The Trevose Heights Fire
Company No. 1, located at 466 Elmwood Avenue, Trevose, Lower Southampton
Township, in Bucks County, PA was formed in 1929 by a group of approximately
ten men and their wives who realized the ever-growing need for fire protection in
the community. This group, dedicated to the concern of community safety,
met jointly for a while and then formed separate organizations. The
meetings were held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Beaver of Elmwood and
Park Avenues, Trevose Heights, and then at the Siles School Building on
The Company received its
charter on July 31,
present site of 466 Elmwood Avenue was acquired during that first year of
operation (December, 1931). A wooden building was constructed on the site
to house the first two fire engines, a Red Chemical Truck and a Dodge Pumper.
The chartering members of the
Company were: Walter Beaver, Michael Binsfield, Patrick Corr, Charles Creely,
Theodore Creely, Elmer Ervin, Wilson Graves (the first elected chief), Andrew
Martin, Peter Martin, and Gordon Shires. These men chose the name
"Trevose Heights Fire Company Number 1," for their corporation.
The Company was organized with the mission “to purchase, or otherwise acquire,
own, support, maintain, and operate fire engines, pumping machines, hook and
ladders, hose carriers, and all other appliances necessary or proper to be used
in and about the successful protection of buildings and other property from
damage or destruction by fire.” More importantly, the Company was formed
for the preservation of life in the town of Trevose Heights in Lower
Southampton Township, Bucks County.
Several years later, the
wooden building housing the fire equipment was torn down and replaced by a
cinder block and wood firehouse. As it had always been since the
inception of the company, all work was done by the members of the department
who not only donated much of the materials used in the construction, but also
their time, hard work and dedication. Eventually, a small meeting room
and kitchen were added to the building. This was subsequently remodeled
into an office and radio room. In 1949, another addition was built which
served as a meeting room and a social hall. In 1957, restrooms and a
kitchen were added to the ever-popular social hall.
During this beginning period
of rapid growth, the Trevose Heights Fire Company No. 1 also started an
emergency aid program to serve the residents of Lower Southampton
Township. This new program all began with a discussion that the members were
having one day in the local barber shop. The conversation was based in
the belief that there was a need for an ambulance service in the community.
Not long after this conversation, at a regular meeting of the fire
company, it was decided by the members to purchase a used 1935 Dodge
Ambulance. So, in 1942, the members’ dream of an emergency aid program
came to fruition and the Company began an ambulance service. As the
community continued to grow, more and newer ambulances were added. Along
with the strengthening of the ambulance service fleet, a trailer field unit and
rescue boats with motors were added to the Company's response
capabilities. As the firehouse continued to grow, both in apparatus and
in members, business meetings became so involved that in 1955 double officers
were elected; some officers were responsible for the fire business, and the
others were concerned with the rescue squad operations.
As the workload continued to
rapidly grow with both the fire and rescue responsibilities, members began to
concentrate strictly on their area of interest so the company decided to
split. In 1958, the Trevose Heights Rescue Squad received its charter,
and in 1960 moved to its own location. This addressed the need of both parties
to adequately maintain their own daily operations and house the necessary
equipment. Although the organizations did separate, they pledged to stay
fully committed to each other and the community that they served. That promise
is still upheld to this very day.
In May of 1964, the Company
purchased several undeveloped properties adjoining their parking lot, opposite
the firehouse. The small building (a former summer home) that already
existed on one lot was used to house a refreshment stand during the Fire
Company’s annual carnival and to store the carnival stands (booths) when they
were not in use. This building was later torn down to make more parking
available for the members of the department.
With continued growth of the
Fire Company and the surrounding community, it was decided in 1968 to
re-incorporate as Lower Southampton Fire Company #1. This official name
change took place publicly on January 16, 1969 and better reflected the scope
of the community now being serving. Our forefathers would be proud to know,
that if you look, you will still see Trevose Heights on some of the Maltese
Emblems. While the name may have changed, members maintained their
dedication to ideals of the founding members.
In the late 60’s, financial
times were hard. In 1966, an old Chevy van that was used to pull the
generator trailer for lighting on the fire ground and a very old (1939) pumper
truck, nicknamed ‘the old lady’ were sold to keep the firehouse going. There
was no fire tax. The department survived strictly on donations received
from various functions including; filling swimming pools, burn-offs on
properties, the annual carnival and coin cards that were collected door to
door. Some residents gave a quarter, some filled the card, and others
gave nothing at all. The meeting/social hall was rented out for functions
and there was Bingo Night every Tuesday where sandwiches and coffee were sold.
These activities held the
firehouse together and allowed members to raise enough money to purchase the
adjoining lot next to Jack Ferhle’s property in 1971. The old house on
this lot was quickly rented out to a member and the garage was used to store
fire equipment (hoses, nozzles, fittings, etc.) because the firehouse itself
was narrow and packed tightly with vehicles with barely any walking room
between them and the walls. It was so tightly packed that a hole was
actually cut in the wall to accommodate the hitch on one truck.
In 1971 four building lots, across the street from the firehouse and surrounding the parking lot,
were sold off to purchase equipment and pay bills. Though purchases were
necessary, the members, with materials they often provided themselves,
performed much of the firehouse building and repair over the years. One
such instance was when the Bingo Hall floor, damaged by termites, needed
replacement at a cost exceeding available funds. Members arrived on a
Friday evening, cutting 2’ x 2’ squares in the engine room under the Bingo Hall
floor, which was 3 or 4 feet higher than the engine room floor. Wooden
beams were bolted together, coated with grease and placed on top of side lying
55-gallon drums. A pumper truck was used to push the beams into position
where support piers could be built under them. The wall holes were
patched and the weary firefighters returned home on Sunday night, accomplishing
a task that seemed impossible only days before.
During those years, financial
luck just seemed to be bad. One step forward, two steps back. The
Special Service truck engine was beyond repair and needed to be replaced.
So the family of firefighters, young and old, once again spent the weekend at
the firehouse when a used cab and chassis section was acquired. The old,
but functional, body was removed and lowered onto the ‘new’ chassis. This
truck looked like a tadpole, a name that stuck. It sure wasn’t pretty but
it worked – most of the time.
One of the darkest moments in
the department's history occurred at 10:15 a.m. on September 24, 1974,
when the siren was sounded and the alarm was struck for a reported building
fire at the Feasterville Fire Station. To their dismay, when the members
arrived they discovered it was the Lower Southampton Fire Company engulfed in
raging flames. Local on-duty police officers were the first to respond
and were responsible for saving much of the firehouse equipment including the
fire apparatus housed in the station. The fire burned out of control for nearly
two hours, and required the service of 12 neighboring fire departments along
with the Trevose Heights Rescue Squad.
The devastating fire, caused
by squirrels chewing through electrical wires, was finally extinguished, but
caused severe destruction. Over three quarters of the station, social
hall and kitchen were destroyed. Fortunately, due to the quick actions of
the police officers, there was minimal damage to the apparatus. However,
some of the equipment purchased for the new pumper was destroyed along with
many records, trophies, and sentimental items.
The evening of September 24,
1974 was marked by the return of over 400 volunteer fire fighters and rescue
squad personnel who enabled the heartbroken members of Lower Southampton Fire
Company to erect a temporary station out of what remained from the old
building. At midnight, three of the saved apparatus were housed in a
newly constructed temporary station. The fourth apparatus was housed by
the company's' firefighting brothers at Trevose Fire House on Street Road.
With the help of local
businessmen, directed by Jesse Terry (of Jesse Terry Oil Company), plans for
rebuilding were soon underway. The rental house and garage next door were
torn down so that the new building could be made wider to provide storage space
and ample room for the fire trucks. On April 12, 1975, ground was official
broken for a new building - which was completed the following October.
The new building was dedicated on July 17, 1976. This is the same
building used for firehouse operations today.
Through the late 70’s and
early 80’s there were still financial struggles to overcome. But as the
saying goes, ‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger’. Money may
have been low but determination was high. Failure was simply not an
option. The members made do with the resources they had available and
eventually were in a position to be able to begin the necessary task of
replacing worn out vehicles and equipment.
In 1987, the Fire Department
purchased its first custom pumper. This 1987 Emergency -1 by Federal Motors had a 1500 GPM
pump, enclosed cab and many more state-of-the-art features. A year later,
a 1988 Special Service truck was purchased and is still in service today.
This truck is equipped as a fire ground support apparatus with air cascade and
light tower capabilities, as well as ladder company operations
capabilities. The cab on the Special Service was a twin to the previously
purchased E-1 Pumper. As the company began to approach the 1990's,
members realized that as the new trucks continued to be designed they continued
to grow in body length. In 1990, a building addition was completed which
added much needed length to the engine bays, along with a storage room for
equipment. This addition is also home to the Air Compressor Room.
The air compressor unit serves as a base station to fill air tanks for the
firefighters and fill portable air bottles stored on the Special Service truck
that are used to refill these air tanks on fire scenes. This unit serves to
provide breathing air not only to our firefighters but is also utilized by
neighboring fire companies as well. In 1992, Engine 6, (a Pierce
model) which has a 1500GPM capability and a mid-ship
mounted pump, was purchased and added to the fleet.
Fire rescue and prevention
are not the only services offered by Lower Southampton firefighters.
Hurricanes and regional flooding as well as increased recreational activity on
area waterways over the last few years have made evident the growing need for
improved water rescue capabilities. To address that need, Swift Water
Training began in 2001 for interested members. In 2002 Marine Rescue 6
became operational with the purchase of a 19 foot, 1999 Zumro Water Rescue boat
that can hold up to 10 people.
2005 marked the qualification of the Department’s first Dive Rescue team.
With a starting contingent of 10, growth of this team continues as more members
become certified as divers and as ground support/Tenders. This training
and equipment has already proven its value both locally and assisting
neighboring communities with evacuations, rescue operations and evidence
collection for local law enforcement agencies.
The vehicles in our current
fleet include a Chief’s vehicle (2005 Chevy Tahoe), Special Service 6 (KME purchased in 2008), Engine 6 (purchased in 1992),
Rescue 6 (purchased in 2002) and Marine 6 (purchased in 2006). It also
includes a 1996 Utility Vehicle purchased used from a neighboring department in
2003, and two rescue boats (1999 19-foot Zumro and 2004 12-foot Sea Eagle) that
are both dive and swift water rescue capable. In December 2007 the Department acquired a used 2003 Ford Excursion to add to the fleet. Along with the
fire fighting responsibilities that the station holds; it is proud to be home
to highly skilled and qualified ice rescue, swift water and dive rescue
teams. This commitment to both fire and water rescue illustrates the
members’ full dedication to the protection and safety of the ever changing and
growing community which they serve.
The Lower Southampton Fire
Department (as it is now known) has a history rich in tradition but
flexible enough to grow with the needs of the people who count on us in an
emergency. As we celebrate over ¾ of a Century serving our neighbors, the
men and women of the Lower Southampton Fire Department would like to thank the
residents of Lower Southampton Township for the opportunity to serve the
community to the best of their abilities. Remembering that without the
continued support of this community, our Fire House could not have existed and
grown for over 75 years. For that support we pledge our continued loyalty
to the safety of the people that we serve.
When you look back on this
history, the lean times, the bad times, and the sad times, you have to also
remember all the good times. The Trevose Heights Fire Company did not
have money or new trucks in the early days, but they had something much better.
They had heart, determination and pride - the pride of a lion. When the
fire station burned, these dedicated members rose from the ashes that same
night. There was no break in protection for the citizens of their
Today the Lower Southampton
Fire Department is financially in better shape, due to the generosity of our
neighbors in this fine community we share, and call home. Donations
derived from our fund drives make possible the purchase of new equipment and
the best quality gear to protect our firefighters, the upkeep of a sturdy, community-useful building, and provide the best training
around. And there is something else present. The current members
still have heart, determination and pride. New members, young members,
male or female, old members rich with history– all continue to make the Lower
Southampton Fire Department, formerly the Trevose Heights Fire Company, second
A special thank you goes out
to Doris Troester for compiling much of the historical information before
1964. Her collection of articles and information provided the base of
this history. Thanks also to Joe White, Joe Ott and others who have
preserved artifacts and shared stories about the growth of our department
through the years.