The Harlem Township Fire Department
Compiled by Chief Dale Fling for the
Harlem Township Civic Association
The official founded date of the Harlem Township Division of Fire is March 1973. A group of local residents met with the Township Trustees to discuss the possibility of forming the township’s own Fire Department. April 28, 1973 the inaugural meeting of the Harlem Township Firemen’s Association took place, attended by 16 members of the community that wanted to see our own fire department get off the ground. The newly organized Firemen’s Association made it happen. This group continued to grow and did much fund raising to create a Fire Department where one had never before existed. They raised funds not only to construct the fire station but also worked to purchase and/or acquire the township’s first fire equipment including fire trucks.
The first two fire trucks that were put in service were former vehicles from our neighbors to the north, the B.S.T. & G. Fire District. Those two vehicles consisted of a 1953 International front-mount pumper and a 1947 Chevrolet tanker truck. As the township residents passed a tax issue for the operation of the fire department, the purchase of a new pumper truck was accomplished in January 1975, for a price of just over $ 46,000.00. (The newest pumper, purchased in 1997 cost just over $ 200,000.00).
The original building was constructed by mostly volunteer labor and was designed to serve the fire department, township trustee office and road maintenance department. The original building was 3,700 square feet. In 1990, residents passed a bond issue to remodel and expand to the current facility of 12,500 square feet at a cost of $ 650,000.00, which houses both the fire department and the township offices of the Board of Trustees and Zoning Boards. The road maintenance department moved into thier own facility in the late 1980’s.
The township was contracting for fire protection from the Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department for many years prior to the establishment of it’s own fire department. Harlem Township began taking emergency runs for itself Jan. 1, 1975. The first year of operation the department responded to 22 emergency calls for help. In 2002 the department responded to 432 calls for help.
The first Fire Chief of the department was Bill Fling, he served in that position from 1973 through February 1984, when he was appointed Fire Chief of B.S.T. & G. Fire District in Sunbury. The department was then led by Fire Chief Dean Hoppe who had served as Assistant Chief since 1973. Chief Hoppe served in that capacity until June 1985. From June 1985 through December 1985 Bill Fling again served as acting Fire Chief. January 1, 1986 Dale Fling was appointed Fire Chief and continues to serve in that position.
Since the inception of the department there have been 139 firefighter’s/ E.M.T.s serve the township. The average length of service for those who have left the service is a little over 5 years. The average length of service for those who are currently active is 10.9 years.
There have been many changes to the fire service and to this fire department in the 30 years it has been in operation. The township has seen a large amount of steady growth over the years but not explosive growth as many neighboring townships have experienced. In September of 2002 the department began part-time day staffing of the department using part-time firefighters to afford residents better fire protection during the daylight hours when the number of volunteer or on-call firefighters is at it’s lowest. These part-time crews are charged with maintaining and testing equipment, fire prevention activities, training, facility maintenance and responding to emergencies.
Current long-range planning is to maintain and increase staffing levels as the population and the tax base allows and requires. The department will probably see full-time 24-hour coverage sometime in the future and by having some experience in the part-time business the department will be better prepared to take that next evolutionary step in fire protection to a wonderful community.