A History of the East Lansdowne Fire Company

Most volunteer fire companies have a long and colorful history. This is also true of the East Lansdowne Fire Company. The newly formed Borough of East Lansdowne was faced with many important decisions in June of 1911, one being how to provide fire protection for the 186 houses already in existence in the borough.

On September 7, 1911, the East Lansdowne Fire Company was charted after a split with the existing Goodwill Fire Company of Fernwood. Meetings were originally held in the Greer’s Hall, located on Pembroke Avenue at the old railroad tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Discussions took place at the meetings with the purpose to present bids for obtaining ground for the construction of the new firehouse. The Borough and the Fire Company decided that a borough building and firehouse would be jointly built at the corner of Lexington and Emerson Avenues. The first piece of equipment was a handcart pulled by the membership. The cart and other equipment was also stored at Greer’s hall.

The first firehouse was completed in 1913 and included the Borough jail. An addition was later added and the building was dedicated on Memorial Day 1913. The Pennsylvania Railroad donated an iron locomotive wheel that hung in front of the station and was struck with a hammer as the first fire station siren. The same iron wheel is still owned by the Fire Company today.

By 1915 every man in the Borough was a member of the Fire Company and paid a yearly dues fee of one dollar.

In 1916 the Fire Company purchased it’s first motorized apparatus.

In 1925 the Fire Company purchased its first brand new motorized apparatus, a 1925 Hale Pumper. As a “state of the art” Pumper it could pump 750 gallons per minute. It originally had solid rubber tires that were later replaced due to safety concerns. The Hale was sold to Briarcliffe Fire Company in 1955 to help start their organization. From there it was bought be a collector who sold it back to the East Lansdowne Fire Company in 1990. The Hale now back at home, is the pride of the Fire Company and still runs today.

In the 1930’s, the Fire Company was in much need of more space and a combination Borough Hall, Police Station, and Firehouse was erected at the corner of Lexington and Emerson Avenues. The Firehouse remained at that location until 2002.

On Friday February 2, 1940 at 0442 hours, the East Lansdowne Public School caught fire. Fifty-one East Lansdowne Firefighters answered the call. Seventeen Delaware County fire companies assisted on the assignment. Five firemen were injured. The fire was fought on an icy and snowy ground. Several fire vehicles were in accidents while responding to the fire. The building was destroyed and the cause of the fire was determined to be a faulty heater. This fire is still considered to be one of the worst in the history of Delaware County.

On December 7, 1941, the East Lansdowne Fire Company was called to assist the Yeadon Fire Company with a brush fire along the Philadelphia boarder. The brush fire had already jumped Cobbs Creek and the old West Philadelphia Lumberyard caught fire. The Philadelphia Fire Department requested that East Lansdowne, due to their location, pump water from 61st and Baltimore to their engines a block and a half away and through a row home, with the 1925 Hale. It was not until the membership returned from this long assignment that they learned about the other significant events of this day, the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many of our members served their county over the next several years.

In 1955 the Hale was sold to the Briarcliffe Fire Company. It was replaced with a 1955 American LaFrance Pumper. The LaFrance was originally one of several purchased by the Pittsburgh Fire Department. Due to Budget cuts, Pittsburgh was unable to purchase all of the vehicles and East Lansdowne was able to purchase the vehicle for $9000.00, a bargain back then. The Pumper also came fully equipped thanks to Civil Defense funding at the time.

Also in the 1950’s the Fire Company was able to obtain a Civil Defense Rescue Truck and they purchased a Pirsche Ladder Truck through fundraisers. The Fire Company also began providing Emergency Medical Services in the late 1950’s with a Cadillac Ambulance.

The 1960’s and 70’s were some trying times for the Fire Company, but with the help of some caring and hardworking members, the Fire Company regained the respect of it’s community and peers.

The 1980’s brought advancement in both firefighting and EMS equipment. The Fire Company was able to purchase a new ambulance and Pumper and began to be recognized once again as a dependable and valuable asset to its Borough and surrounding communities. The Fire Company was also one of the first in the State of Pennsylvania to have its ambulance licensed by the Department of Health and provide service with Emergency Medical Technicians.

In 1991 the Fire Company held a dual housing for the first time in its history. A new ambulance and a new Pumper. The housing also marked the 80th anniversary of the Company and a large parade was held.

1999 also saw the purchase of a new ambulance. This ambulance was a first for the Fire Company as it was a “box” style ambulance instead of another van style. Constant changes in equipment requirements forced the Company to buy the bigger style ambulance.

In 2002 the Fire Company broke ground for its new and current home. The new station will not only house the vehicles but allow for expansion should the need arise. The building was completed in September and the apparatus was housed in October.

In 2008 the Fire Company started a joint venture with the Delaware County Memorial Hospital Paramedic Unit. This venture allows for ALS services to be provided by the East Lansdowne Fire Company EMS division during peek hours, to both residents of the Borough and Upper Darby Township.