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Franklin Fire Co. finally has enough space

February 15, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In a corner of the cavernous engine room sits a partially restored 1925 LaFrance pumper that will soon be the centerpiece of a memorabilia room at the Franklin Fire Co.

"You could start her up right now," Fire Chief Jeff Clopper said Sunday about the antique fire truck, the company's first piece of motorized equipment.

Like the truck, some of the final touches have yet to be completed at the fire station, which is nearing the end of a $2.1 million renovation and expansion. The facility is a far cry from the fire hall the Franklins, as they are known, began with when they were organized on Dec. 8, 1903.

"There was a little two-bay firehouse on Franklin Street. That's how we got our name," said President Rich Trace. Eventually, the company built a new hall at the corner of Franklin and King streets, which it added to several times over the years, Trace said.

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Eventually, the company outgrew a three-bay fire station built in 1963 and had to park its trucks two-deep in the old engine room. That meant sometimes having to shuffle trucks in and out to get to the appropriate piece of apparatus, Clopper said.

Now the company's three engines, ladder truck, brush and utility trucks each have a bay, along with a Chambersburg Fire Department engine stationed there. Trace said the engine room measures 180 by 84 feet.

"Every piece of equipment we have now we can drive right out the door," Clopper said. That means a quicker response in emergencies, he said.

Each bay also has its own water, compressed air and electrical hook ups, meaning vehicles can be serviced where they sit, Clopper said.

The Franklins raised $800,000 for the project, partially through Bingo on Wednesday and Saturday nights and the first and third Sundays of each month. They also held raffles and other fund-raisers, according to Trace.

The balance of the project cost was financed through a $1.3 million, 30-year loan. Trace predicted the Franklins will pay it off in half that time.

"We're still under budget," he said. Despite that, it appears that little expense was spared in the renovation and expansion.

There are new or renovated bunk, locker, watch and meeting rooms, a social hall and communications center, along with plenty of new furniture. "Every office up here gets computers," Clopper said of the second floor offices.

Trace, a paid driver for the borough fire department for 35 years, joined the Franklins in 1970 and had been its president for about five years. "We've bought a total of 17 properties since I've been here" to expand the company, he said.

Membership in the Franklins is apparently quite popular. Clopper and Trace said the rolls include about 1,200 people, although the number of people active in firefighting and fund-raising is about 100, both said.

The company delayed its annual awards banquet from January to March 6 so members could enjoy the new station, according to Clopper. A dedication ceremony will be held sometime this spring, he said.

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