CRYSTAL CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT
By: Bill Haggard
Following a large fire at the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company plant in Ford City, Pennsylvania, in 1910, the company decided to form a fire brigade at the Crystal City plant to protect the plant and the city.
At the Crystal City facility, a Mr. Raymond organized four groups of eight men to serve as the plant fire brigade. Plant Superintendent Taylor appointed C.W. Kemp as the first fire chief. At this time, there was no fire truck in Crystal City. Two-wheeled hose carts, each capable of carrying 300 feet of hose, were strategically located on company property in red sheds. The hose carts would be pulled to the scene of a fire when needed.
In 1918, the first fire truck in Crystal City, a 500 GPM REO pumper, was purchased to provide fire protection. In 1923, a second 500 GPM pumper was acquired. In 1936, a Mack fire truck was purchased. Fire Chief Kemp remained as Fire Chief until 1940. Jim Moore became the second Fire Chief and a Mr. Westcoat became the Assistant Chief. Chief Moore remained as Fire Chief for about a year and was succeeded by Chief Jim Jennings. Chief Jennings was succeeded by Chief Monroe Propst who would remain as Fire Chief until the company fire brigade was discontinued in 1962. At that time, a 1952 Mack 500 GPM pumper was turned over to the newly formed Crystal City Fire Department. An old Phillips 66 garage on Mississippi Avenue was renovated to serve as the fire department’s fire station.
With the formation of the city fire department, Tony Picarella was named as the first City Fire Chief in 1962. In 1964, a new Mack 750 GPM pumper was purchased and it served as the main pumper until 1991. Both the 1952 and 1964 Mack pumpers remained in service until 2011.
In the late 1970s, the department converted a 1978 Chevrolet 1-ton 4X4 truck into a brush vehicle and also added a step van to serve as the department equipment truck.
In 1991, the fire department added a 1250 GPM Towers pumper built on a Spartan chassis to the department fleet. A 1999 Chevrolet Step Van was purchased to replace the existing equipment truck. Today, the truck serves as the department command vehicle and air cascade truck. In 2004, a new Crimson Rescue Pumper with a 1500 GPM pump was added to the fleet. In 2006, a new 20’ water rescue boat was purchased to replace the department’s original boat.
In 2009, Chief Picarella was replaced by Tony Bova, who is the current Fire Chief of the department. Chief Picarella served as the Fire Chief of the Crystal City Fire Department for 47 years and remains as an Assistant Chief with the department.
In addition to providing fire and rescue service to the City of Crystal City, the fire department also provides service to a rural area south of the city through a “fire tag” program.
Currently, the Crystal City Fire Department has one rescue pumper, one pumper, one brush truck, a command/cascade truck, a water rescue boat, a utility truck and two staff vehicles. The 1952 and 1964 pumpers remain in the fire department in reserve status. The department is staffed by 34 volunteer firefighters including one fire chief, two assistant chiefs and three captains.