In response to funding limitations and other serious challenges, the Riegelsville Community Fire Company and the Ottsville Volunteer Fire Company are going to consolidate into a single entity.
The announcement was made by Ottsville’s Fire Chief Bill Shick at the Feb. 18 Nockamixon Township public board of supervisors meeting.
Shick said both companies had voted to consolidate, and that they were hiring a consulting company to prepare a draft formalization of the change, targeting the beginning of next year for moving forward as a new entity.
The Riegelsville entity, a full-service engine and rescue company, was established in 1898 and serves the Borough of Riegelsville, as well as Durham and Nockamixon townships. The Ottsville entity, established in 1940, also full-service engine and rescue, serves both Nockamixon and Tinicum townships, and also serves parts of Bedminster and Haycock townships.
In an in-depth presentation at the January Nockamixon supervisors’ meeting, Shick noted a membership challenge of 50% of the volunteers being over 45 years of age, and less than 15% 22 and younger, suggesting a shortage down the road. He also noted response to his company’s annual fundraising drive at that time, which had always been less than hoped for, as down from 26% to 18%.
With volunteer time increasingly needed for training, maintenance, and equipment, members no longer had time for fundraising, he said. Since that presentation, the pandemic has obviously not helped the situation.
Meanwhile, he had also noted that townships are growing and so is call volume, and that the “time is gone when fire companies can be 100% self-sufficient.” He added that the situation was not only common to Upper Bucks, but was statewide, and might be headed toward consolidation as the leading consideration for change.
Also at that 2020 meeting, Township Manager Keith DeLuca noted the issues were common, informal topics at meetings of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS). DeLuca indicated that barriers to consolidation had more to do with townships having a meeting of the minds than their fire companies, and that he would be starting to raise the issues with neighboring townships, while Shick did so with his own peers.
At the conclusion of Shick’s Feb. 18 presentation, Supervisor Chair Bill Sadow said “good.”