History of the three Legacy Companies that joined to form Eastern Berks Fire in 2011
Goodwill Fire Company of Bally, Pennsylvania
The history of the Goodwill Fire Company of Bally was born in 1923 out of a dire need for a Fire Company, after a destructive fire ruined one of our industrial mills. In efforts to begin the organization, a plea was made to all residents asking for their support, both physical and financial. Many of the supporters lent money to the chartered company without interest over a long period of time in order that firefighting apparatus could be purchased.
In 1924 the Fire Co. was chartered as the: Goodwill Fire Co. of Bally. Progress began with the donation of the land where the present Company is located. A piece of fire equipment was purchased which was a chemical operated pumper. The raising of the building began in 1924. Various pieces of equipment were purchased and the mortgage for the building was paid.
The first new fire truck, a 1939 Ford pumper was purchased and is owned by the company. After the truck was paid for the adjoining field was purchased and converted into the present ball field for the community's use.
In the spring of 1964 the construction of an entirely new engine room, including a bay for the community ambulance, was completed. A communications radio set-up was also put into operation at this time. For many years Bally was the dispatch center for a number of local fire departments, until the advent of the county-wide 9-1-1 systems in the late 1980’s.
After many years of dreaming of a new grill room and social quarters, an architect was hired and complete plans were presented to the state for approval. Construction began on a volunteer basis, working very feverishly nights and weekends, it was completed the latter part of 1968. Today we are very fortunate and proud to have in addition to the grill room, a complete kitchen facility and banquet hall. Since the original opening, we have catered many wedding receptions, banquets, and parties for various organizations, including our community and the surrounding area.
In 1965, a Ladies' Auxiliary was formed by a group of interested wives and friends. Over the years they courteously operated our kitchen facility and volunteered their services for other affairs with which the combined efforts have been a tremendous asset to our organization. After many decades of service, the auxiliary was disbanded with regrets due to lack of personnel.
Additions and renovations to the building have been made including a two bay expansion for the community ambulance, exhaust capture systems installed, new roof, enlarged bay door for a new rescue truck, as well as a storage garage in the rear of the property. Fire apparatus has constantly been updated, with the current fleet including an engine, two tankers, a rescue, a brush truck and a utility van.
Special recognition should be made to the active volunteers who answer the call of duty whenever the siren is sounded. Many of these men and women leave their jobs to respond to the urgent request of victims of fire, accidents and other emergencies. It is to their employers that we also owe recognition, in their willingness to have our members leave work in order to respond.
Alarms rarely come at convenient times, with meals, sleep, holidays and free time interrupted. Since they never receive pay for their efforts we can only praise them for the outstanding job they perform as an emergency organization.
Special recognition should not be forgotten for the volunteers manning our social facilities - custodians, bar tenders, cooks, and waitresses.
Our members are ever conscious of their objective - to advance, assist our community and also help our youth to work and live together in our fine community.
Volunteer Barto Fire Company of Barto, Pennsylvania
The Volunteer Barto Fire Company was first organized in 1924. Funds raised, from holding fairs, were raised to lay a pipeline through the Village. This was accomplished by the courtesy of the Tuscarora Oil Company, connecting to their water line. At this time a hand drawn hose cart and eight hundred feet of fire hose was purchased. This first acquisition is still owned by Barto Fire Company, and is currently housed at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. Next, a fire siren was installed on Mr. Fluck's barn at the Village Store. There was a fire hydrant on the property of Mr. and Mrs. N. Russell Mohr of Barto that was used when the Pumping Station pumped water out of the creek. The Company was then ready to fight any fire that would occur in the Village.
On Wednesday, October 2, 1929, Miss Esther Quigley, telephone operator, received a frantic can for help. Men were needed to rescue Paul Grim who was buried by coal at the Treichler Coal Yard in Barto. More than 200 men dropped their work and rushed to the aid of the exhausted diggers. Mr. Grim was rescued two hours later having suffered bruises and shock. On July 4, 1930 fire destroyed several sheds and a corncrib in the Treichler coal yards at Barto. The home of Robert J. Kemmerer was also destroyed. Hundreds of spectators watched as firemen from nine towns battled to save surrounding buildings including the Barto Post Office. Eight years later, on the night of July 11, 1938, a barn fire blamed on lightning, at the Harry Nagle farm along Hoffmansville Road took the life of a devoted volunteer firefighter from Bechtelsville.
On February 25, 1947, a meeting was held at the Barto Hotel, and the Volunteer Barto Fire Company was officially organized. Barto Fire Company took its charter May 7, 1948. In the same year, the Friendship Hook and Ladder Company of Boyertown donated their 1917 Seagrave fire truck to the Volunteer Barto Fire Company. The newly acquired truck was temporarily housed in Mr. Ralph Gehman's garage. The Company next started plans to build a Fire House, on the five acres of land, which was purchased from Mr. Ralph Dotterer, along what is now known, as Old Route 100, as the site for the Fire Company. In 1949, construction of the Barto Fire Company began, with much of the building being done by the members themselves. In 1951, the first meeting was held in the new Firehouse.
In 1954, the Company purchased a 1931 Seagrave Fire Truck from Unionbridge MD. In 1957, a hurricane blew the roof off the building. The roof had to be replaced, and once again, members pitched in to make the necessary repairs. In the 1950's and 1960's bingo fundraisers were held in the hall downstairs. In September of 1968, a 1949 Mack Engine was added to the Company's firefighting apparatus. In 1970, an addition to the Firehouse was started. A 1964 Chevy Brush Truck was purchased in 1972, which added more accessibility for the Fire Company to reach brush fires and get in where the larger apparatus couldn't. In 1974, a GMC 2200 gallon Tank Truck was put into service as an extra source of water for fire scenes. Apparatus continued to be upgraded to the three most recent acquisitions
In 1991, a GMC Top-Kick, 1800 gallon tank truck was purchased, to replace the 1974 tanker. In 1994, a HME pumper, was purchased from Four Guys to replace a 1959 Mack. In summer of 2011, a new light attack truck was purchased to replace the previous two brush trucks.
Keystone Fire Company No. 1 of Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania
Keystone Fire Company No. 1 of Bechtelsville was organized and adopted its name on April 10, 1916. On October 2, 1916, the charter was received and the Constitution and By-Laws were adopted.
On June 13, 1917, the company voted to purchase the three-story frame building at Main and Race Streets from Irvin B. Kehs for $4,000. This building was purchased subject to a school board lease to occupy the second floor with the now defunct Bechtelsville Junior High School. An engine house was added to the Race Street side of the building in 1917. The Bechtelsville Post Office now occupies this site.
On Saturday May 3, 1952, the company vacated the three-story frame building at Main and Race Streets and formally opened the new $85,000 two-story brick firehouse , which is still occupied by the fire company today. The 30 X 100 foot building was constructed on the site formerly occupied by a grist mill. Michael G. Adamski, a Pottstown contractor at that time, constructed the building. In 2004, The new addition to this building was complete.
The first engine purchased was the Simplex engine. The cost of this engine was $1,565. The Simplex engine was in service until 1929. The Seagrave pumper was purchased in 1929 at a cost of $12,500. In 1956, the company then purchased a Mack pumper at a cost of $18,177.
At the April 3, 1963 meeting, the company decided to purchase a Ford emergency truck. The chassis, bought from Spence Ford, cost $3,485 and the high pressure pump and 250 gallon booster tank, bought from John Bean Company, cost $6,100. Fire Chief John H. Kehl, First Assistant Chief Ronald Kehl, Second Assistant Chief LeRoy H. Herb and Roger S. Yoder, a driver, traveled to Lansing, Michigan where they accepted delivery of the pumper and drove it home to Bechtelsville, arriving on Wednesday, September 25, 1963.
The first tanker/tender was a 1969 Ford chassis with an 1800 gallon stainless steel tank installed by 4 Guys Inc. in 1979.