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Dedicated volunteers the secret to New Haven’s success |

Dedicated volunteers the secret to New Haven’s success

Mark Hofmann
| Tuesday, March 25, 2008 12:00 a.m

Providing 100-plus years of service to the City of Connellsville, New Haven Hose Company volunteer fire department states the secret of its success is the generations of dedicated volunteers.

In 1898, the volunteer firemen’s organization was founded with 20 members. Officers were John F. Torrence, president; William J. Herbert, vice president; Robert Herbert, secretary; Frank A. Buttermore, treasurer; and Charles M. Miller, chief.

The company originally provided service to the Borough of New Haven (now known as West Side Connellsville), but that service area increased in February 1906, when voters of New Haven decided 3-2 to consolidate with the Borough of Connellsville and form the City of Connellsville.

The volunteers were quartered in the New Haven Borough Building along South Sixth Street and years later, moved to their current location along South Seventh Street.

In addition to fighting fires, New Haven Hose Company has sponsored “Fire Safety Awareness Day,” making youngsters aware of fire safety precautions and encouraging adults to change batteries inside smoke detectors; sponsored the downtown Connellsville Halloween Parade for 96 years; cosponsored the Connellsville Christmas Parade for 14 years; sponsored the Independence Day fireworks display; sponsored the Display of American Flags Projects during the major holidays throughout the year; installed and removed Christmas decorations on poles throughout the city; sponsored two youth basketball teams and a teener league baseball team; and since 1992, sponsored the New Haven Hose Company Bagpipe Band.

When the fire company started out, its equipment consisted of a four-wheel, hand-dragged wagon with 500 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose and a two-wheel cart, hand-dragged with 300 feet of the same size hose.

Today’s equipment consists of:

= New Haven Engine 1: A 1990 Grumman Firecat with a 1500 GPM pump and a 750-gallon water tank. It carries more than 1,600 feet of combined hose sizes and is foam capable.

= New Haven Hose Ladder 8: A 2002 Spartan Metro-star Custom Cab with a 75-foot ladder. It is equipped with a 1500 GPM pump, 400-gallon water tank, 6.5kv diesel generator and a stainless steel body.

= New Haven Engine 5: A 1995 Ford-Diesel Mini-Pumper with a Darley 500 GPM Pump. It carries a 500-foot, 3-inch hose, 450 feet of 13/4-inch hose and a 200-foot booster line and is equipped with two MSA air masks with spare air bottles.

= Engine 3: A 1972 Mack that was acquired after its retirement from the City of Connellsville Fire Department. It has a 707 cubic inch gasoline engine, a 1000 GPM pump, and still has all of its hose and equipment. The fire department restored the upholstery and several mechanical items and shows the truck in parades and displays.

= New Haven Hose Squad 8: The vehicle has a 1988 custom-built Saulsbury body on a 35000 GVWR Ford LN-8000 Louisville cab and chassis with a 240 hp Ford diesel and 6-speed standard transmission. Squad-8 has a 12 kw diesel generator on board with 12 quartz-halogen lights, two 200-foot electric rewind cords. It carries five complete air masks with 21 spare air bottles and has a cascade system capable of filling approximately 30 spare 4500 bottles.

= New Haven Hose Co. Truck 9: A 2000 Ford 6 passenger double cap pickup with an 8-foot bed F-250 super duty with a Triton V-10 gas engine.

One thing that hasn’t changed at New Haven Hose Company over the years: dedication.

Bob Topper Sr., current chief, said the department has approximately 45 volunteers. Those members can be segregated into two categories — active firefighters and those who help with fundraising.

Topper said 25 are considered active firefighters, all of whom have a deep desire to serve their community by fighting fires. The department responded to 157 calls last year.

The other side of being a firefighter is the fundraising aspect. Manpower is needed to help with hoagie sales, bingo, setting up the Christmas lights, cash bashes, gun bashes and the annual fund drive.

However, even the most basic of firefighters needs to complete 166 hours of training. Also, the firefighter must stay sharp and up-to-date with the preferred methods used for fires.

One of New Haven’s newer firefighters is Topper’s son, Bob Topper Jr. He joined the fire department in 2005 at the age of 21. He previously joined Connellsville Township Volunteer Fire Department’s junior firefighters at the age of 18.

Along with the required training, Topper Jr. took classes at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood to learn more about the nature of fires.

In addition to fighting fires, Topper Jr. attends community events for Boy Scouts and even initiated a preplanning program at the fire department to develop a floor layout, exits, evacuation routes, sprinkler systems, shut-off valves, size and occupancy of buildings in the city.

Topper Jr. said firefighters put so much time into doing something they love and believe in, that when they do get the call to go to a fire or any other type of emergency, they really want to go.

“It’s good. It’s worth it,” Topper Jr. said. “Your heart really has to be in it or you aren’t going to make it.”

“There are several ways to attract members, but it’s getting tougher and tougher,” Topper Sr. said. “Anymore, it takes a very special person to do everything that’s expected of them.”

While there are active firefighters involved in fundraising, too, Topper Sr. said the older members who no longer go out on calls have stepped up and take active roles with the fundraising and the committees.

“This group has openly accepted their role in fundraising,” Topper Sr. said.

One of those members is Ken Jaynes, who joined the fire department in March 1963. He was an active firefighter for nearly 20 years.

Jaynes is chairman of the flag fund and the Christmas lights committee, has been the bingo chairman for the last 12 years, and is a trustee with the department; he helps with the finances, working with the inventory and keeping things straight with the company.

“A lot of other things happen that other guys take care of,” Jaynes said. “That’s the big thing over the years, everybody being able to work together.”

“I think it’s based on the dedication of the members we have and with everybody openly accepting their roles,” Topper Sr. said. “We have guys who are there for everything and accept their roles with much enthusiasm.”

Topper Sr. said the balance of the younger members and the older members is a great key to New Haven Hose Company’s success.

“Working together is the way New Haven has been successful, and that’s the only way to be successful in the future,” Jaynes said.

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