The Lock No. Four Volunteer Fire Company is comprised of members of the local community dedicated to provide fire and emergency services to the Borough of North Charleroi and surrounding municipalities. Our active volunteers come from all of walks of life. We have firefighters who work in a variety of regular jobs such as steelworker, store manager, emergency medical technician, truck driver, military recruiter, hospital supervisor, funeral director, auto repair garage owner, electrician, machine shop worker, crane operator, road department worker, gas well repairman, farmer, sales person, heavy equipment operator, mason, laborer, maintenance worker, college students and others.
Many volunteer fire departments across the state and country have been experiencing a shortage of volunteers due to a number of reasons. Our department has been lucky to retain a fairly decent force of active firefighters but we rarely turn away people willing to help.
In addition to our regular active firefighters, we have a junior firefighter program where young men and women between the ages of 16 and 17 may participate with certain activities at emergency calls and may participate in training alongside our firefighters. This program helps to instill a sense of community and volunteerism into our youth and at the same time keeps some of our local teenagers busy doing something productive. Recent changes in state training programs now allow many junior firefighters to become “certified” in a number of different classes before they become regular active members at age eighteen.
We also have some contributing members who help in ways other than active firefighting. These people assist us with other important facets of the volunteer fire service including fundraising. We have a need for people who can help with a variety of non-firefighting tasks such as computer data entry, clerical and public relations just to name a few. Sometimes there are people in our community who may be able to volunteer some time to help the department with some of these tasks or with fundraising but may not be interested or capable of becoming an active firefighter.
We are in need of special people who are willing to become part of our firefighting family. If you think you may be one of these people, please contact one of our firefighters for more information by selecting the "I want to volunteer" tab on the left side of the page.
Q) Why does someone volunteer to be a firefighter?
A) Most firefighters would likely answer that they volunteer to help people. The primary focus of firefighters is “to protect lives and property”; however, there is a level of excitement, thrill and risk that also helps to attract and retain members.
Q) What are the benefits of being a volunteer firefighter?
A) The biggest benefit comes in the form of self gratification. You know after returning from an emergency call that you and your fellow firefighters did the very best that you could to mitigate the emergency using the training and knowledge you have gained. There is no better feeling than knowing that the actions of you and your fellow firefighters likely saved a life, building or other property.
Q) What are the downfalls of being a volunteer firefighter?
A) The biggest downfalls of the volunteer fire service are fundraising and management. A volunteer fire department must have all members assist with fundraising but with everyone doing their share it isn't too hard. You must learn the skills to be able to safely help others and also learn ways to earn money just to be able to pay the bills and keep the doors open. The volunteer fire department, anyway you try to look at it, is a business. Decisions must be made regularly on how to spend money, raise funds, make proper investments keeping fiduciary responsibility in mind, plan for capital equipment replacement, building construction, renovations and additions, make decisions that may or may not be viewed as wise choice in the public eye, and plans must be made how to adapt to new and changing government regulations. We also must make decisions and take a stance on many issues involving the fire service, often having to appeal to public officials at the federal, state, county and local levels of the political arena. It also can be very difficult after returning from an emergency call when no matter what anyone could have done, the end result was tragic.
Q) Can I make money doing this?
A) No, there is currently no financial cash benefit for any of our firefighters, all our members volunteer with no compensation at all. Currently, the only financial benefit comes in the form of a life insurance policy for our regular active members but legislation has been in the works for several years to create incentive recruitment and retention programs. One such program proposed would pay a form of “retirement” based on years of service. This program has been referred to as the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP).
Q) How much training is required to become a volunteer firefighter?
A) Our department requires all new members to attend classes offered throughout different times of the year. We encourage new members to take a series of classes called “Essentials of Firefighting” which is certified from the PA State Fire Academy. Many other classes are offered throughout the year.
Q) What if I am afraid of heights or something else?
A) Anyone who is not comfortable with performing a certain task is usually not required to perform the task. You may, however, be required to pass certain physical skills to obtain certifications from the PA State Fire Academy.
Q) What kind of training is offered or available?
A) We have a number of firefighters certified in a variety of specialized fields in addition to firefighting basics. All firefighters are required to pass classes in National Incident Management Systems, Basic Firefighting and Hazardous Materials. Many others are certified in other fields such as Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (air masks), Vehicle Rescue, Rope Rescue, High Angle Rescue, Pump Operations, Confined Space Rescue, Handling Propane Emergencies, Use of Radiological Monitors, Aircraft Crash Fire Rescue, Advanced Respiratory Protection, Rapid Intervention Teams, Hazardous Materials Operations, Hazardous Materials Technician, Emergency Vehicle Operators Class, First Aid, Automatic External Defibrillators, CPR, Emergency Medical Technician, and Water Rescue Awareness to name a few.
Q) How do I become a firefighter?
A) First you must be sure that you are ready, willing and able to volunteer with your local fire company. Stop by the fire station any friday night during our regular weekly bingo event, and pick up an application. Regular business meetings are held the second Monday of each month.
Q) Do I have to buy my own equipment?
A) No, the Lock No. Four Volunteer Fire Company will provide you with the personal protective equipment and an alerting device (if available) for fire calls. New members typically will receive used gear to start. We do not usually purchase a new set of gear for a probationary member until the new member proves that they are going to be a serious, dedicated, active firefighter as each set of structural fire gear costs about $3,000.00 per person.
Q) How dangerous is it to be a volunteer firefighter?
A) Firefighters, volunteers and career firefighters alike, die or are killed throughout the United States and Pennsylvania each and every year. Firefighting is a physical, strenuous job and not for everyone. Firefighting does have a prescribed amount of risk that goes with the duties; however, properly trained firefighters learn the skills needed to avoid unnecessary risk and learn proper fireground management techniques to limit injuries and deaths. Sometimes though unfortunate circumstances occur which can cause injury and death.
For more information, call the Fire Company at 724-489-9988
Chief Fred Schwalb
1st Asst Chief Tim Marsich
2nd Asst Chief Dave Deffenderfer
1st Capt Brandon Schwalb
2nd Capt Kevin Klamorick
1st Lieut Mikey Roberts
Safety Officer Bill Castner Sr
Every Friday Night
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