For more than 125 years, the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department has honorably served the City of DuBois, Pennsylvania. While the Fire Company existed as early as 1888, the Department’s duties, responsibilities, and position were not defined until an ordinance was approved on February 3, 1941. This ordinance (Council Bill #715) structured the Fire Department and gave it the ability to obtain resources that theretofore had been unavailable. Today, the Dubois Volunteer Fire Company is known as one of the best First Responder organizations – volunteer or career – in the nation.
During the early summer months of 1888, a disastrous event occurred in the city of DuBois. It was a mid-afternoon of June 18—a hot, breezy day—when smoke was seen billowing from the John Baker Hotel on West Long Avenue, presently the location of the B & O Freight House here in DuBois. There was an immediate response from the citizens to extinguish the raging fire. As a result, men from the Union and Independent Fire Companies in DuBois were called to battle the blaze.
However, it was a futile attempt, due to the breeze of that afternoon aiding the fire’s progress. As it gained momentum, with the ever present aid of the wind, the flames managed to jump from building to building, and eventually from street to street.
Firefighting equipment of that period was inadequate for this type of blaze compared to today’s scientifically advanced apparatus. The Union and Independent Fire companies were equipped only with hand drawn hose carts and a very small supply of hose. The raging fire made its way up Long Avenue and had engulfed the heart of the downtown business section of DuBois. At the same time, it spread in every direction, causing chaos to the already panic-stricken townspeople. People scurried into their businesses to remove all the valuables they could before they were destroyed.
Toward the conclusion of the day, the fire had exhausted itself after destroying nearly everything in its path. Ultimately, had it not been for the diligent efforts of the firefighters to extinguish the fire, the city would have been totally destroyed.
The effects of the fire were devastating; the city now was just a conglomeration of charred wood and rubble. Of the 166 business in downtown DuBois, only 6 remained standing. As a result of the catastrophe, the city deemed it necessary to organize a more adequate firefighting service.
This organization shall be known and designated as the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department. Its object shall be to systemize the work at fires, secure the unity of fireman and protection and preservation of lives and property from fire and other emergencies as may occur in the city and vicinity of DuBois, Pennsylvania.
The Volunteer Hose Company is the oldest hose company in DuBois. It was organized on June 25, 1888, and was the first firefighting unit to become a functioning city affiliate. The first home of this Volunteer Hose was a building located on West Scribner Avenue between Brady Street and High Street. At the present time, this is the home of the city offices and the DuBois Police Department. They moved to their present location of East Park Avenue and North Stockdale Street in 1949. The members of this ward are a hardworking, motivated group who are proud of their history and record of service. They have undeniably performed admirably for the community through the years, and feel privileged to be able to serve the good citizens of DuBois today and in the future.
Since 1994, the Volunteer Hose Company, with the help of their family and friends, have had a food booth at Community Days at the City Park. Since 1996, the main food has been hot sausage, haluski, and pierogies, making up the famous “Firemen’s Platter”. In fact, in 2012, they made 6,000 pierogies, 1,000 pounds of haluski, and 1,500 links of hot sausage.
Additionally, the volunteers have won a total of 12 Firefighter competitions amongst the five stations during “Firemen’s Week” – 1981, 1984, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2008, and 2011
In the late 1970s, family members of James Whitehill came across a pocket watch that was given to Mr. Whitehill. James Whitehill was a member of the Volunteer Hose Company. Not only did he serve from 1888 to 1904, but Chief Whitehill also was the first Fire Chief of the DuBois Fire Department.
Chief Whitehill received this pocket watch for his dedication and service. However, we do not know if it came from the Fire Department or the Hose Company, or just how it originated. The Whitehill family sent the watch to Tom Swauger in the late 1970s. Tom continued to keep the watch in safe keeping. As a result, in 2009, a new tradition began. Chief Joseph Bigar completed his term and at our banquet to honor Chief Bigar the “Whitehill Pocket Watch” was turned over to him for safe keeping, and it will be passed down to the next outgoing Fire Chief from the Volunteer Hose Company. At the present time, that would be Chief Blakley in 2019.
On July 11, 1890, the First Ward Hose Company of DuBois came into existence. Eventually, it would become known as Friendship Hose Company #2. Their original building was located at West Long, Grant, and State Streets. After almost 80 years at that location, Friendship Hose Company moved to its current location on South Main Street.
The J.E. DuBois Hose Company, or Third Ward, was originally organized as John E. DuBois Steam Engine Company in February 1888. They currently protect the City of DuBois, and are also on first alarm assignments in Clear Run and Treasure Lake. They have been in the firehall on First Street since 1961. Third Ward is currently a participating department under the education program of the Office of the State Fire Commissioner. Also, Third Ward has the equipment for an emergency shelter and sponsors both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.
O.G. Wilson (1916)
Elmer Hallstrom (1941 – 1942), (1967 – 1968)
M.L Males (1951 – 1952)
Frank Winslow (1959 – 1960)
Richard Males (1977 – 1978)
Bruce Berquist (1993 – 1994)
Scott Farrell (2003 – 2004)
James H. Corby (2009 – 2010)
The Fourth Ward Hose Company is the rescue company and air cascade for the City of DuBois and surrounding mutual aid companies. Fourth Ward also owns a hunting camp in Penfield, PA with a shooting range and area for trap shooting along with land that boarders state forest. Additionally, all members are able to use the camp and its facilities.
Both Trucks are equipped with hydraulic rescue tools, along with a wide range of other rescue and fire equipment. In addition, the members that crew these trucks are highly trained in a wide range of fire ground situations such as Rapid Intervention Team (RIT), rope and high angle rescue, vehicle rescue, heavy vehicle rescue, and a long list of other disciplines.
Shortly after the 5th Ward was formed in the summer of 1910, the Hose Company formed and was first located under Hands grocery store at the corner of Forest Ave. and S. Main St. where today stands a large apartment house.
In 1996, a new engine was designed and purchased from Sutphen Fire Equipment of Amlin, Ohio and is the current piece of apparatus used by the company. To begin with, the new engine had to be built to fit into the cramp spaces of the truck bay. Additionally, members chose a new paint color scheme for the city – a black over red design.
Since the engine has a six-man cab, this marks the end of riding on the outside of the apparatus “beaver tail” and jump seats which were on the past vehicles. It also has a 1,500 gallon pump with 500 gallons of water on board. Also, the engine currently carries 1,000 feet of 5 inch, 800 feet of 3 inch, 300 feet of 2 1/2 inch and 800 feet of 1 3/4 inch hose. For ease of access, it is equipped with a hydraulic ladder rack. Along with an assortment of regular firefighting tools, they also employ advanced trained members with a firefighter one or higher certification.
Goodwill hose Co #5 completed an addition to their current fire station at the corner of Spring Avenue and South State Street. The new addition was built behind the current fire station, and the fire engine now exits onto Spring Avenue. The building committee of Randy Schmidt (President and Past Chief), Jerry McIntosh (Past Chief), John “Lou” Emerick (Chief), Bud Short, and Joe Mitchell (Captain) worked with the City Manager and Council to develop plans for the 2,400 sq, ft. addition to include a large truck bay, and line officer office, storage room, bathroom, and mechanical room. What’s more, this is the first time Goodwill Hose Co #5 has a truck bay constructed for a Firetruck.
Volunteer Firefighters are heroic individuals. They champion the community during emergencies that devastates lives. Join the brave men and women at the DuBois Volunteer Fire Company. Your life will never the same.
When you become a Volunteer Firefighter for the DuBois Fire Company, you dedicate yourself to saving lives and property, no matter the emergency. As a result, first responders are heroes who gain benefits far beyond the station house.
We welcome all those who want to become a volunteer Firefighter with the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department. It’s required for all volunteers to be at least 18 years or older. Also, you must reside, work, or attend college in DuBois. If you are 16 – 18 years of age, you can start out as a Junior Firefighter.
© City of DuBois, 2023