Canonsburg's fire department

replaces the "old bird."

James T. Herron, Jr.


The Canonsburg Volunteer Fire Department was formed in December 1900, but it was nearly twenty years before the firemen progressed from hand-pulled to motorized apparatus. In 1919, the borough purchased a truck from American LaFrance that replaced the hose carts and the hand-drawn hook and ladder cart. It carried hose, ladders, and a chemical tank on a Brockway chassis. In 1923, though the truck was only four years old, the town's fire alarm system, fifteen, and the water system twenty-one, Canonsburg's fire protection was marginal, at best.

In April the truck was out of service because of damage received on a fire call out of the borough, at Midland. The old hose carts, augmented by hand fire extinguishers, again constituted Canonsburg's fire protection until a part could be obtained from the manufacturer in Elmira, New York. When the firemen had only the hand-pulled carts, they were placed in East End, on South Side, and Ridge Avenue, as well as at the fire house in the borough building on West Pike Street near Jefferson Avenue.

It may be that the old carts had been sold or scrapped. The Daily Notes reported that Jake Lebovitz volunteered to pull a hose cart from the borough building to a fire in East End by tying it to his truck with a rope. As the jury-rigged fire apparatus rolled down Pike Street, the rope broke and the runaway hose cart smashed into a utility pole. To make matters worse, the fire alarm system was malfunctioning (a frequent occurrence) and a fireman had to climb into the borough building tower and hit the bell with a hammer. The Notes ended the story with the news, "The old fire truck was repaired this morning."

The Notes complained: "Canonsburg needs an up-to-date fire truck. The one the town has now is a 'sticker,' that is it sticks when it gets off the paved surface." The truck had responded to a brush fire on Smithfield Street. It had taken the firemen twenty minutes to put out the fire and an hour and a quarter "to dig the old bird out."

Notes, "Burning Grass Calls Out Fire Company," April 20, 1923; "Council Lets Contracts for Street Improvements," April 24, 1923; "Fire Department Called to Put Out 2 Blazes Sunday," April 30, 1923; "Happenings About Town in Few Lines" and "Grass Blaze Calls Out Fire Company," both April 13, 1923.

The March 1923 annexation of White Lawn (from Chartiers Township) and the land between the railroad tracks and the creek (from North Strabane Township) made a modern fire engine even more necessary. The new West End had only about 600 inhabitants, but it contained the Standard Chemical Company (later Vitro), the Canonsburg Steel and Iron Works, and the W. S. George Pottery.

"Town Council Passes Ordinance Annexing White Lawn Terrace," Notes, March 20, 1923. A fire alarm box was placed at Violet and Grace (#62) in August 1924, and Jack Wilson, the borough electrician, began stringing wire in White Lawn for the fire alarm system in September. It took more than a year for #28 at Pike and Bluff and #61 at Grace and College to be wired into the system, with a box at Standard Chemical to be placed later (Notes, "Voters to Pass on Purchase of Fire Equipment," Aug. 21, 1923; "Of Local Interest," Sept. 11, 1926; "New Fire Alarm Boxes Are Placed by Borough," Oct. 14, 1924).

Fire Chief W. H. Arnold and Assistant Chief D. Q. Crawford appeared before council in April 1923 accompanied by a representative of American LaFrance. His company had built Canonsburg's fire truck in 1919, but he wasn't there about the truck the assistant chief had said was "not safe to ride on and is always breaking down." He was there to talk about "a real fire truck," a pumper. The estimated cost would be $12,500, a heavy expenditure for a borough with total assets less than $63,000. The fire company offered to loan the borough $3,600 of its own funds to make the first payment. "The fire company has this amount ready to advance and proposes to raise a lot more if permission be given it to hold carnivals, etc, of the good clean variety." As had been done before, the matter of buying a fire engine was referred to the fire, light, and water committee. This time, action was taken. A committee of councilmen met with the chief and assistant chief within a week and recommended that council ask for bids on a fire engine and for a siren on the borough building in place of the balky alarm bell. Council concurred, the firemen's $3,600 loan was accepted, an additional $2,400 of borough money was added to the fund, and June 4 was the date scheduled for bids to be opened. The siren, which cost $360 and could be heard for eight miles, was ordered from the W. S. Bailey Company.

Notes, "Council Lets Contract for Street Improvements," April 24, 1923; "Committee to Recommend New Fire Engine," May 1, 1923; "Council Moves Toward Paving East End Street," May 8, 1923; "Boro Council Lets Contract for Paving West Pike Street," May 22, 1923.

A fundraising project, named Firemen's Gala Week, was held May 21 through June 2, 1923. It was an unusually long week, but the firemen needed the money. A carnival, H. C. Hunter Shows, set up at the South Side Ball Park and shared its proceeds on a percentage basis with the fire department. Advertising space for local businesses on an "electric arch" was sold. The firemen held a popularity contest, the winner being the girl who sold the most votes. The winner received a diamond ring. The girls signed up for their books of tickets at the fire department, and the votes were collected in a ballot box at McCorkle's Drug Store. The Alhambra Theater shared the proceeds of a movie, "The Third Alarm," with the firemen, who used their fire truck to advertise the movie. The Notes used up a good bit of ink on moralistic sniping at the carnival. A signed column called it a "Faker Fair" and a flimflam. An editorial discussed "crooked carnivals" and "midway lepers." The newspaper protested: "Canonsburg does not have to stand for side shows into which women and children are not admitted. Let the town authorities do their duty—and without delay." The sideshow was closed.

This Alhambra Theater advertisement ran in the Daily Notes, May 15, 1923.

In "The Odiferous Carnival" and "Carnivals Can Be Kept Away," published after the carnival closed, the Notes called upon the upright people of the town to keep such "degrading...shows" away. "The money so dirty that no town or individual can handle it...without getting stench on their clothes."

Notes, "Firemen's Gala Week," May 14, 1923; "Local Happenings," May 17, 1923; "Firemen's Gala Week and Popularity Contest," May 19, 1923; "Local Happenings," May 23, 24, 1923; Charley Stevens, "Hits and Misses," May 25, 1923; "The Carnival's Reprieve," "The Odiferous Carnival," and "Carnivals Can Be Kept Away," all June 2, 1923.

The Notes was careful in criticizing the carnival not to mention the firemen. The fire chief was given space to present his side of the story. "Why do the people of Canonsburg knock the fire boys or allow them to be slammed by others?" asked the chief. The town needed a fire engine, but "to solicit funds was out of the question (clean money is too tight)." The advertising arch was called "our Hootchy Arch," and "a slam at the arch is a slam at the fire company, who are ready at all hours of day and night for the peal of the fire bell." Chief Arnold estimated that five thousand people had come to the carnival on Saturday night. "Come over all this week; ride the sea plane and the Ferris wheel, but don't ride the fire boys."

W. H. Arnold, "Town Echoes," Notes, May 28, 1923. Another method of raising money was selling the Firite Fire Extinguisher, made in Masontown. To promote the product, an aviator who described himself as D. D. Fireite, a veteran of the R.A.F., flew over Canonsburg in his Sopwith Camel. He circled the town dropping leaflets advertising the fire extinguisher and landed on C. W. Banfield's field, at Moninger ("Firite, Stunt Flyer, to Give Exhibition Today," Notes, July 26, 1923).

The "peal of the fire bell" mentioned by Chief Arnold would soon be a thing of the past. A few days after the end of Gala Week, the siren arrived. Borough Electrician Jack Wilson installed it on the borough building, although while doing so his ladder slipped. He fell twelve feet and spent the night in the hospital. The siren was successfully tested on June 14, but unlike the fire bell, it did not indicate the alarm box number. Also, the siren did not automatically sound when an alarm was received, though it was later incorporated into the alarm system using relays. In November 1924 a code was adopted that was used for many years. Three wails of the siren meant a fire in town, two wails meant a fire outside the borough. The curfew, to this day a nightly phenomenon, also was sounded on the fire siren.

Notes, "Coming and Going," June 5, 1923; "Boro Electrician Made Unconscious When Ladder Falls," June 9, 1923; "New Fire Siren, Given First Test, Hear For Miles," June 15, 1923; "New Signals Adopted for Sounding of Siren," Nov. 25, 1924; "False Fire Alarm," Nov. 13, 1923.

Borough council received bids for a fire engine from four companies on June 4, 1923. American LaFrance and Seagrave each submitted a bid of $12,500. Oberchain-Boyer was the low bidder, at $8,522. Ahrens-Fox priced their 450 gallon-per-minute pumper at $12,300 and offered a 750 GPM unit for $12,700.

"Council Opens Proposals for New Fire Truck," Notes, June 5, 1923. The pumping capacity was not published for the first three engines.

Council decided that demonstrations would have to be observed before placing an order. A few weeks later a number of councilmen, accompanied by Chiefs Arnold and Crawford, traveled to Edgeworth to see a Seagrave engine in action. Then, the Charleroi Fire Department brought an American-LaFrance Type 75 Triple Combination Pumper to Canonsburg. The pumper was tested by drafting from Chartiers Creek, drawing from a hydrant with low pressure (on Ridge Avenue) and one with high pressure (on Central Avenue below Pike Street). "Following the tests refreshments and smokes were served at the company headquarters to the visitors and members." Notes, "Councilmen See Fire Truck Demonstration," June 20, 1923; "Demonstration By Fire Truck is Given Here," June 29, 1923. The suction lifted water 14 feet from the creek and provided sufficient pressure for three streams. The low-pressure hydrant had a pressure of 23 pounds raised by the pumper to 176 pounds; the high-pressure hydrant's pressure of 145 pounds was raised to 315 pounds. The water pressure from a hydrant depended on its elevation; the high pressure hydrant was at the bottom of the hill, the low-pressure one at the top. Shopping for a fire engine was one thing; paying for it was another. The question of a 3 mill tax to purchase a fire engine was put before the voters in November 1923. The referendum was political, rather than a legal necessity, as the borough had the power to spend general revenue for fire apparatus. Canonsburg's tax rate was 10 mills and could be raised as high as 15. The referendum, a part of the November 6 election, failed. A few weeks after the election, the Brockway truck was again out of commission for several days. The Notes reported Councilman Hoch's cynical comment, "It had been put up to the voters to provide fire fighting apparatus and if they are not interested, council should not worry." There was no doubt a fire engine was needed. In August the truck broke down one too many times. Council directed that the Brockway was not to leave the borough without the permission of the chairman of the fire, light, and water committee.

Notes, "Voters to Pass on Purchase of Fire Equipment," Aug. 21, 1923; "People to Vote on 3 Mill Levy to Purchase Fire Equipment," Oct. 15, 1923; "Teachers Appear Before Borough Solons," Nov. 20, 1923.

The fire company responded to 40 alarms in 1923 with an average of eleven firemen, but at year's end, the company had only 18 active members. The turnout at the first alarm of 1924 was only seven. The siren had sounded at eight o'clock in the evening, and some firemen said they thought it was the curfew. A few days later the Notes published an editorial, "Canonsburgers Should Be Ashamed." The day before, firemen from Canonsburg, Finleyville and Dormont had fought a large fire in McMurray. The Canonsburg firemen arrived first, but they had come in three automobiles, and brought with them only a few soda-acid fire extinguishers. They could do little until the firemen from the other, smaller communities arrived with their fire engines. "And why do we NOT have a modern fire-fighting truck?" asked the Notes. "Why, because our people voted against it last fall."

Notes, "Fire Company Elects Officers Friday Night," Jan. 5, 1924; "Fire Alarm Confused With Curfew Whistle," Jan. 7, 1924; "Canonsburgers Should Be Ashamed," Jan. 9, 1924; "M'Murray Store Burned Early Tuesday Night," Jan. 9, 1924.

The use of the siren for curfew was quickly discontinued, so getting the children off the streets was difficult. School Superintendent F. W. McVay appeared before council in February and spoke in favor of the curfew. In March the Notes asked why the fire bell had not been repaired. Jack Wilson and Quivey Crawford quickly put it into working order by and Canonsburg again had a curfew.

Notes, untitled editorials, Jan. 28, 1924, March 5, 1924; "Council Passes 2 Ordinances at Meeting," Feb. 5, 1924; "Curfew Ordinance Will Be Enforced," March 26, 1924.

The fire company submitted the names of W. H. Arnold and D. Q. Crawford for reappointment as fire chief and assistant chief in 1924. Quivey Crawford, who had been elected to council the previous November, asked that his name be withdrawn. Arnold remained chief, but the position of assistant chief was not filled until the next council meeting when borough electrician Jack Wilson was elected. Policemen Steve Ducsai and Paul Arnold were elected truck drivers.

Notes, "Council Elects Crumm Chief of Police Force," Jan. 22, 1924; "Council Passes Two Ordinances at Meeting," Feb. 5, 1924.

The embarrassment of requiring Canonsburg's firemen go to fires in private cars caused a reconsideration of the rule prohibiting the fire truck from leaving the borough. It was decided that the truck could be taken a short distance outside the borough, such as to Strabane or Houston, but adequate hose and fire extinguishers must be available for use in town. The chances of the Canonsburg firemen getting a pumper improved in March 1924 when the borough treasurer reported that more than a thousand dollars had been received from a state fire insurance fund. In the meantime, though, the firemen decided to build their own engine. Council gave Everett Conway two chemical tanks to repair, probably the ones from the old chemical cart. The fire, light, and water committee was authorized to purchase a chassis on which to mount the tanks. Within ten days a Ford had been purchased and the Notes reported, "The 'Lizzie' is already in the boro building."

Notes, "Boro Affairs Considered at Council Meeting," Feb. 19, 1924; "Council Lets Contract for Incinerator," March 4, 1924; "Chemical Tanks Taken Back to Boro Building," March 6, 1924; "Council Holds Long Session Monday Night," March 18, 1924; "Boro Buys Ford Truck For Use of Fire Dept," March 28, 1924.

In April the steering mechanism on the much-maligned Brockway broke on the way to a fire in East End. Fortunately the accident happened on a straight and level stretch of Euclid Avenue and Patsch's wreck truck towed the truck ignominiously back for repairs. Residents extinguished the fire with a garden hose. At a council meeting a few days later, the fire department reported that the Ford chemical truck would be ready in a few days. The Brockway, "even after being repaired is dangerous to ride on." The need for a pumper again was discussed. Quivey Crawford was no longer assistant chief, but he spoke for the firemen in offering to begin soliciting funds to buy the badly-needed apparatus. The consensus of opinion was that the borough should purchase and own all the fire equipment.

Notes, "Fire in East End Calls Out Firemen; Truck Was Injured," April 18, 1924; "H. C. Eckhardt Resigns From Boro Council," April 22, 1924; "Council Meets Last Night in Special Session," April 29, 1924; "Borough Council Votes to Put Town Park In Shape For Holding Picnics," June 17, 1924.

The home-built Ford chemical truck was added to the roster in May 1924. It was run around town on the fifth, and it was declared ready for duty, though some new hose was needed. The Ford showed up on the auditors' report in December 1925 as "Chemical Engine," with a value of just $500. Councilman D. Q. Crawford, who had been primarily responsible for building the truck with donated material and labor, formally presented it to the borough June 16. Because it was the size of a passenger car, several firemen qualified to drive the Ford, but only the driver and one fireman were allowed to ride the truck to a fire. No photograph of the Ford chemical engine has turned up, but my father told of seeing the Ford going up North Central Avenue in reverse when he was in high school. It probably had a Model T chassis, underpowered for the load it carried, rather than the more substantial (and more expensive) Ton Truck. The Ford made its first run a few days after being accepted by the borough, to a paper fire on East Pike Street.

Notes, "Council Meets Last Night in Special Session," April 29, 1924; "Truck Tried Out," May 6, 1924; "Borough Council Votes to Put Town Park In Shape For Holding Picnics," June 17, 1924; "Big Blaze Averted by Fire Department," June 23, 1924 , "Auditors' Statement," April 22, 1926. The names of the firemen permitted to drive the Ford were posted: Jack Wilson, Orion Hoch, Abe Stucki, W. E. Zuver, Wm. Arnold, Jr., and F. C. Stucki.


No photograph of Canonsburg's Ford Model T fire engine has been found, it probably looked much like these, built by American LaFrance. The photograph on the left shows two chemical tanks, like Canonsburg's (in Matthew Lee, A Pictorial History of the Fire Engine, Vol. 1 [Plymouth MI, 1997], 248). The illustration on the right appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, February 17, 1917 (reprinted in W.F.Conway, Chemical Fire Engines [New Albany IN, 1987], 28).

Since the borough now had two fire trucks, the newspaper had to differentiate between them. The Ford was usually called the "chemical truck," and the hose truck was referred to as the "Brockway." The chassis was by Brockway, and that name was on the grill, but the truck had been made by American LaFrance. Possibly the truck was called a Brockway rather than American LaFrance because the firemen wanted to buy an American LaFrance pumper.

The Brockway truck was confined to service in Canonsburg, probably for reasons other than to protect the town: it was unsafe to ride on and it was likely to break down. The chemical truck responded to a call for assistance from Muse in November 1924, but the firemen rode out in automobiles. The Notes reported that council had discussed a new truck. Everybody else was cussing the old one.

Notes, "Three Alarms of Fire Within Fourteen Hours," Nov. 15, 1924; untitled editorial, Dec. 3, 1924.

The Canonsburg Volunteer Fire Company, a quarter of a century old in 1925, began its anniversary year by electing officers and "playing pedro, pool, checkers and listening to music." The officers for 1925 were: Guy Stucki, captain; C. F. Stucki, 1st. Lieut.; Pete Barnes, 2nd. Lieut.; Thomas Schussler, sec.; W. H. Arnold and D. Q. Crawford, respectively president and secretary-treasurer of the Firemen's Relief Association. The chief (W. H. Arnold) and assistant chief (Jack Wilson) were appointed by council.

"Fire Company Holds Election of Officers," Notes, Jan. 10, 1925.

At its first meeting of the year, the borough council ordered coats and boots, but no action was taken regarding a fire truck. On the morning of February 10 the fourth fire of the year demonstrated the sorry state of the borough's fire department. An overheated furnace pipe set fire to a house on East College Street. Nine firemen and Assistant Chief Jack Wilson responded with the borough's two trucks. Thomas Schussler and Ralph Arnold were overcome by smoke. There was only one smoke mask on the hose truck, and water sprayed from worn-out hoses in all directions. Some firemen fought the fire without rubber coats, and some had boots that leaked. New equipment and supplies had been sitting in the council room for two weeks but had not been issued. The chairman of the fire, heat, and light committee had been sick, so the gear had not been stenciled.

Notes, "Council at Regular Meeting Last Night...," Jan. 20, 1925; "Two Firemen Are Overcome While Fighting Blaze," Feb. 11, 1925. The bidders for the firemen's gear were Charles E. Skirble, J. W. Hiles, and Howard Orr, all of Canonsburg. Charles Skirble received the contract on bids of $5.05 for boots and $7.40 for coats.

By 1925, the standard response was to alert the firemen by blowing the siren and tapping the bell to indicate alarm box pulled. Only a few firemen could ride the trucks to a fire, but knowing the location of the alarm box allowed the others to proceed independently. If the alarm was received by telephone, the number of the nearest alarm box was rung. This was not always done. Late in February the report of a fire on Oak Spring Road was received by telephone. Since it was not a serious blaze, the siren was not sounded. Lieut. Pete Barnes, Councilman D. Q. Crawford, and Chief of Police Harold Addis climbed on the Brockway truck, driven by Paul Arnold. The lamentable machine got stuck in the mud. In this instance the delay was more embarrassing than costly, but it helped bring to an end what were called silent alarms. Even better, it got the fire department its pumper.

Notes, "Fire In East End Calls Out Firemen Early Today," Jan. 21, 1925; "Fire Truck Stuck In Mud Answering Alarm," Feb. 26, 1925.

On June 15, 1925, council instructed the borough solicitor "to draw up an ordinance providing for the purchase of a new fire truck equipped with pumper, chemical and other improvements." The final steps in getting a pumper were quickly accomplished. Council received three bids: Ahrens-Fox, Cincinnati, Ohio, $13,000; Seagrave, Columbus, Ohio, $12,750; and American LaFrance, Elmira, New York, $12,500. The low bidder, American LaFrance was awarded the contract on July 20, 1925, and delivery from the company's Pittsburgh branch was promised within five days.

Notes, "Boro to Purchase Fire Truck," June 16, 1925; "Council Purchases Up-To-Date Fire Truck at Meeting Last Night," July 21, 1925. For $500 Canonsburg missed out on getting a flashy Ahrens-Fox.


Canonsburg's firemen would have pored over catalogs of fire apparatus like children ponder the wonders and delights of toy catalogs. This page from an American LaFrance catalog of unknown date is reproduced in W. Fred Conway, Chemical Fire Engines (New Albany IN, 1987), 99.


The new fire engine was American LaFrance's Type 75 Triple Combination, which had a 105 horsepower engine, electric starter, and pneumatic tires. Like the old truck, it was chain drive. The Type 75 could pump water at 750 gallons per minute at 120 pounds pressure and had a 40 gallon chemical tank with 200 feet of ¾ inch hose. The engine also carried two ladders, twelve and twenty feet long. The hose bed could hold a thousand feet of 2½ inch hose, but less of the 3 inch hose that could be connected directly to Canonsburg's hydrants. The engine floor of the borough building had to be rearranged and strengthened, since the Brockway would be retained, at least for a while. The engine was tested on July 30 by an engineer from Pennsylvania Fire Underwriters. Water was drafted from the dam on Chartiers Creek near Strabane and thrown 250 feet at 120 pounds for an hour and a half. The pump was able to deliver 771 gallons per minute, better than the 750 specified. At 200 pounds pressure, the engine pumped 375 gallons per minute.

Notes, "Canonsburg's New Fire Truck," July 24, 1925; "Underwriters' Test of New Fire Truck Proves Successful," July 31, 1925. In November 1925 borough council ordered 1000 feet of "fabric fire hose, wax and gum treated" from Fabric Fire Hose Co. for $1,300. The hose was delivered in January (Notes, "Ordinance 242," Nov. 5, 1925; "Local Happenings," 4, 1926).

Fortunately, when the hydrants were installed in 1901 the borough had specified that they have "two hose connections for three inch hose and one approved steamer connection." Before the introduction of the pumper, the fire department needed only the smaller connections, but because of the earlier council's foresight, new hydrants were not needed. Further tests were made from fire hydrants. Water was thrown over the First Presbyterian Church steeple from a plug on Central near Pike Street. Then firemen and councilmen rode the engine up to Ridge Avenue where a low-pressure plug was used. The Notes reported, "At the first plug the strainer of the big hose caught one-fourth peck of crabs and at the hilltop plug three crabs were caught." The borough council received the report of the Fire, Light, and Water Committee that the engine had been approved and acceptance signed, payment to be made within forty days. "The secretary was instructed to write a letter to the North Strabane Water Company requesting the flushing of the fire hydrants so that crabs and fish may be gotten out of the plugs."

Charter and Ordinances Regulating the Borough of Canonsburg, Washington County, Pa. (Jos. G. Charlton: Canonsburg, 1902), 151; Notes, "Successful Test Made Last Night of Fire Truck," Aug. 4, 1925; "Fire Truck Accepted by Council at Meeting Last Night; Take Up Other Matters of Routine Nature," Aug. 4, 1925. In March 1925 the burgess reported to council that two of the borough's fire hydrants did not have steamer connections, and "only about one-half of the plugs comply with section 6 of ordinance 71 ("Ordinances Are Introduced At Council Meeting," Notes, March 3, 1925). The ordinances specified that "fire hydrants shall be of good and improved pattern, each having two hose connections for three inch hose and one approved steamer connection" (Charter and Ordinances [1902], 151).

On August 7, 1925, the new engine made its first run. "The fire department mounted the new truck and made record time on the initial rip," said the Notes, but the pump was not needed. Oil-soaked driftwood at the dam had caught fire, and hoses were attached directly to a hydrant. Two nights later the building next to the fire department caught fire. The engine was run out, and since the water pressure was adequate, all it did was lay hose. It was parked on Jefferson Avenue out of harm's way. A few weeks later, the first chance for the engine to work a big fire occurred when Canonsburg's assistance was requested for a fire in Presto. Council, however, would not allow the new engine (or the old one, for that matter) to leave the borough. The dictum was discussed at the September council meeting and there was tacit agreement that the regulation stipulating that the old truck remain in the borough would extend to the new engine as well, though for different reasons.

Notes, "New Fire Truck Makes First Run Yesterday P.M.," Aug. 8, 1925; "J. Morris Store Damaged by Fire Late Saturday," Aug. 10, 1925; "Council Busy With Routine Matters at Meet," Sept. 9, 1925. Coincident with the arrival of the American LaFrance engine, the Canonsburg Fire Department became a member of the Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association ("Local Firemen Attend Meeting at Charleroi," Notes, Aug. 31, 1925).

On October 8 the pumper left the borough, and for the first time fought a fire alongside the Houston Fire Company. The oil pipeline from Washington to Pittsburgh had leaked near the Riggle farm in Moninger, and a pool of oil caught fire producing thick black smoke. Sparks from an ensuing grass fire fell on the roof of a residence, burning it in several places, but quick work by the firemen saved the house. The Houston Fire Company fought the fire with their new American LaFrance chemical truck and nine firemen. Canonsburg sent 13 men with the new pumper and the Ford chemical truck.

"Two Fire Companies Extinguish Blaze On Riggle Farm," Notes, Oct. 9, 1925. This was the first serious one worked by Houston's first fire truck, an American LaFrance on a Chevrolet chassis that had been delivered in September. The Houston Volunteer Fire Company was organized in December 1924 ("Houston," Notes, Sept. 10, 1925 and Dec. 12, 1924).

The firemen were commended for their work at the Houston fire, but in November the borough truck drivers, Steve Ducsai and Paul Arnold, were hauled before council and accused of speeding in the fire trucks. They did not acknowledge their guilt but were told that in the future the fire trucks were to go no more than 35 miles per hour on the way to a fire, and 25 miles per hour returning. In November 1925 the borough purchased the Paxton property on the corner of East Pike Street and Greenside Avenue. The large brick house on the corner would be the new borough building. The old borough building with the engine house on the first floor had been built when the borough owned only hand-drawn apparatus. The floor had been braced, but the building was inadequate for modern fire equipment. A new building, to house both the police and fire departments would be built on the back of the lot, along Water Street.

Notes, "Council Will Soon Secure Paxton Deed," Nov. 3, 1925; "Council Plans Improvements to New Property," Nov. 17, 1925.

Apparently, all three trucks were crammed into the West Pike fire house, as the auditors' report dated December 31, 1925 lists under assets: American LaFrance Pumper, $12,500; "Large Fire Truck," $1000; and the Chemical Engine, $500.

When the old Brockway truck was sold, apparently in 1926, one of the firemen kept its bell. The purchaser complained that it wasn't the truck but the bell that he wanted, and Canonsburg could have the old truck back. The firemen sent him the bell.

"Auditors' Statement," Notes, April 22, 1926, Mary Ducsai, conversation at Jefferson College Historical Society, March 18, 1992.