Station 68 takes top honors at State Convention by Evan Taylor, Assistant Fire Chief
For 133 years, the Firemen’s Association of the State of Pennsylvania has held a convention within the commonwealth. This year’s was held in Norristown in conjunction with Norristown Borough’s bicentennial. Each year, the Association offers training and meetings for the betterment of all Pennsylvania firefighters.
The convention is capped with a parade open to any and all apparatus in the state. This parade produces fierce competition —trucks are shined, equipment is cleaned and dogs get groomed.
Usually parade participants simply ride in their trucks, but at the beginning of 2012 a few officers within the company hatched a hare-brained scheme: let’s march! It would be a first in the 63 year history of Valley Forge Fire Company. We had to learn how to march, and we asked the Valley Forge Highland Band to attend with the company.
For over four months members, firefighters, the auxiliary, and families helped to prepare our troops for the Norristown battleground. Weekly marching practices were held and every day crews cleaned every tool on each fire truck. Cleaning is tedious and time consuming, and often a clean tool will be used at an emergency scene. It has to be re-cleaned.
Judgment day arrived on Saturday, Sept 29th. Working in shifts, crews spent 48 solid hours cleaning and making finishing touches to our fire trucks. At 9 am, eight pieces of apparatus and 31 members traveled to Norristown to compete.
The morning hours were spent on the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital where each truck was examined with a fine-toothed comb. Judges looked for dirt and inspected the quality and condition of each item on the truck.
After a brief tour of the west end of Norristown (courtesy of some bad directions) we arrived at our staging area. The parade started at 1 pm, but Valley Forge was in the final division and the next few hours were spent finding snacks, socializing with old friends from other companies and making new friends. A few firefighters even snuck in a nap.
By 3:30 our group had moved into place. The event organizers gave the group the right of way and the streets of Norristown were ours to take—our day was ready to begin. The company formed behind our new friends in the Valley Forge Highland band and stepped off (left foot first) east on Marshall St. With over a mile to march on tired legs, Station 68 held strong.
Along the parade route we were greeted by many familiar faces, all there to support Valley Forge. Some had homemade signs while others yelled at the top of their lungs to a loved one marching. Some firefighters from other companies saluted us as we passed and many yelled that the group was “lookin’ good.” All that wonderful support strengthened the group, straightened any bad posture and motivated the crew to march well.
We entered the parade judging area on Main St. The crowds bellowed, the pipes echoed off the buildings and the drums drove the rhythm. We felt good and looked good but were exhausted from the past few days of frantic work.
After completing the parade route, most of the company rushed back to the fire house to return our equipment to service. A delegation of four firefighters remained to attend the awards ceremony at 7 pm.
At the station, many of the firefighters anxiously awaited the results. Text messages flew hoping to get some idea of the outcome and phone calls were coming in asking the same. We had no answers to give.
By 8:30 pm the awards had ended and still no word had come from our crew on the scene. Hope was starting to fade for any result. But right about then, our delegation suddenly returned in person holding not one but two trophies.
“First Place! Best Appearing Company! First Place! Best Pumper Tanker!” The room exploded as our firefighters, families and friends erupted into screams, high fives, and hugs. An absolutely incredible ending to months of work and an incredible, tiring day.
A huge “Thank You” to everyone who helped us with the preparation, motivation, and logistics for this event. Additional special thanks to Kimberton and Phoenixville Fire Companies for keeping a watchful eye on Schuylkill Township while we were gone.
"Protecting Your National Heritage" P.O. Box 62 630 Valley Park Road Valley Forge, PA 19481