Forward to consolidate fire leaders

By ERIC SLAGLE Daily News Staff Writer

Forward Township is looking to consolidate leadership of its three volunteer fire departments.

The plan, which would create a single, township-wide fire chief and two deputy chiefs, was discussed at a meeting of township supervisors Thursday.

The objective of the initiative is to end jurisdictional problems and disputes that have occurred among the three departments.

Supervisor Dave Magiske said Chief Steve Pierce of Forward Township VFD, Chief John Hess of Gallatin Sunnyside VFD and Chief Walter Albright of Bunola VFD all were sent e-mails Wednesday from board of supervisors chair Tom DeRosa advising them about the new organizational plan.

“After countless attempts to coordinate a cohesive atmosphere through which the three fire companies can function, it is obvious that our efforts are failing,” the e-mail stated. It went on to say that under the new plan, the chief will be in charge at all fire scenes. If the chief is unavailable, one of the two deputy chiefs will be in charge.

“We’re hoping to solve a problem



that’s been around for quite a while,” said Magiske, explaining that disputes over which department should be in charge of a given fire scene have been occurring in the township for the past 25 to 30 years. He said the disputes reached a point recently where supervisors decided that something needed to be done.

The chiefs have been asked to send information to the township by Feb. 23 regarding the qualifications of members from all three departments who’ve responded to calls in the past two years.

Supervisors plan to review the information then call a meeting with the departments at an unspecified date.

Magiske said there is not a timetable set for accomplishing the plan.

It’s unclear if supervisors will appoint a member from each of the three departments to the leadership roles in the new department alignment.

“I think they’ve each got people who are certified” to be a chief or deputy chief, Magiske said.

Pierce, who was at the meeting, said the initiative is still a work in progress.

“Hopefully we can resolve our issues. We’re here for the same reasons; to serve the community’s interests,” Pierce said. Looking ahead, Pierce added, “There are a lot of questions to be asked and a lot of questions to be answered.” Magiske noted that the township’s three fire departments have made

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strides in recent years to operate more efficiently and effectively.


In the past, Magiske said all three departments would be called out on minor incidents such as clearing fallen tree limbs.

He said that no longer happens because of greater cooperation.

Magiske also noted that more recently Elizabeth VFD has become the lead response company on fire calls in the part of the township bordering Elizabeth borough, improving safety in that area.


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