In 1893, a group of men realizing the need for a fire company in Walnutport met in the George Roth Saloon and the Diamond Fire Company was organized. The organization received their charter on December 7, 1896. The company's first quarters were on South Canal Street where the meetings were held and the chemical fire wagon which members pulled was kept.
In 1902, the company bought land at Main and Washington Streets for the sum of $601. In 1910, construction began with lumber salvaged from the Citizen's Electric, Light, Heat & Power Company. Lewis Zellner and his force of men laid the cement foundation. It would measure 40 feet by 80 feet. The building was made of brick and when completed it would be one of the largest firehouses in the state. Lewis Thamerus was in charge of the brickwork and contractor; Daniel Kern was in charge of the carpenters. In November 1911, the first meeting of the Diamond Fire Company was held on the completed first floor. Countless hours of unselfish time was given by members to defray the cost of the building, but still a $3,000 mortgage was needed. Electricity to the company was furnished by the Citizens Electric, Light, Heat & Power Company of Walnutport, which was located between the Lehigh River and the canal, north of Main Street, at a cost of fifty cents a month.
As documented in the Oct. 27, 1911 edition of The Slatington News, the fire company held a carnival to help raise money for their new fire station. The article reads, "The grand carnival under the auspices of the Diamond Fire Company, in the new hose house, at Walnutport, opened Saturday evening and will be continued during the entire week. Notwithstanding the bad weather on Saturday evening, the attendance was very good. A feature of the carnival each evening is the show given by the members of the Diamond Dramatic Company. A visit will amply repay you for whatever investment you make and incidentally prove of benefit to the Diamond Fire Company in helping to pay for its new home."
Over the years the fire company held many circuses. The first large weeklong circus was held in 1963 and it ran from Monday through Saturday. In the early 1950s smaller circuses were held in the borough that ran for only two or three days.
In November 1912, the H.J. Feldhedge Silk Manufacturing Company requested to rent the unfinished second floor for a silkmill and they would install a stairway, floor, steam heating plant and furnish heat to the company at no charge in return for the use of the premises for five years. This was agreed upon by members and a five year contract was signed at $15 per month the first year and $25 per month the last four years. The silk company leased the second floor in 1917 for ten years at $35 per month and they built the annex to the first floor at no cost to the company.
In 1913, Town Council started holding their meetings in the fire company and a two cell "lock up" was installed in the basement of the company.
In September 1915, a 48-inch "Hymer" bell was installed at the fire company at a cost of $156.00 for the bell. The bell was used as a fire alarm until the early 1940's when a siren was installed.
The mortgage of the fire company was paid off in April of 1918 and mortgage burning ceremonies were held on February 22, 1919.
In January 1922, the company signed an agreement with Lewis Sauerwine of Slatington to install their chemical apparatus on a one ton Ford with pneumatic tires, electric starter, generator and battery at a cost of $1,150.21.
In 1923, the newly organized Walnutport State Bank moved into the fire company. They leased their operations from the fire company until April 1978 when they moved to 500 Main Street in the Borough of Walnutport.
In 1946, the company purchased a 1946 Mack 500 gallon pumper which is shown in the center with the three Slatington fire companies.
In June of 1963, a new American LaFrance 1000 G.P.M. custom pumper was purchased at a cost of $31,000. From 1963 until June of 1969 the American LaFrance and Mack pumpers served the community. In June of 1969 the Mack truck was sold to Robert Martin of Martin Volkswagon to be kept as an antique. An American LaFrance Pioneer truck was then purchased for $24,000. The American LaFrance 1000 G.P.M. custom pumper is pictured below along with Chief Kelton "Kelly" Wentz and Assistant Chief Larry Merkle.
On June 20 & 21, 1975 the fire company hosted the 78th Annual Four-County Firemen's Association convention and parade that drew thousands of spectators to a 2-1/2 hour, nine-division parade that wound through the borough streets. Larry Merkle, fire company president and Four County president, convened a convention meeting that was held in the company hall on June 20. That same evening a banquet was held at the Northampton Community Center. The community took on a festive air with "Welcome Firemen" banners strung across the various entrances to the community. Business places and private homes were also bedecked in bunting and signs.
Our social quarters were organized in the early 1930's when we received our license. In June of 1962, due to an income tax problem, we received our charter as the Diamond Fire Company Home Association. Our social quarters were remodeled in 1964 and the hall on the second floor, which had been used for dances, bingo and wedding receptions in the past, was remodeled in February of 1968.
Seeing a need for a new social hall, on December 30, 1976 the apartment building located west of our original premises was purchased. This was the site of the former Slate Exchange Hotel and Costenbader's Apartments.
In April 1977 the apartment building was demolished and in October 1977 ground was broken to begin building our new social hall. The shell of this 80-foot by 250-foot brick-front steel frame hall, that seats close to 1000 people, was erected at a cost of $98,000. Central air conditioning, kitchen, bandstand and office were added to the interior of the building for a total estimated cost of $250,000. Volunteers did much of the work which saved as much as $15,000 for the fire company.
After several years of thought, discussion and investigation, the decision to begin purchasing some new equipment was made. Our community was growing rapidly. The addition of a shopping mall, a new housing development and several eating establishments within the Borough of Walnutport, led us to believe that a ladder truck could be utilized in our community. In light of the aforementioned, in May of 1981, a 75-foot American LaFrance Water Chief ladder truck with a 1500 GPM pump was purchased at a cost of $161,000. This vehicle was built in Elmira, New York.
In November 1982, the company spent $127,000 to obtain an American LaFrance/Saulsbury 3200 gallon tanker to handle the community's water problem. This vehicle was built in Tully, New York.
Because we had acquired those two trucks, we found it necessary to purchase a 1982 Chevrolet diesel step van to be used as an equipment truck to carry the equipment needed to perform sufficiently when called to a fire. The cost of this equipment truck was $20,000.
Now that we had the ladder truck, the problem of where to house it was solved by building a garage alongside the borough public works garage at the rear of our new social hall. A new garage was also added to our original garage to house the new tanker and equipment truck.
The poor condition of the original building brought the decision to renovate the facility. Weather had caused wear and tear on the bricks, and upon putting an addition to the building, a large crack appeared. The building received a facelift in 1982. In addition to the white brick stucco, new windows were installed on the second floor to improve the appearance of the building and two large picture windows were changed on the first floor in the front of the building. Between the sidewalks and the building on Main Street there is a brick wall with shrubbery and flowers. The surrounding lots were also blacktopped in 1982.
In 1982 with the acquisition of the new apparatus, the 1969 American LaFrance Pioneer High Pressure pumper was sold to Fannett Metal Fire Company in Dry Run (Franklin County), Pennsylvania.
On June 4, 1983 the fire company held a truck and building dedication ceremony that brought a celebration to the streets of Walnutport in the form of a fireman's parade. There was a dedication program in commemoration of the acquisition of new fire equipment, renovations to the fire company building and grounds, and the recently built social hall adjacent to the fire company building on Main Street.
In 1983, a Chevrolet/Saulsbury 4-wheel drive mini-pumper was purchased to enable off-road firefighting at a cost of $56,000. This vehicle was built in Tully, New York.
In 1986, due to the high cost of a new pumper, it was decided to refurbish our 1963 American LaFrance pumper. It was completed at a cost of $110,000. The work was done by American LaFrance Service Center in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.
Due to the need for a larger fire station, ground was broken in September of 1990. We moved into the 85' x 102' fire station on April 2, 1992. Most of the work was done ourselves including all painting, insulation, wall studs, paneling, ceiling, doors and staining of the wood trim. It took longer than expected but, it was well worth it. The building's cost, including contents, cost over $350,00.00.
The station was built because of the need for a larger facility to house our fire apparatus, training space, maintenance area, bathrooms, storage areas and office space. All we had prior were 2 garage bays housing four pieces of apparatus and our tanker was housed in a garage by the borough public works garage.
The new fire station also features:
We had a dedication and parade for the new station on August 21st, 1993.
Due to the large number of vehicle accidents in our area, the "Jaws of Life" was purchased with the help of local civic organizations, businesses, and legislative initiative grants. This system was placed in service October of 1994 and has been beneficial on numerous occasions in the Northern Lehigh area. Now having the "Jaws of Life" rescue system, a larger vehicle was needed to carry this equipment to better serve the Walnutport and Northern Lehigh area. On July 26, 1995, we received our new Rescue-Pumper that was built by Saulsbury Fire Apparatus in Preable, New York. The cost was $370,000.00.
The fire company hosted the Four County Firemen's Association convention and parade for the second time on June 22, 1996. Fire Chief John Kirchner was elected president of the Four County Firemen's Association. More than 85 fire companies featuring about 220 trucks with seven bands and eight marching units were in the parade that was held in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the fire company. On Friday evening, at a banquet that was held at the Northampton Community Center, the fire company presented a plaque to Larry and Doneta Merkle honoring their years of service to the fire company. During Larry's 29 years of service he served as trustee, president, assistant chief and fire chief. Doneta served as the company's recording secretary for 17 years. A highlight of the weeklong festivities, which included the parade and a carnival, was the dedication of the fire company's new Saulsbury pumper in memory of the late Kelton "Kelly" Wentz who served as fire chief for 25 years and dedicated 40 years of service to the company. He was the company's financial secretary when he died in 1984.
In May of 1999 we obtained a 1970/86 AMC General 6X6 from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry at no cost. After extensive refurbishing by our personnel at a cost of $9,000, this brush vehicle was placed into service in May of 2000.
Also in May of 2000, the 1963/86 American LaFrance pumper and 1981 American LaFrance 75' Water Chief were sold to Elkland Fire Department in Tioga County, Pennsylvania for $150,000 ($30,000 for the pumper and $120,000 for the ladder).
In September 2003, Attack 2971 became QRS certified by the Eastern Pennsylvania EMS Council.
In October of 2003 the 1982 American LaFrance/Saulsbury tanker was refurbished by Swab Wagon Company in Elizabethville, Pennsylvania for $32,405. New side dumps were added along with additional lighting.
In August of 2005 we became Pennsylvania State Certified and received rescue certification at the operations level with the Department of Health and Office of the State Fire Commissioner. Unit 2941 was the first rescue-pumper certified by the Eastern Pennsylvania EMS Council which covers six counties. As of August, 2008 we re-certified at the advanced level.
To replace our aging 1982 squad truck, in January of 2006 we purchased a used 1993 International/Swab rescue truck from Macungie Fire Company at a cost of $65,000. Additional work at a cost of $22,649 was done and the truck was put into service in May 2007. This vehicle is also "QRS" certified through Eastern Pennsylvania EMS Council.
In March of 2007 the 1982 squad truck was sold for $5,000 to Walnutport Authority to be used as a utility vehicle.
We purchased a Polaris Ranger 700 ATV for $15,548.56 with a State Fire Commissioner grant. This was placed into service in February 2008. A skid unit for the ATV was purchased in July 2009 at a cost of $7,225. The unit is equipped with an 80 GPM pump, 50 gallon water tank, 5 gallon class "A" foam tank and patient transportation capability.
In July of 2008 we received a 1988 Ford F-350 crew-cab pickup truck from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry at no cost. After painting, lettering and the installation of emergency warning lights, compartments and radio's, the vehicle was placed into service as a utility vehicle.
In April, 2008 we received a $67,488.00 FEMA grant to purchase a safety trailer, fire engine robot and "SparkyŽ" costume. These teaching aids were partly funded by a collaboration of the Northern Lehigh Emergency Services which consists of Emerald, Friedens, Slatedale, Slatington and Walnutport Fire Departments, Slatington and Walnutport Police Departments and Northern Valley EMS. The safety trailer was delivered October 1st, 2008.
On November 14, 2008 our department was awarded a FEMA grant in the amount of $261,250 to purchase an interface pumper. The Interface pumper was ordered on December 28, 2008 from KME Fire Apparatus in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania at a cost of $380,742. This new vehicle replaced our aging attack pumper and tanker. The new pumper was delivered September 3rd, 2009.
Click image for pictures of the unit.
On January 11, 2009 the 1983 Saulsbury Attack pumper was sold to an individual in Fairview, Ohio for $9,000 and on February 7, 2009 the 1982 American LaFrance/Saulsbury tanker was sold to Mid America Fire Apparatus in Rogersville, Missouri.
On January 22, 2010 our department was awarded a FEMA grant in the amount of $16,247.00 to purchase a thermal imaging camera and two carboxyhemoglobin oximeters. The oximeters are used to determine the level of carbon monoxide within the blood by screening patients and firefighters alike. We also have donated one of the oximeters to Northern Valley EMS to be used for firefighter rehab at large fire scenes.
On April 16, 2010 our department was awarded a regional FEMA grant in the amount of $203,931.00 to purchase fourty-two mobile data terminals that will be installed in emergency apparatus. This grant was partly funded by a collaboration of the Northampton County Sector 4 Emergency Services that consist of Bath, Northampton, North Catasauqua, Walnutport, Allen Township, East Allen Township, Lehigh Township and Moore Township Fire Departments and Bath, East Allen Township, Moore Township and Northampton Regional Emergency Medical Services.
On June 19 & 26, 2010 we co-hosted, along with the Slatington Fire Department, the 113th Annual Four County Firemen's convention and parade.
Today, the Diamond Fire Company proudly protects approximately 2,100 people living in an area of less than two square miles. We operate out of one station that protects a primarily residential and small business area. Our department's members are 100% volunteer and our fire district has an ISO rating of 5.
Even though Walnutport Borough is physically located in Northampton County, the Diamond Fire Company is primarily, and always has been dispatched by the Lehigh County 9-1-1 Center located in Allentown. However, effective in 2008, our station can also be dispatched by Northampton County 9-1-1 Center when responding mutual aid with Northampton County fire departments.
Since March of 2000, our department has been a participant of the Pennsylvania Fire Service Certification Program. We also have placed in service three Automated External Defibrillators (AED) that we run automatically with our local EMS provider (Northern Valley EMS) on cardiac arrests and unconscious persons. Our department is well trained and equipped with the most modern equipment available.
This shows that we continue to strive to better serve the safety and welfare of our fellow citizens and neighboring communities.
The Diamond Fire Company is owned and operated by its members, having to raise funds to purchase equipment, meet the overhead on equipment and keep our property maintained. The Borough of Walnutport, through tax dollars, also provides much needed funds to pay the insurance on our equipment, apparatus and station, training expenses, fuel and fire equipment for which we are very grateful. We also have in the past and continue to have an excellent working relations with Walnutport Borough Council to provide the best possible emergency services for our citizens.
We want to thank our old-timers for giving us a good start and we want to thank all the people who have supported us in the past, as well as today. Our goal is to furnish the most well trained and supply the best firefighting equipment and protection that we possibly can.