Pennsylvania's 2,354 volunteer fire companies are threatened. A recent Commonwealth report on the subject found long-term trends weakening these emergency services. Over the last 30 years, rigorous training requirements and other factors contributed to a precipitous 76 percent decline in volunteer company membership. Some companies, the report suggests, will have no choice but to close their doors, forcing their townships to take on the added burden of paid fire departments. Other companies, the report recommends, might be able to stave off this expensive outcome through mergers.
Just such a solution was implemented when two volunteer fire companies merged in 2003 to form the new Marcus Hook Fire Department. That same year, Tinicum proposed this same approach, merging the adjacent neighboring fire volunteer companies of Essington and Lester.
Tinicum's Proposed Firehouse
Tinicum's proposed firehouse, originally designed in 2003 for site at the Westinghouse Plant, has been re-sited on five acres of the recently-acquired Lazaretto site. Kennett Square architecture firm Bernardon Haber Holloway designed this 38,500-square foot fire station which would serve as a second response team to fire-related problems at the Philadelphia International Airport and also be supplied with a boat to address marine emergencies. Architect Gerry Hanby's state-of-the-art firehouse includes eight drive-through vehicle bays, ten bunks, a recreation room with exercise equipment, a pool table and a large-screen television, a meeting room with a capacity for 75 people and a substantial evacuation hall. This hall and its adjacent 202-space parking lot would enable the firehouse to also serve the community with a 300-person banquet facility and bingo hall.
Originally, groundbreaking was intended for October 2003 and the project was due for completion in the Fall of 2004. Increased site preparation costs at the low-lying Westinghouse Plant motivated the Township to seek an alternate site. When the purchase of the Lazaretto site was completed in the summer of 2005, this became the Township's preferred site for a new firehouse. Groundbreaking is planned for June 2006.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Disapproval, the proposed firehouse is not the highest and best use for a site on the National Register of Historic Places, its construction severely jeopardizes its eligibility and funding for National Historic Landmark status, and it is wholly inconsistent with riverfront development objectives formerly agreed upon by DCPD and the Township.
Read the full County Review of Firehouse, December 2005