The Hooversville Volunteer Fire Department was founded on November 22, 1922, with Earl C. Ober, President; George P. Laurer, Vice President; Clyde Berkey, Secretary; C.A. Lohr, Treasurer; and A.C. Berkebile Fire Chief.
The organization had scarcely been formed when one of the worst fires occurred. The Polish Catholic Church caught fire and burned to the ground. Not only did the church building burn, but also the rectory, a six room frame building standing near, caught fire at the corner nearest the church and slowly ate its way into the building until it lay in ashes. A small stream of water playing on this structure could easily have saved it, but with no equipment, the men were helpless. They could do no more than stand idly by and watch the flames do their want on destruction. This disaster convinced the community of the necessity of adequate fire fighting equipment. More was needed than willing hands.
The first apparatus, a Howe Pumper, costing $4,500 and carrying $1,000 worth of hose arrived early in March of 1923. On May 19, 1923, the firemen had their first experience in fighting fire with modern up-to-date equipment. A double house in Baker Whitley caught fire and even though the firemen’s efforts did not save the building, they received valuable experience. This piece of apparatus was the department’s sole equipment until April of 1932 when they purchased a Hahn Pumper at a cost of $9,500.
The first fire hall was in what formerly was the First National Bank Building. This Building was used to house fire equipment from 1924 until 1970. The building has since been remodeled and is presently used by the Borough of Hooversville to house the Borough Offices and the Hooversville Police Department.
Since the fire department was founded in 1922 it has had nine (9) Pumpers; a 1923 Howe Pumper, a 1931 Hahn Pumper, a 1947 Ford Pumper, a 1951 Mack Pumper, a 1954 GMC Pumper, a 1973 Mack Pumper, a 1981 Mack Pumper, a 1994 Mack, 3000 Gallon Tanker-Pumper, and a 1989 Spartan Heavy Rescue Pumper. Currently, the fire department has in active service the 1981 Mack Pumper (Engine 614-2), the 1994 Mack Tanker/Pumper (Tanker 614-4), and the 1989 Spartan Heavy Rescue/Pumper (Rescue 614-1).
The fire department tries to maintain the latest emergency and fire fighting equipment. Some of this equipment includes 2 portable pumps, 2 portable light plants, Air Packs for each riding position of the two (2) Pumpers. Large diameter supply hose, K-12 Rescue Saw, Maxi Force Air Bag Rescue System, Hurst Rescue Cutter and Spreader System, Air Rams, Rescue Struts, 3000 Gallon Porta-Tank, Heat Gun, a Thermal Imaging Camera, and other Miscellaneous Rescue Tools. All fire department vehicles, along with the Rescue Squad’s Ambulance, have Multi Frequency Fire Band Radios. Multi frequency Portable Two-Way Radios are carried in all the Fire Apparatus, as well as EMS capability.
Since 1970 the fire department has undergone many changes. These include the moving of the department into a new and modern fire station, the purchasing of new protective gear, new hose, and nozzles, a new and modern communications system, air cascade system to fill air bottles, and the buying of two (2) new 1000 Gallon Per Minute Mack Pumpers, in 1994 a new 1500 Gallon Per Minute, 3000 Gallon Mack Pumper-Tanker, and in 2007, a used 1989 Spartan Heavy Rescue w/ a 1500 Gallon Per Minute Pumper and onboard foam capabilities.
On August 27, 1974, a new Siren System was placed into service. This new system consists of 3-Five Horsepower Federal Sirens, placed at various locations in the borough. These sirens, for Civil Defense purpose only, can be activated by radio from Somerset County Control.
On February 1, 1975, a new Two-Way Radio Communications System for the Fire Station was placed into service. This new system, which cost $2,500, replaced an older system, which was purchased in 1956. Under this new system, all fire and ambulance calls were received and dispatched through the Richland Fire Central Radio Network. In 1976, we were given the designation as Richland Fire Central Station 14. In July 1982, a paging Encoder was added to the Base Station Two-Way Radio at the fire hall and was used to activate newly purchased tone activated pagers. Approximately 20 Pagers were purchased from Motorola C & E for $300 each and issued to all active fireman.
In January 1977 the Somerset County Commissioners instituted County Wide Emergency Dispatching and established Somerset County Control. However, it was not until 1992 with the implementation of 911 in Somerset County, that the Hooversville Volunteer Fire Department severed its ties with the Richland Fire Central Radio Network and started receiving alarms through Somerset County 911. We were then assigned the designation of Somerset County Station 614.
Since the inception of the fire department, our primary goal has been to provide the best possible service to meets of the public, to maintain the most up to date equipment possible, and to provide training to meet the ever changing lifestyles and economic development of our area. While training has always played a major role in the fire service, it has become more of a priority over the recent years. With the social, economic, and recreational development of our area changing, so have the training aspects of the fire service changed as well. With the completion of a 37 unit multi story Federally Funded Housing Facility, A Propane Gas Plant, Wind Turbines, Logging and Timbering, Boat Racing and Fishing on the Stonycreek River and the volume of Coal Truck and School Bus Traffic we soon came to realize not only the importance of fire training but also that we would have to become diversified in our training as well. We are proud to say that many of our Firefighters and Officers are certified in Rope Rescue Wildland Firefighting, Wilderness Rescue, RIT (Rapid Intervention Team), Structural Firefighting, Rural Water Movement, Bus Rescue, Firefighter Survival, Vehicle Rescue Technician, Hazardous Materials Awareness, and Operations Levels, Firefighter 1, and most currently Swift Water Rescue as well as many other classes to numerous to mention.
Our Fire Department like many of our Fellow Departments in County have seen our share of Disasters, in January of 1996 our community like many others experienced major flooding. A heavy snowstorm blanketed or region followed by an unusual warming trend accompanied by heavy rains. This pushed the Stonycreek River rapidly over its banks flooding the lower end of Hooversville with water running 3 to 5 feet deep. Because the flooding occurred when it did most people were leaving for work or school and thus evacuation of residents was minimal. Late in the afternoon of the first day the temperature dropped rapidly and the rain turned to snow and water levels receded. By midnight 36 of 37 homes evacuated had power and heat restored and families were able to return. One home had to be demolished and was later rebuilt. Our Fire Station suffered major water damage, though quick action by firefighters saved all of our apparatus, we did loose most of our firefighting gear, training equipment, and a large portion of department records. We were able to replace our gear within 24 hours through the cooperation and quick action of a local Fire Equipment Supplier. When they heard of our problem they immediately came to our aid and had us outfitted in a very short time. Our loss was substantial and our department had to absorb most of the cost due to fact the Borough Government had limited coverage on building and contents.
There were other disasters in the county where our department was called to assist. In May and June of 1998 over a three-day period two Tornados touched down, the first was in Salisbury Borough and the second one was in the village of Boynton a few miles north of Salisbury. We provided assistance for search and rescue and aided in cleanup over 4-day period.
On September 11, 2001 our County experienced a disaster that will no doubt stick in the hearts and minds of many people for a long time to come. On that morning New York City, Washington DC, and Somerset County Pennsylvania not only witnessed but also became a part of International Terrorism. Aircraft were being hijacked and flown into buildings killing and injuring thousands of people. One of those aircraft, United Flight 93 was flying over Somerset County when the passengers onboard attempted to regain control of the aircraft. Unfortunately they were not successful and the plane crashed in an abandoned reclaimed strip-mine site near Shanksville. Our department was the third of 8 primary Fire Departments dispatched to that incident. While there was little the responders could do we managed to secure the scene until the FBI arrived and took over the incident.
On July 24 through July 28, 2002 Somerset County was again thrust into the National limelight. Nine Coalminers became trapped miles underground in the Village of Quecreek near Sipesville. Once again our Fire Department was called upon to render assistance. We provided our Tanker to haul water to cool the large drilling machines used to drill into the mineshafts to eventually pump water out and rescue the miners. On the evening of July 28th all nine miners were successfully rescued.
The Hooversville Volunteer Fire Department is a proud Charter Member of the Somerset County Firemen’s Association, and a member of the Somerset County Fire Chief’s, Cambria/Somerset Fire Police Association, and the Somerset County Ambulance Association.