Cresson Volunteer Fire Company
The Cresson Volunteer Fire Company was started in September 1908. James B. Gauntner became the Company’s first president, and J.W. Hench was named Fire Chief. Their equipment consisted of a 2-horse drawn carriage, 25 buckets and 6 axes.
In 1910, the Company purchased their first new piece of equipment; a Kanawaha Chemical and Hose Wagon for $990.00, which was drawn by two horses. This unit was equipped with a 25-gallon chemical tank and hose bed.
In 1921, the Company purchased their first motorized apparatus, which was an America France 75 type combination hose pumper and chemical truck.
In 1922, the Company brought in an additional motorized apparatus, an International chemical and hose truck.
The original fire station was located at 2nd Street and Ashcroft, currently known as the Pfeister Building. The building was renamed after longtime Cresson Borough police chief James “Fred” Pfeister”, who was killed in a Law Enforcement Line of Duty Death in 1996. Fred was also a life member of the Fire Company. This building is still being used by the Fire Company for firefighter training and storage.
Starting in 1961, a new trend of purchasing Mack fire trucks was initiated and this trend continued for several decades.
In 1972, the Company purchased the former Cresson Lumber Company located on Ashcroft Avenue. Fire Company members donated their time to demolished the lumber yard and cleared the property to construct the current fire station and banquet hall. The new building was dedicated in 1973.
In 1986, the Company improved firefighting tactics by becoming an aerial operations company. The Fire Company purchased a bullet ridden Mack Aerialscope from New York City. It took 7 months of hard work for Tower 707 be placed into service. Some of the major fires during the time of the Mack Tower 707 were the Logan Valley Mall in Altoona, 2 trips to Houtzdale Borough in Clearfield County and multiple other trips to assist fire departments in Cambria and Blair County.
January 17th, 1988 was a tragic day for the Company and community when former Fire Chief John “Jack” Fry was killed in the Line of Duty, while directing traffic at an assist call in Duncansville, Blair County. In March 1988, the Company approached the Volunteer Firemen’s Association of Cambria County and Vicinity with the idea of naming a roving Battle of the Barrell trophy in Jack’s name. This John “Jack” Fry roving trophy is awarded annually at the County Convention.
In 1989, an auxiliary was started to assist the Company in fund raising and other activities. After many years in existence, it was dissolved due to declining enrollment.
On, May 17, 1990, the Company and community experienced another tragedy when longtime members Robert “Boobie” Adams and Thomas “Nutley” Bianconi were killed when the tanker they were responding in left the roadway and crashed enroute on an assist call with the Ashville Volunteer Fire Company.
With these 3 firefighter’s Line of Duty Deaths, the outpouring support from the community was never more evident.
In 1992, the first junior program was started accepting students ages 16 and 17 into membership. In 1998, the age for entering this program was reduced to age 14 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This Junior Program continues to this day and provides our communities with well trained volunteer firefighters of the future.
In 1993, the volunteer firefighters brought home the Grand Champion Trophy from the Volunteer Firemen’s Association of Cambria County and Vicinity Convention for the first time in our Company history. This grand accomplishment was also achieved in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2009 and in 2013.
Starting in 2004, the Company became part of the newly organized Penn Cambria Fire Alliance. The other members of this Alliance were neighboring departments from Ashville, Gallitzin, Lilly and Loretto. The goal of this Alliance was to increase firefighter membership from students of the Penn Cambria High School.
In 2012 and with the continuing decline in the number of volunteers, membership of the Cresson Volunteer Fire Company and the Community of Lilly Volunteer Fire Company, decided to determine the feasibility of merging the organizations. After many years of planning and work, on January 1, 2020, the newly formed “Keystone Regional Fire Rescue Department” was started with the designation of Department 77. The Department currently operates out of 2 fire stations. The Cresson Station is known as Station 70. The Lilly Station is known as Station 72.
The citizens of Lilly agreed upon the need for fire protection in 1902, and organized the Citizens Fire Dept. Consisting of 33 members, the Citizens Fire Company was officially chartered by Cambria County on September 8, 1903. The new chartered organization had J.E. Lowery as President and Charles H. Brown as Fire Chief.
The first major fire for the Department was the McCann Wholesale Liquor building, which was destroyed. This site later became the Liberty Theater. Equipment was housed in a small fire station big enough to house a single hose cart and a ladder wagon on the northside of Washington Street. These remained in service until 1922, when an REO Speed Wagon was purchased.
In 1922, we hosted the 1st Volunteer Firemen’s Association of Cambria County. We hosted again additional conventions in 1932 for the 11th, again in 1972 for the 51st, and finally in 1981 for the 89th convention.
In 1936, Citizens Fire Company was chartered as the Community Volunteer Fire Company of Lilly. In 1937, a large fire at the Lilly Heat and Power Plant spread to the building housing the fire station. Although the equipment was saved, all old and new records were lost.
In 1938, a Ford chassis with a Seagrave pump was purchased, making it the first brand new apparatus purchased by the Company. The fire of 1937 required the Company to store equipment in available spaces around town.
Starting in 1941, but delayed by WW2, a new building was built on what is now the Lilly Borough equipment building.
After a large fire at the Hughes Company Store in early 1941, not a single alarm sounded in the borough for 45 months, although the Company did provide mutual aid assistance.
In 1954, a GMC pumper was purchased for $13,000 in a 3-way agreement with the Fire Company, Lilly Borough and civil defense.
In 1956, a Chevy panel van was purchased and turned into a squad truck. It was in-service until 1967, when it was sold on bids to Commodore Fire Department.
In 1965, the first 2-way radios were placed into service, with the Cresson Volunteer Fire Company donating a base station in the late 60’s.
Our first Annual Firemen’s Carnival was in 1971. This tradition has continued throughout the years, except for 2 years in the 1990’s.
In 1974, the J.K. George store was purchased and became the new home of the Community Volunteer Fire Company of Lilly.
In 1976, the Lilly Fire Company began providing sole ambulance service to the Lilly area. We are also proud to have some of the first female firefighters beginning in 1976.
In 1999, a firemen’s pavilion was constructed behind the fire station replacing the need for tents at the carnival.
2004 saw the first advancements in consolidation of services with the Penn Cambria Fire Alliance. This allowed the Ashville, Cresson, Gallitzin, Loretto, and Lilly Fire Companies to provide better service for our area.
Like most volunteer fire departments, over the years our ranks have thinned but we still maintain a dedicated group of people who wish to serve the community and thus began our endeavor to consolidate with our brothers and sisters to the north with the Cresson Volunteer Fire Company. Beginning on January 1, 2020, the newly formed “Keystone Regional Fire Rescue Department” was started with the designation of Department 77. The Department currently operates out of 2 fire stations. The Cresson Station is known as Station 70. The Lilly Station is known as Station 72.