Franklin Fire Co. turns 100

April 24, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Members of the Franklin Fire Co. know that their department celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

What they don't know is when the company's predecessor, the Hope Hose Co., was founded.

They know it dates back to at least the 1830s, but anything more exact was lost when the Confederate Army burned Chambersburg in 1864. The fire company's records went up with the smoke, according to a department history.

The fire company will kick off its 100th anniversary celebration Saturday with a firefighters parade through the borough. It forms at noon on McKinley Street and begins its march downtown at 1 p.m. The parade heads down Second Street to Rhodes Drive, turns left onto Main Street and then south on Washington Street to the Southgate Shopping Center parking lot.

An open house at the fire station at the corner of North Franklin and West King streets will be held following the parade.


A banquet will be held in December for members and their guests to end the anniversary celebration, Trace said.

Richard Trace, 62, a past chief and past president, said the Franklin Fire Co. was organized Dec. 8, 1903, following a disagreement among the 60 or so members of the Hope Hose Co. over the appointment of a fire chief.

"About half formed the new Franklin company and the other half just sort of went away," Trace said.

The first Franklin Fire Co. station, a two-story brick building, went up in 1904. It since has been torn down to make room for the major expansions that the station has gone through over the years to become a modern fire-fighting headquarters with five vehicle bays, male and female bunk rooms, a social room, museum, and bingo and banquet facilities.

Trace joined the fire department in 1959 when he was 18. He rose through the ranks to become chief in 1976. He also served as president of the company for many years.

A plaque on the wall of the station's museum is a monument to David O. Gabler and Harold Snider, who died July 22, 1936. They were among 19 other firefighters riding a fire truck when it crossed a bridge, hit some sand and crashed into a tree, Trace said. The squad was on its way to a fire in Fayetteville, Pa., he said.

The department currently has about 100 active members and a total membership of more than 1,000, including social and life members.

Chambersburg and its environs are served by three fire stations - Franklin at 158 W. King St., the headquarters on North Second Street, both of which are manned; and an unmanned station on McKinley Street, department officials said.

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