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Merger to curtail bingo tradition

November 02, 1998

Ron FaceBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - The bingo players might be the only people who will know that the Blue Ridge Mountain fire and rescue squads have merged.

Combining the units, which already share the same building and many of the same personnel, is expected to end a tradition on the top of the mountain on Pa. 16 east of Waynesboro, Pa. - Saturday and Sunday bingo.

Eventually, the games will be cut to one night a week to save on volunteer time, department officials said.

The merger is mostly a paper transfer that lawyers for both departments are working out, said John Fleagle, 35, president and captain of Blue Ridge Mountain Fire Co. It will be complete by Jan. 1, he said.

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Fleagle's dual role and those of other members is the main reason for the merger, said William Sellers, chief of the Blue Ridge Mountain Ambulance and Rescue Squad.

"This is the '90s. It's getting harder to get volunteers. People's lives are more involved with work and families today. Being a volunteer takes a lot of time and commitment," he said.

"We can't fill all the positions we have in both departments," said Sellers, a nine-year department veteran.

Organizational charts show 14 officers for each department - administrative, operations and a five-member board of directors. Vacancies exist in about half the jobs. Many members, like Fleagle, wear two hats. The merger will mean one set of administrative officers for the combined department.

The departments serve parts of Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania and Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland.

"It got started about 90 years ago, but nobody knows just when," Sellers said.

He said ambulance service began at the same time. The ambulance squad broke from the fire department in 1984 to become eligible for $3,200 a year in United Way donations.

The financial benefits never reached expectations, said Ron Face, 58, president and deputy chief of the ambulance squad.

"They thought they would get more money if they separated, but the increase was never as much as they thought they'd get," he said.

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