LIBRARY, Pa. — The pandemic has been rough on volunteer fire companies. They haven’t been able to fundraise as much as they’d like.
Despite that, one volunteer fire company is fundraising for another organization and doing much more in the community.
In the winter, the Library Volunteer Fire Company put up lights so kids could go sledding a little longer. They took a video of it and more than 1.3 million people watched this video on Facebook.
“I try to give back as much as I can, when I can,” said Lieutenant Tim Smith.
He and his team at the fire station make it a priority in the South Hills — from pumping out basements during floods to bringing firetrucks out to playgrounds.
“Seeing the little ones with the smiles on their faces, it brings back the memories of being a youngster,” said Lt. Smith.
That was when he found his love of firefighting — his grandpa used to take him to his firehouse when he was a kid. Now in his 28th year of firefighting, Smith continues to volunteer his time both in his firefighting suit and out of it.
“We just want to get out there and let people see who’s behind the equipment and that gear. That way you can put a face to the uniform,” said Lt. Smith.
The volunteer companies always help each other out, too. In fact, when we were interviewing Smith, the Bethel Park firetruck that was there got a mutual aid call.
“Because firefighters, it’s a brotherhood and a family,” said Smith. “So I lost 343 of my family members.”
Lt. Smith is referring to firefighters who lost their lives during 9/11. And on the 20th-year anniversary of that fateful day, he organized a stair climb for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, raising more than $10,000.
Library Firefighter Matt Gwinn walked the stairs at South Park 46 times. It’s meant to be equivalent to the 110 floors of the World Trade Center.
“It is very brutal, but in the end its very honoring to pay tribute to the guys that made the ultimate sacrifice that day,” said Gwinn. “They didn’t even hesitate to run into those two buildings.”
“That just shows the dedication of being a firefighter,” said Lt. Smith. “That people are willing to leave their families here and go to another state to try to rescue another brother or sister.”
Fire companies supporting each other is so important, especially now because firefighting numbers are down significantly.
According to the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, in 1984 there were 300,000 volunteers. In 2018, there were only 38,000.