Timeless Bedford County History: Bedford Fire Department

The Bedford Fire Department No. 1 has been protecting the safety of Bedford County citizens and beyond since being established in 1804. With the fire department being 215 years old, it can be considered one of the oldest departments in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In those 215 years, the department has had a series of monumental achievements and milestones celebrated by its members and community with each step.

In 1839, Soloman Filler was authorized to purchase the first fire engine from the United States Company of Philadelphia for $519.40. These engines were operated as hand-drawn vehicles on wheels. After purchasing the engine, citizens were requested to meet and form a Fire Department to take control of the engine and apparatus. Soon after, the department selected the site of the first Fire Engine House, which was located between the Bedford Courthouse and the jail. The building was not to exceed 18×40 feet and a committee reported that this building would not be more than $200 to build. After the first fire engine was bought and the first firehouse was constructed, the fire department began to quickly grow year after year and became the reputable fire department that it is now. Over the years, the department was able to participate in many parades and conventions, often winning many prizes and cups from towns and cities throughout Pennsylvania.

Fast forward to 1949, where two lots purchased on the north side of West Penn Street for $1,900 became the home of the fire station for many years. Currently, this building is still standing and is the home to the Bedford Borough office and stores some of the apparatus for the Bedford Fire Department. The first plans for the firehouse were drawn up by two architects, Sorber and Hoone. Then, ground was broken on March 24, 1949, by the President of the Fire Company, H. Cyril Bingham, and was assisted by Calton Heckerman, president of the Borough Council. This firehouse would be the department’s main headquarters for at least 25 years, until 1974 when the department needed additional room for maintenance on trucks and other equipment. This property was known in the community as the “Rohm House.” Eventually, the department would expand, building a new, three-bay fire station at the corner West Penn and South West Street.

Now, the Bedford Fire Department No. 1 is expanding even more! The station built at the corner of West Penn and South West has been demolished and construction is set to wrap up in Spring 2020 on the new, six-bay fire station that will span 12,000 square feet and will provide improved facilities for the department. With this growth also comes the need for assistance. Volunteering for a fire department or an ambulance service is a serious commitment for the volunteer and the family of that person. One can be called from a good meal, a warm house, or a church service. These are the same people that you see at the market, or on the streets and not recognize them at an emergency scene in their gear. In addition to their service duties, these individuals stand by at car races, they help to put up Christmas lights, and they participate in community parades. Mr. Vaughn E. Whisker said that, “Greater loyalty hath no man to his community than a fireman who may give his life for a stranger.”

With this new fire station, the department can continue to grow and provide its life-saving work to Bedford County and beyond. The Bedford Fire Department No. 1 expresses its gratitude to the generous community for its continued support for the fire department.

 

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