Whitehall fire 2

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. – A fire that engulfed a Whitehall Township home Monday morning spurred discussion about the township's firefighting force and its future during Monday night's board of commissioners meeting.

The blaze, which ripped through a residential home in the 900 block of Pennsylvania Street, illustrated how challenged the township is for volunteer firefighters, said one commissioner.

"Today was a pretty serious day in Whitehall," said Vice President Joseph Marx Jr. "I am concerned."

Marx added that firefighters "went into that fire without any backup," because, he said, there was no backup.

"I think that is unacceptable," Marx added. "I don't know what the answers are, but we need to get more bodies on the ground. We've discussed this for a number of years, but I think we are at a critical mass right now … We need to sit down and have a serious conversation moving forward about what we're going to do."

Mayor Michael Harakal agreed, adding the township has looked at the issue and will continue to do so until a resolution is reached.

"This is the toughest problem we're going to have for a while," said Harakal.

"And the most expensive," added President Philip Ginder.

Industrial and commercial development authority

In other news, commissioners approved an ordinance to extend the Whitehall Township Industrial and Commercial Development Authority's term of existence until Dec. 31, 2070. The extension is needed to "enable the continuation of its mission and to enable long-term financing to carry out its stated goals."

Trail and watershed improvements

Commissioners also approved two resolutions to seek grants from state agencies. The first requests money for the Ironton Rail Trail improvement project. The second seeks funds for the Coplay Creek streambank restoration project.

In-person meetings

Finally, Ginder discussed when the township again plans to hold in-person meetings. The administration complex, where the meetings are usually held, is undergoing significant upgrades. Ginder added that utilizing Whitehall-Coplay School District space is not an option.

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