Inside Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company

History of the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company

The Begining: 1912-1913

1912, February 17th Fire which probably originated from an overheated stove in the store and butcher shop of G. B. Vipond at South Lakemont, at 10:45 Saturday night, completely destroyed that building, practically destroyed the store and residence of Mrs. M.G. Feltwell, adjoining and for a time threatened to wipe out the entire business section of the suburb. (Information from the Altoona Mirror Feb 19, 1912)

This event provided the impetus to organize the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company No. 1.

A few citizens of Lakemont met the morning following the fire and discussed the necessity of having fire protection.

1912, February 28th A meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a volunteer fire company held in the Church of God (later, St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church). A committee was appointed to see the Allegheny Water Co. concerning water plugs.

1912, April 19th Residents of Lakemont met at the Church of God to here and discuss the report of the committee. The committee reported it would cost $35.00 to install each water plug and ten or fifteen would be needed. The cost would be something like $500, together with the $5.00 for water rent which the Allegheny Water Company asks. The people of that community now have two propositions before them. One to raise a large sum of money to install the regular fire plugs and purchase a hose cart, or to purchase buckets and ladders and several hundred feet of garden hose which may be attached to house spigots and thus provide for fire protection on a smaller scale. (Information from the Altoona Mirror April 20, 1912)

1912, August 26th Fire, thought to have been caused by defective electric wiring, Monday night shortly after 10:30 o’clock totally destroyed the Sylvan lodge at Lakemont park. The blaze was discovered by Mr. Marsden, one of the actors at the park. Following the alarm park employees, residents of South Lakemont and park visitors formed a bucket brigade to fight the fire. It was soon found that the lodge was doomed, and they turned their attention to saving adjoining property. In a few minutes the building was a mass of flames, and the sky was brilliantly illuminated. Hundreds of people in the city saw the lurid sky and many went to Lakemont park to see the fire. (Information from the Altoona Mirror Aug 27, 1912)

On September 13, 1912, an organization was formed with W. B. Fickes, president; J.H. Summers, secretary and D.M. Snowberger, treasurer. A committee was appointed to call on all residents of Lakemont and vicinity for the purpose of raising money for the purchase of fire equipment. In the first year, the Fire Company received $130.65 of which $66.60 was paid for our fire equipment.

A ladder truck was built by the firemen from an old delivery wagon donated by W.C. Marks. The equipment was housed in the stable owned by W.M. Leake on the corner of Baynton Avenue and Beech Street and consisted of 1 ladder truck, 1 extension ladder, 2 rexes, 2 dozen buckets, 4 lanterns, 2 axes and 200 feet of garden hose. The business meetings were held in the Lakemont Park Greenshouse.

The First Ten Years: 1913-1923

1913, The charter was received on March 24, with 21 charter members.

1914, March 27th A plot of ground was purchased for $400 on Logan Avenue where the Feltwell Store and Vipond Meat Market were located. A two-story frame building was erected by the contractors Fissel & Clark for the sum of $629. The first meeting was held in the new building on June 15, 1914.

1914, July 12th Volunteers’ First Run. Lakemont citizens have hard fight with fire in Ant Hill Woods. Fire of unknown origin broke out shortly after noon in the underbrush in the Ant Hill woods, between Lakemont and Hollidaysburg, threating for a time the fine homes of Dr. A.L. Feltwell, near whose home it broke out, and others residing near Linger Longer and Sylvan Hills. (Information from the Altoona Mirror July 13, 1914)

1914, December 2nd Representative from American La France chemical engine company visited the Lakemont Fire Company in effort to sell them a chemical engine. (Information from the Altoona Mirror December 3, 1914)

1915, on January 29th, the company purchased a chemical engine from the American La France Fire Engine Co. with two 40 gal tanks costing $330, which amount was raised by subscription.

1916, May 6th Women Fight Fire

Members of Ladies Auxiliary at Lakemont Help Save Lantz Home. Two members of the ladies auxiliary to the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company worked valiantly with the men, shortly before noon today, in extinguishing a fire that threatened the destruction of the home of C. W. Lantz, 317 First Ave, Lakemont (Information from the Altoona Mirror May 6th 1916 )

1916, December 5th A small two-story stable on the property of E.N. Bulick at Lakemont Terrace was completely destroyed by fire at 10 o’clock last night 12/04/1916, causing a loss of $300. The first floor was used as a workshop and the second, for storing hay. The new motor truck of the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company made its first run and the firemen, did fine work in saving all adjacent buildings. They used 140 gallons of chemicals.

1917, January 3rd With New Truck Lakemont Volunteers Will Take In Lager Territory. 

The members of the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Company have just purchased a 48 horsepower automobile truck from Spengler garage with the intentions of equipping the machine to meet the long felt wants of the organization. A committee of which Walter M. Gesser is chairman, has been appointed to secure the equipment. Among other things which will be placed on the truck will be two chemical tanks, each of fifty-gallon capacity, Rexs and necessary axes and the like found on many of the most up-to-date trucks. When the machine is placed in service the fireman will be able to look after the entire territory between Lakemont Terrace and Hollidaysburg. (Information from the Altoona Mirror Jan. 3rd 1917)

1919, March 17th Another Lager Fire

Gesser Residence at Lakemont Burns. Fire of unknow origin that broke out a 3 o’clock this morning destroyed the beautiful residence of George M. Gesser at 319 Lotz Ave, South Lakemont, together with practically all its contents, entailing a loss of more than $10,000. The insurance will not cover one-third of the loss.

The house was regarded as the finest at Lakemont, as it was also one of the oldest, having been built by Mr. Gesser twenty-one years ago. The members of the family got out safety, but the spared so rapidly that it was impossible to get out any of the furnishings and much of the clothing of the family was likewise destroyed.

Good service was rendered by the Lakemont firemen who were assisted by Lakemont Terrace company and by No. 5 company from Altoona. (Information from the Altoona Mirror March 17th 1919)

1921, April 5th Fire Chief William Michaels, and Walter Gesser, injured when truck has axle broken. The members were injured, and three others had narrow escapes from being hurt. When the fire truck was wrecked on Park Hill while returning from Brush Mountain where members of the company had assisted in fighting a big forest fire

Finding a New Home: 1924 - 1934

1924, July 26th The company sold their property on Logan Ave and the trustees have purchased a piece of ground at the corner of Leslie and Elm Street. The company has approved the plans to erect a new fire station to house the fire truck and for meeting room only which will be all on one floor.

1924, September 19th The fire company had their first call for help since moving into their new building, on Monday evening at 6:05, they are being called to the residence of Mr. Miller on the Frankstown road where an oil stove had exploded causing the fire.

This station at the corner of Elm Street and Leslie Ave. would be the fire company’s home for more than three decades. After the company moved to a newer station the 1924, station would become home to Keystone Printing and now is a private resident.

The Early Years: 1925-1982

In 1925, The Lakemont Terrace Fire Co. was organized and it shared responsibility for the fire protection with the Lakemont Fire Co. for the Lakemont, Garden Heights area of Logan Township.  Prior to 1937, most of the fire apparatus in the area was chemical wagons and hose carts.  In 1937, the Lakemont Fire Co. purchased the first fire pumper with a 500 GPM rotary gear pump and 500 gal. tank of water on a Studebaker chassis. The Lakemont Terrace Fire Co. disbanded in 1942 after the City of Altoona annexed the Garden Heights area into the city that had a paid fire department.  In 1952, the Lakemont

Volunteer Fire Co. moved forward with the construction of a three bay, two story fire station located at 312-314 Lotz Ave.   The three bays faced Route 36 with good access to the area.  In 1957, the Fire Co. purchased an International/Peter Pirsh Pumper with 750 GPM volume pump and a high pressure pump attached to two booster reels and 500 gal. water tank.

In 1969, the Fire Co. purchased the first of three fire trucks built in Altoona at Brumbaugh Body Co (Bruco).  The Fire Co. would solicit bids for apparatus but the deciding factor was keeping the work local by people the Fire Company knew and trusted.

The 1969 pumper was on a Ford chassis and had a 750 GPM volume, high pressure pump attached to two hose reels and 750 gal. water tank.  The cost for this apparatus was $28,000.  In 1974, the Fire Co. purchased a Pumper/Tanker on a GMC chassis with 750 GPM pump and 1600 gal. water tank for $34,000. 

Growing Up: 1982-1998

In 1982, the Fire Co. moved into the 20th Century of fire apparatus with a custom built Mack MC 5-man fire truck chassis built in Allentown, PA.  Again, Brumbaugh Body Co. built the body out of Gavannel Steel that was relatively new to the fire service but had very good rust prevention features important to the longevity of the apparatus.  This Engine, called 1512, has a top mounted pump panel, 1500 GPM pump and 700 gal. stainless steel tank.  It has a Diesel Engine and Allison Automatic Transmission, all a sign of the future apparatus industry to come.  This apparatus was only 25 ½ feet long, a requirement of the space available in the station. The total cost for this unit was $116,000.  Fire apparatus was growing bigger by the year, carrying more equipment, more manpower, bigger pumps, and larger water tanks.  This led the Fire Company to expand the bays of the Fire Station.

In 1987, the Fire Company with the financial assistance of the Altoona-Logan Township Mobil Medical Emergency Department Authority (AMED) built an addition on to the three bays of the Fire House.  This addition provided space for future larger pieces of fire apparatus and also established a sub-station for AMED.  This lasting relationship has been good for both organizations, giving AMED good access to the business district of Logan Township and, for the Fire Co., a great partner in the emergency service business.  This addition cost $60,000 but would not be big enough for things to come.

Still Growing: 1998-Present

In 1998, the most dominant changes were coming to the Lakemont Volunteer Fire Co.  The Logan Township Board of Supervisors, who had been working closely with the Logan Township Fire Departments, made the commitment to purchase three engines and two ladder trucks for the Logan Township Fire Departments.  Two of the pieces that were allocated to Lakemont would not be able to fit in the Fire House.  This prompted the Fire Co. to again add on to the three bays and also make the doors higher for the new apparatus.  The Fire Company also made a huge commitment by spending $280,000, with about $170,000 in portable fire equipment for the two new apparatus; $50,000 for the building addition; and $60,000 for a new Ford F550 Crew Cab chassis and a poly utility body.  This unit has a four bottle cascade and light tower and is called 1541. 

The new engine was delivered in December, 1998.  It is a Spartan Gladiator 8-man fire chassis with a stainless steel body built by Saulsbury Fire/Rescue Apparatus of New York.  It has a 1500 GPM pump and 1000 gal. lifetime poly water tank.  This engine cost $330,000.  In 1999, a 102’ aerial/platform apparatus was delivered.  It has a 6-man Spartan Gladiator Fire Chassis, a steel aerial by LTI and stainless steel body built by Saulsbury of New York.  It has a 2,000 GPM pump and a 200 gal poly tank.  The cost for this apparatus was $650,000.  These five new pieces brought the Logan Township Fire Service into the 21st century and allowed the department to be well-equipped to serve the Township of Logan.

From 2005 through 2009, some additions were added to Engine 1511 by Lakemont Fire Co. including a light tower and a XRT hydraulic PTO system to run rescue tools.  A redesigned custom front bumper was built and an Amkus 22 Cutter of Tomorrow and a 30 CRT Spreader Rescue Tool were attached to hose reels for fast and easy access.  Space in the bumper also allowed for additional rescue tools to be mounted.  Front high intensity brow lights were added to supplement night time operations. Total additions cost $65,000.

This brings us to the present fleet of Engine 1511, Tower 1551, Utility 1541, and Engine 1512.