Red Lion, Felton and Windsor borough fire companies in merger talks

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Det. Don Hopple from York Area Regional Police and Red Lion Fire Chief Ben Rodkey investigate a work van fire that extended to the home on Chatham Ln in Windsor Township, Tuesday Jan. 16, 2018, . John A. Pavoncello photo

Volunteer fire companies in Felton, Windsor and Red Lion boroughs will take a vote in November to determine whether the three companies will merge to form a new regional company.

Leo Independent Fire Engine Co. No. 1 in Red Lion, Laurel Fire Co. No. 1 in Windsor borough and Union Volunteer Fire Co. in Felton would comprise the regional company.

"We have worked hard, we have worked long," said Chief Joseph Silar of the Red Lion company at a Red Lion Borough Council meeting Monday, Oct. 14.

The three departments have already drafted bylaws and are developing policies for the would-be regional company, Silar said.

Details about the merger, such as when and why the companies started discussions and potential names for the new regional company, were not immediately available.

Shortage: The pending merger comes amid a crisis-level shortage of emergency service volunteers across the state.

Pennsylvania's volunteer firefighter ranks have decreased from about 300,000 volunteers in the 1970s to about 38,000 in 2018, according to a state legislative report released in 2018.

Waning recruitment and retention of volunteers, as well as limitations on how fire companies are allowed to use relief funds, are two of several contributing factors cited in the report.

More than 90% of Pennsylvania's 2,462 fire companies are volunteer companies, according to the report.

Consolidation: Consolidating fire services is well-trodden territory in York County.

Fire departments in Springettsbury and Spring Garden townships merged in 2007 to form York Area United Fire and Rescue, and Manchester Township became a third chartered municipality in 2018.

Franklintown Community Fire Co. and Citizens’ Hose Co. of Dillsburg merged in 2018 to form Northern York County Fire Rescue.

And in 2017, Jackson Township's two volunteer fire companies, Nashville Fire Co. and Lincoln Fire Co., merged to become Nashville Volunteer Fire Co. 

Pending: The three volunteer companies involved in the now-pending merger provide services collectively to Felton, Red Lion and Windsor boroughs and to Windsor, Chanceford and North Hopewell townships.

At the Red Lion meeting, the Borough Council agreed to write an official letter of support stating the borough has no objections to the merger.

"Red Lion Borough Council will always, always back our volunteer fire department," said council President Tony Musso on Monday. "That will never be a doubt, ever."

Chief Scott Gingrich with the Union Volunteer Fire Co. said the company is working on the details of the merger and will make statement in early November, but he declined to comment further.

Chief James Pritchard with the Laurel Fire Co. No. 1 did not respond to requests for comment, but a representative from the company confirmed that Laurel is part of the pending merger.

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