The York County fire department selected to host this year's firefighters convention is actually older than the convention itself.

The West York Fire Department, founded as Reliance Fire Co. 110 years ago, will play host to the 102nd York County Fireman's Convention and the accompanying parade on Saturday.

Since it was founded, the department has developed a history and traditions that will play a key part in the festivities, organizers said.

"That's kind of what we want to do — bring history back," said Doug Eash, deputy chief.

But the department is also looking to liven things up a bit by including family-oriented activities.

Vendors, including food sellers, a bounce house shaped like a fire truck, and other children's activities will occupy the department's parking lot before and after the parade, which will step off from the York Expo Center at 1 p.m., Eash said.

"We decided we wanted to make it small and simple," said Tonya Frey, president of the department.

Parade: Leading the parade will be the department's oldest piece of apparatus it still owns: a 1931 Buffalo pumper truck.

Riding in the open-air rig will be grand marshals Annemarie Baker, the widow of longtime fire chief Morris "Mose" Baker Jr., and former chief John Blankenstein.

Morris Baker was chief from 1961 to 2002. He died in 2007 at 78. Blankenstein was a longtime assistant chief and later served as chief for a few years after Baker retired before he, too, left the fire service.

So far, 75 pieces of apparatus, "everything from hand-drawn to engine operated," have been registered to take part in the parade, Eash said.

Some of the antique pieces, including two hook-and-ladder trucks, are in the hands of private collectors, he said.

A photograph of a 1921 American LaFrance engine in an undated parade. Submitted photo
A photograph of a 1921 American LaFrance engine in an undated parade. Submitted photo

Tradition: In keeping with tradition, the department, which has 30 volunteer members and eight paid firefighters, will dedicate its new ladder truck following the parade.

The department recently placed into service a 2010 ladder truck it bought used.

The dedication ceremony includes firefighters "pushing" the truck into the station, a tradition that dates back to a time when firefighters would push much lighter hand-drawn and horse-drawn fire fighting equipment into stations, Eash said.

Getting ready: To get the West York station spruced up for the convention, the department's truck bay was power washed and painted and plaques that hang in front of the station were restored, Frey said.

In planning the convention, she said organizers wanted to keep activities in a general area, making it easier for those who attend to take in as much as possible.

"Our members put in a lot of work and effort into preparing for this event," said Ed Washington, the chief. "My hope ... is that our fellow firefighters, and everyone who comes to the event has a good time, enjoys themselves and has a feeling for all the effort that all emergency responders do throughout the county."

The parade: Part of the 102nd annual York County Firefighters Association Convention, the parade will get under way at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The parade steps off from the West Philadelphia Street gate of the York Expo Center heading west before turning left onto North Clinton Street. It will then go east on West Market Street and end at the West Market Street gate of the expo center.

A reviewing stand will be set up at the West York Fire station, 1341 W. Market St.

Residents who live along the parade route are being encouraged by the West York Fire Department to fly American flags during the parade.

Activities, including food vendors, will begin at 10 a.m. in the fire station parking lot.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.