The beginning of fire protection in the borough of Crafton dates back to 1889. At this time, the protection consisted of a bucket brigade. Each man was to respond to the alarm with a bucket of water, use the water sparingly, and then secure more water wherever possible. Many amusing stories are associated with the bucket brigade. There was the night, for example, that a minister responded to the alarm but had no water in his bucket. He went to a rain barrel only to find it had no bottom. The fire was extinguished, however, and the bucket brigade proved to be capable of handl ing the fires during thi s period.
The borough was incorporated around the turn of the century and fire hydrants were installed. The borough was then divided into three wards with a hose company located in each ward. These hose companies were merely hand drown carts with hose to be connected to hydrants. The hose companies did not have ladders on the carts but borrowed them at the scene of the fire, or the volunteers carried them to the fire on their shoulders. This era is filled with humorous and nostalgic incidents.
A team of horses were purchased in 1906 and Hose Company No.1, located in the Municipal Building, took over the responsibility for the entire borough.
A few years later, one of the horses died and the hose company was forced to share a team with the street department. This was a poor situation, for when the team was needed during the day, the borough hod them. In this situation, the firemen would pull the wagon by hand, borrow a team of horses from the Crafton Lumber Co., or attach the wagon to the back of a pass ing streetcar. To remedy this condition, a Cadillac touring car was purchased in 1916 and converted to a motorized hose wagon with ladders and a chemical tank.
In 1916, Hose Company No.1 was 01 so admitted into membership of the Allegheny County Volunteer Firemen’s Association.
The Cadillac hose wagon broke down repeatedly and proved very unsuccessful. A bond issue, prompted by borough and fire officials in 1924, bought the first legitimate piece of motorized fire equipment. This was a Seagrave 350 gallon per minute pumper with a 40 gallon chemical tank. This cost $6,500. The Cadillac become an emergency car for the department.
Hose Company No. 1 became a chartered organization in January, 1925, and changed the name to The Crafton Volunteer Fire Deportment. At the time the deportment become chartered there were 38 active members. The officers were: President, M. B. King; Secretory, Thurlow E. Montgomery; Treasurer, John S. Krohe; Fire Chief, Finley F. Montgomery.
From 1925 to 1928 the deportment felt that another piece of equipment would provide better coverage since Crofton provided protection for parts of Robinson Twp., Greentree, and Thornburg. In 1928 the Fire Department themselves, purchased a Seagrove combination booster and hose wagon with an 80 gallon water tonk, for $5,000. This provided adequate coverage for a period of eight years.
In 1930, a used Nash was purchased for use in first aid and salvage work. Thi s was the first volunteer department in the county to install such a unit.
In 1936 the Fire Underwriters advised the borough to purchase larger ladders for adequate coverage to existing buildings such as schools, churches, the Bank Building, etc. The Fire Department approached the borough for the purchase of a Seagrave ladder truck. Due to the lack of borough funds the purchase of a first line truck was not possible so an International truck chasis was purchased. The frame and driveshaft were cut and a ten foot extens ion was inserted to make an improv i sed ladder truck. The body work was done by Galley Bros. Body Shop in Mt. Pleasant. The ladders consisted of two 40 foot extensions and two 20 foot straight ladders, purchased from the Seagrave Corp.
For five or six years this ladder truck was highly envied in the South Hills area. Mt. Lebanon’s ladder truck was the only one to outclass it. Later, however, the truck’s durability for the service needed proved inadequate. The truck became a problem piece of equipment. About 1940, lights were felt necessary so the purchase of a 1500 watt generating unit was put on the 1928 Seagrave. The funds for this piece of equipment came from dipping into the pol ice, fire, and street departments’ budgets equally. In 1948 the 1924 Seagrove, which was now 24 years old, was replaced with a new Seagrave 1,000 gallon per minute pumper. The old ladder truck still remained a problem piece of equipment due to faulty steering and braking. In May, 1955 a Seagrove 65 foot aerial ladder with a complement of 210 foot ground ladders, 150 gallon water tank with a 200 gallon per minute booster pump, 500 feet of hose and a ladder pipe to use the aerial ladder as a fire tower. This truck is a very versatile piece of equipment. It is fitted to be used in salvage and rescue work with 1200 feet of rope, 8 smoke masks, 8 14′ by 18′ salvage covers, a zipper body pouch, 4 stretchers, a cage stretcher, 2 oxygen machines, smoke ejectors, saber saw, Y2 inch drill, forcing tools, and a 2500 watt generating unit.
In March 15, 1962, the 1928 Seagrave which was then 34 years old was replaced by another Seagrove, with 1000 gallon per minute pumping engine and a double compartment of hose (2,000 ft.), foam proportioning system, 500 gallon tank, 2500 watt generator, and a 900 cu. in. V-12 engine producing 330 h.p.
In 1966 the Fire deportment purchased an emergency ambulance and rescue vehicle. This emergency vehicle was bought and paid for solely by the efforts of the Volunteer Fire Department. It’s equipment consisted of Oxygen, Burning torch, First Aid supplies as well as a 100 gallon booster tank to control spot fires until larger equipment can arrive. It was also used as an ambulance to serve the residents of Crafton, Thornburg and Rosslyn Farms.