L. SAUCON TWP., Pa. - Before a packed audience comprised mostly of the 67 firefighters from Lower Saucon Fire Rescue Co. #16 (LSFR), the township council Wednesday night instructed its municipal solicitor to draft a resolution designating "Number 16" the township's official all-volunteer fire department.
Council's backing of LSFR followed a presentation by its president and fire chief outlining their company's speedy response times to dispatch calls, in addition to the 716 fire calls it undertook in 2020.
The current LSFR is a merged organization, the result of the combination of the former Se-Wy-Co, Leithsville, and Southeastern fire companies. It now has $5.5 million in annual expenses, and is allotted $150,000 yearly from council, funded by taxpayers.
According to its leaders, LSFR is currently the largest volunteer fire department in Northampton County. The other fire department in the township, Steel City Fire Co., reportedly has only a handful of members.
Steel City Vice President and Fire Captain Kevin Kalman said the facts and figures included in the presentation, which compared side by side both companies' response numbers, are inaccurate. He also said they question the official role of councilman Tom Carocci as head of the township's fire services committee.
Kalman addressed the board following condemnations from Carocci and Steel City resident and former councilwoman Donna Louder over the fire company's lack of response to the township solicitor's multiple questions and reports due to the township finance director.
They also mentioned a recent insurance organization's communication, hinting fire insurance rates could go up for Steel City area residents because of the alleged lack of fire protection coverage from its hometown firefighters.
According to Carocci, the insurance services organization said it also is awaiting reports from Steel City.
Kalman blames the pandemic crisis for the reporting failures, and announced once again it plans on a merger with LSFR, however, he remarked he couldn't personally make any guarantees or promises Wednesday evening.
He did state, however, he and the firemen he represents fully agree with LSFR in their collective pledge to offer the best and speediest fire and rescue services to all of the communities they serve, especially the Steel City neighborhood.
"Although our numbers are few, we have the best interests of the community at heart," Kalman said. "We will do what we need to undertake the merger transition, but there should be some sensitivity to the loss of identity for Steel City."
Louder and Councilman Jason Banonis replied Steel City has made multiple, similar merger promises in the past for multiple years, but then backed out at the eleventh hour.
Treadwell said if next month, council passes the resolution he has been assigned to draft, it will stipulate LSFR as the municipality's designated fire company, but will not "decertify" Steel City. He added he received an email Tuesday from Steel City requesting a merger with LSFR.
Advocates said Steel City should surrender its wholly-owned fire station and equipment apparatus to the township, because of many previous failed merger attempts.