When members of the newly created Rosedale Volunteer Fire Department responded to their first fire call on July 29, 1924, the volunteer firefighters didn’t have equipment to put out the blaze.
Ninety years later, Rosedale boasts several fire engines and state-of-the-art fire equipment.
“I like to say we’ve gone from horse and buggies to half-million-dollar trucks,” honorary firefighter and former chief Matt Henshaw said. “There’s a lot of tradition here.”
The 30 current members of the Rosedale VFD on Verona Road celebrated the department’s 90th anniversary at the station’s annual banquet in September.
Deputy Mayor Sara Kuhn congratulated the department at a September council meeting for its anniversary.
Rosedale is the second of seven fire stations that opened in Penn Hills. Rosedale opened shortly after Lincoln Park Volunteer Fire Department, which was established in 1916.
Jack Mason, an honorary firefighter of Rosedale, said volunteer fire companies often appear when communities start growing. He said in the 1920s, Penn Hills became more populated.
“The more they built, the more they needed fire-suppression services,” Mason said, noting that Penn Hills really began to grow in the mid-1950s when housing plans were built.
Matt Alcorn, a firefighter from Verona who moved to Rosedale in the early 1920s, founded the company after finding that the area didn’t have one, according to a history that Mason wrote in 2009.
Alcorn organized Rosedale’s first meeting in April 1924, when they had about 30 volunteers, and, at that first fire, members assisted firefighters from another company with equipment. The Rosedale station got its first fire vehicle, a Model-T Ford Fire Truck, on Aug. 5.
Rosedale today responds to about 400 calls a year and is staffed by about 30 volunteers, though not all are firefighters.
According to Henshaw, throughout Rosedale’s 90-year history, members have recruited their children, nieces, nephews and other family members to the station.
Alcorn’s two sons, Matt and Chuck Alcorn, went on to develop the department’s first community ambulance service.
The two brothers served as co-chiefs of the station in the 1940s, and Chuck invented an electric fire alarm indicator designed to better indicate where firefighters should respond to a fire.
Henshaw himself is a third-generation firefighter at Rosedale.
“Joining was just the thing to do,” he said.
Mason has been with Rosedale for about 45 years. He said he remembers when the station was the center of the community for the riverfront area of Penn Hills. He said he remembers the station hosting flower shows, bingos and dances through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
“It was the social hub,” Mason said. “Every group met here.”
Mason said that through the 1970s and ’80s fire training improved throughout the country, and Rosedale began to train volunteer firefighters more thoroughly.
Henshaw said that in the 1990s, the station held concerts with popular local artists such as The Clarks and Donnie Iris to help raise money.
More recently, crews prepared a Y2K response team before New Year’s in 1999, and members of the Rosedale Fire Department assisted with clean up after the Sept. 11, 2001, plane crash in Somerset.
“Stations like these stay around until they go paid,” Henshaw said. “So we’re not going anywhere.”
Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7845 or [email protected].