When Ellwood City’s first volunteer fire companies were organized soon after the borough was founded in the 1890s, membership was a source of civic pride.
The two companies, Hook and Ladder Company 1 and the Vigilante Hose Company, were organized in 1892 and were directed by volunteer chiefs.
The first fire station was on Lawrence Avenue near Ninth Street and was erected in 1890. After several years of discussions, the next fire station was opened in January 1914 on the southeast corner of Crescent Avenue and Sixth Street.
The grand opening had been planned for December, but it was postponed until January. A grand affair was planned that included a program of addresses, music and vaudeville performances, while candy and other edibles were for sale in booths at the building for a fundraiser.
Discussion about the fire station was reported in the March 8, 1912, New Castle News.
“The Borough Council voted to advertise the sale of the $15,000 bond to ensure better fire fighting equipment for Ellwood City and put Ellwood on par with other towns in the vicinity,” the report said. Back then, horses pulled the few pieces of firefighting apparatus to the scene of a fire.
The fire department entered the modern age in mid-1914, when the borough bought its first motor-powered firetruck from Peerless Motor Car Co. of Cleveland for $3,500.
Back then, it was more important to have a truck driver than a chief, but in July 1924, the borough hired its first paid fire chief, Haldine “Pop” Plante, a former captain in the Pittsburgh Fire Department. By that time, the department had three firetrucks and was evolving into a modern firefighting unit. Plante retired in 1937 and was replaced as fire chief by Wolfe.
Two of the most serious fires that Ellwood City experienced were the destruction of the National Plumbing Fixture Corp. on South Second Street on Feb. 7, 1959, and the Elton Hotel Fire on Lawrence Avenue on Dec. 4, 1989, in which volunteer firefighters David Martino and Paul Frederick lost their lives.
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