Department History, Part 5

Continued from Part 4.

In the early 1970s, the Oaklyn School Board was notified that the original portion of the Mary A. Finney School building had been condemned. Board members realized that additions could be built to the existing junior high school to facilitate students from the elementary school. This was done and in 1973 students were moved to the new location. Discussions began as to the disposition of the Finney School property. In June of 1973, mayor and council proposed that the property be transferred to the Borough for a nominal fee for use as a recreational and meeting facility with parking and for any other public use. Long time Welcome Fire Co. member and President of the Oaklyn School Board Don Kincaid worked with board members to possibly place the property in the possession of the Borough of Oaklyn to primarily be used as a public safety facility. The school board stood their ground and passed a resolution to do so in 1974. Council introduced a resolution on July 9, 1974 stating that the Borough would demolish the original portion of the school and use it as stipulated by the school board. An agreement was reached suitable to both parties and the Borough assumed possession of the Finney School property.

The old building was demolished and a new fire station engine room built to house the newly combined fire companies. Members of the fire department renovated the west wing of the school while the Borough renovated the east wing for office and meeting room purposes. The auditorium was to be used by the fire department to raise funds through rentals. The new facility was completed and the firemen moved in during October, 1976. The new engine room boasted four bays with a radio room, turnout gear rooms, a workshop, an SCBA room, a hose dryer and hose rack room, a restroom and a room with a sink, washer and dryer. The wing was renovated with restroom facilities, a meeting room, caucus room, offices, storage and a recreation room for the firemen. The old Oaklyn No. 1 firehouse was sold to a machine shop operator with some of the funds used to finish the interior of the west wing and for the installation of a quarry tile floor in the engine room.

The Borough purchased a used 100 foot aerial truck from Camden during 1976. The apparatus was originally delivered to the Philadelphia Fire Dept. in 1950. Its American LaFrance tractor was replaced with a B model Mack tractor in 1962 and the main ladder was replaced during the 1960s as the original had been damaged. Philadelphia sold the ladder truck to Camden, NJ for $1.00 as Camden was in need of working apparatus during 1973-1974. Oaklyn’s fire fighters spent thousands of man hours on an extensive renovation project when the ladder truck arrived. Fruehauf Trailer in Philadelphia did the major work required. In all, it took nearly a year and a half to complete the entire project at a cost of about $10,000, which saved taxpayers over $100,000. Before its completion, the truck responded to an apartment fire on West Oakland Ave. and the ground ladders were utilized by fire fighters to rescue three residents of the building who were trapped. The main ladder was condemned during an inspection in 1983. Fire fighters were able to track down a former Philadelphia ladder of the same style in a Odessa, Delaware scrap yard. Arrangements were made and members drove the existing ladder to Odessa in late November, 1983. There they were assisted by scrap yard employees and a crane to remove the old main and replace it with the used one. Ground ladders, a gear box and other truck parts cost the department $1000.00. The ladder was tested, passed and placed back in service.

A new 1000gpm Pierce pumper was received by the department in the spring of 1979. It was the first new apparatus to have a crew cab. Specifications for this engine were drawn up by the members of the department. It replaced the 1953 Ford/Great Eastern 750 gpm pumper. The new engine saw its first working fire only a few days after being placed in service. The Pierce pumper and the aerial ladder were housed on October 13, 1979 following the largest parade in Oaklyn’s history earlier in the day. Over one hundred fire companies participated.

During 1982, the members of the department purchased a Chevrolet truck chassis and ordered a stock body from the Reading Body Co. of Reading, PA. These were assembled by Finnesey Trucks in Collingswood, NJ. Members added a generator and lighting along with other equipment and placed the new light rescue in service at a cost of about $16,500. Over $30,000 was saved by ordering the vehicle in this manner as compared to ordering one from a fire apparatus dealer. This apparatus replaced the 1958 Jeep Willys which was sold locally.

Work began on replacing the 1963 Ford/Great Eastern pumper in 1985. The department’s truck committee researched several manufacturers and recommended that the department write specifications toward a Hahn pumper. A bond issue was approved by Borough Council on April 8, 1986 after advertising for bids and a new 1250 gpm Hahn engine was ordered by the end of the month. The new engine was delivered in late March, 1987 and placed in service the following month. It was housed following that year’s 4th of July parade.

A used 1989 Ford Van was located in Norristown, PA and purchased by the members of the department in late 1990 for $13,300. It was already painted red so a emergency lighting and lettering were added and the unit placed in service during the Spring of 1991. The van replaced the 1959 Plymouth station wagon which was sold to a local car collector.

Continued in Part 6.