American LaFrance Pumper in 1928.
As time passed, the community felt the fire company should become incorporated or chartered. Thus, in 1929, the Riegelsville Fire Association was incorporated and became the Community Fire Company # 1 of Riegelsville, Pennsylvania. For the following ten years, the fire company was run under the borough council, which had to approve its expenses.
1940's-1960's: The Great Equipment Purchase
As the years passed, the company had to grow to keep up with their increasing response area that now included Easton, Doylestown, Hellertown, and even Bloomsbury, New Jersey. With more of a response area they also needed stronger machinery so they sold the American LaFrance Pumper in 1946 and replaced it with a Ford/Maxim pumper that could supply larger quantities of water. One of the mysteries of the fire company's history is how it received emergency calls prior to 1940. In that time period there were no dispatchers to receive calls and relay information.
After 1940, an emergency would be called in to the Delaware River Bridge Commission Building, located on the New Jersey side of the Riegelsville Bridge. The officer that was on duty at the time would answer the call, record the information received, and push a button in the office to set off a siren at the firehouse. Firefighters would then come to the station, and speak with the officer via telephone to receive the information for the call, then head out to the emergency. In time, the fire company continued to grow, raising the need for it to be remodeled, an event that occurred in 1954 and allowed for there to be more equipment maintained on site. The first purchase made was a utility truck to carry any extra equipment that would be needed, such as hoses, a portable pump, Indian tanks, brooms and rakes. A year later, Community Fire Company #1 purchased an additional piece of equipment: a boat. Seven years after this, the Ford/Maxim pumper was replaced by a new 1961 GMC Pumper. Another seven years passed, and then the company bought a four wheel drive Chevrolet Tactical truck. This apparatus was an excellent addition to the fire company because it made it easier to get around in bad weather. The main use of the Tactical truck was to help with field and wood fires. It also carried a water pump on it.
1970's-1990's: A New Home and New Trucks
The purchase of all the new equipment meant that the firehouse was soon too small to house the fire company. In 1976, a decision was made to move the fire company from Delaware and Durham roads to 333 Delaware road, on the crest of the hill. The new building had to be
renovated from an old school house which had formerly been a church. A three bay garage was added so that each bay could fit two trucks and there would be additional room for expansion. By this time, automobiles were a main staple of transportation and vehicle emergencies were increasing in number. The local ambulance squad needed the fire company's help on many of these of emergencies. In turn, the fire company bought a rescue truck containing many different types of tools to help with auto accidents, including the commonly known cutter and spreader tool, known colloquially as the jaws of life. This tool greatly improved the ability for firefighters to cut the roof off of a vehicle in more rapid fashion, allowing them the reach the victim trapped inside. The truck also carried medical supplies such as a backboard, first aid kit, wraps, and bandages.
In 1982, the Riegelsville Community Fire Company #1 bought its first brand new pumper truck in twenty years. This truck was a fully equipped Mack pumper, which held 5 firefighters and was made affordable through the donations of the Riegelsville and Durham area residents served by the department. Later, in 1995, a Seagraves pumper truck was purchased, in order to provide greater water flow per minute. This truck, the largest the company has owned, carries a crew of six firefighters in an enclosed cab with SCBA embedded in the seats. The turn of the Millenium brought another new piece of apparatus to the firehouse: a new tanker truck to replace the 1970s vehicle. The new tanker would hold 2700 gallons of water and allow the company to have greater response ability in an area with few fire hydrants
outside of the borough.
A History of Fundraising
The purchase of apparatus, the building of a firehouse, the remodeling of the firehouse, and the ongoing function of the department, would not be possible without financial support. The volunteer fire company has gained its funding historically from many different sources. Grant and relief monies are given on the state and federal levels, some of which is restricted to allow only the purchase of air packs, gear, radios, and many other things, but not hoses, pumps, or anything else that comes in contact with water. In the 1950s and 1960s, the department members raised funds by performing in minstrel shows, performing plays such as The Show Boat. Other events that have supported the organization over the years are: pizza sales, dinners, breakfasts, and flower sales. Currently, breakfasts are still held on the third Sunday of every month and dinners are held throughout the year. The fire company also rents out the fire hall for any occasion, such as birthday parties, wedding receptions, and dances.
An Auxiliary for the fire company was formed to help raise funding for the station. This organization does a great deal of the fundraising for the organizations, works at its breakfasts, and caters dinners for those who desire it.
In 2007, the company celebrated again, as the Mack Pumper was replaced by a new engine to carry on the firefighting tradition of the department. In a community effort, the firefighters themselves stripped the vehicle and, after it was painted and lettered, restored it into working order.
The company now has 30 members and an active auxiliary. It houses 2 engines, a tanker, a rescue truck, a tactical truck, a boat, jet ski, and special services vehicle, and maintains a chiefs car; a deputy chiefs vehicle, and a battalion chiefs vehicle.
In 2008, the company celebrates its 110th Anniversary having come a long way from the bucket brigades of 1898 to become a fully established, trained, and equipped department ready to serve and protect the people and property in Riegelsville, Durham and Nockamixon townships.
ABOUT THE BUILDING
* The building which currently houses Community Fire Company #1, Station 42, Riegelsville, was built in 1849 as a one-story church building to house the Presbyterian congregation in Riegelsville. It was dedicated in December 1849 and services were discontinued in 1865.
* From 1857 until 1872 an academy operated in the building under the direction of Charles W. Fancher and later Daniel R. Williamson.
* In 1874, the unused building was sold to the Durham school district for $650. The building was remodeled slightly for use as a grammar school. Daniel R. Williamson served as the first principal, followed by Peter Troxell in 1877, Charles Laubach in 1879 and Miss Margaret Moffat in 1882. Due to the growth of the village, the school was enlarged in 1895 to provide room for four classrooms. A September, 1895, issue of the Intelligencer reported that builder Asher Purdy was "laying up the brick wall of the new annex to the school building. The work was completed in early 1896. In 1902, there were 125 students attending the school.
* The building's use as a school was discontinued in the 1970s.
* The building is a two story stuccoed masonry, gable-roofed structure with a gabled, Romanesque portico. It has beenenlarged and remodeled and is presently the home of
Community Fire Company #1, Station 42, chartered in 1929.
Adapted and updated by Jeffrey Wargo & Kerri Brumbaugh from a report written by Ashley Hissim in November 2003.
From the book, "Riegelsville, PA: Its Buildings and Early Inhabitants." by Kathleen Cook. published by the
Riegelsville Academy Library Fund, 1991. Page 18