Symbolic parade to new firehouse sparks emotions
By SAMANTHA COSSICK
SHIPPENSBURG – As the fire whistle at 129 E. King St. blew one last time, tears of joy and sadness marked the beginning and the end of an era.
Members of the Vigilant Hose Company #1 and Shippensburg Area Emergency Medical Services marched as a unit from their old fire station to their new building at 20 Walnut Bottom Road.
The lyrics to Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” read by former mayor and past fire company president Tim Costanza, set the tone for Saturday’s farewell ceremony: “I set fire to the rain. And I threw us into the flames. Where it felt something die. ‘Cause I knew that that was the last time, the last time.”
A fire house is one of the most recognized and revered buildings in any neighborhood, Costanza said.
“Most importantly, the fire house is home for one of the greatest families in the world – the brothers and sisters of the fire service,” he said.
The old station on King Street has served as that home for nearly 170 years and helped establish a bond they all share – the fact that they might not have been the largest fire company, but they were the oldest, Costanza said.
When they began the process of establishing a new fire station, Company President Dan Byers said he questioned whether they were ready for the process.
“I ask that you think of our path to this point and remember our path to the future,” Byers said.
Chief Emeritus Charlie Myers said he came to visit the building one last time at midnight Saturday and saw about a dozen former members sitting outside smoking cigars and remembering their times.
“Now just as our motto states, we’re going to move onward and upward,” Myers said.
At the new station, three separate ribbon cuttings opened and welcomed the new bays for SAEMS, the Vigilant Hose Company and the Shippensburg Emergency Services Building.
The benefits of the new station are many, but mostly, they are the safety improvements, said Company Chief Clyde Tinner.
Additionally, it provides a new space for emergency services, a new building in the town, and a new view for visitors, he said.
“When visitors come to Shippensburg now, they no longer have to drive by a run down motel,” Tinner said. “This will be the first thing they see.”
Tinner challenged the younger members to always take pride in the building and keep it in top condition. If they need a reminder, the pictures hanging in the hallway depicting the company’s past should help.
While it’s sad to say good-bye, it’s nice to move forward, said Company Vice President Kevin Nehf.
“We planned for the for the future as best as we can,” Nehf said. “Welcome home, boys.”
The new station, designed by SGS Architects, is 36,450 square feet and meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, the only fire and EMS station in the state to meet those standards.
The $7.6 million project began in August 2010 with the demolition of an old motel that previously occupied the space. In its place, the new station houses emergency services training and multi-purpose room, bunk facilities, five drive through bays for the fire company, four drive through bays for EMS, locker rooms and a fitness room.
Samantha Cossick can be reached at email@example.com and 262-4762 or follow her on Twitter at @SCossickPO.