Yoe and Dallastown fire services merge to form 'SAFER' regional company

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Two more York County fire companies have joined the trend of emergency service regionalization by pooling their talent and resources to form a larger company.

Yoe Fire Co. and Rescue Fire Co. No. 1 in Dallastown recently merged to form Southern Area Fire and Emergency Rescue, or SAFER.

"We’ve always worked very close with Dallastown so ... it was a natural fit," said Barry Myers, former chief and president of Yoe Fire Co. and the new president of SAFER.

Both companies will continue operating out of their respective stations, Myers said, and in May they will officially go online at York County 911 as Station 13-1 and Station 13-2.

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The combined company has  20 to 25 active members, Myers said.

Two other volunteer fire companies in the region — York Township Fire Co. and Goodwill Fire Co. No. 1 in Jacobus — chose not to merge with Yoe and Dallastown, but the option is always there if they change their minds in the future, Myers said.

Southern Area Fire and Emergency Rescue, or SAFER, President Barry Myers is shown at Station 13-1 in York Township, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. The Dallastown station, formerly known as Resuce Fire Co. No. 1, recently merged with Yoe Fire Co. and will begin operations as the new entity, SAFER, in May. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Myers has been with Yoe Fire Company for 44 years and served as chief for about 20 of those years.

In the early days, there were so many volunteers at Yoe that when a fire call went out, Myers said there wasn't enough room on the trucks for everyone who responded.

Business owners who were volunteers would shut down their shops and race to the fire company, he said.

But as people got older, retired from their businesses or moved out of the area, the number of active volunteers waned.

"Unfortunately, the volunteer fire side, I don’t care where it’s at — it’s a dying breed," Myers said.

York County's fire companies are not alone in the struggle.

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

Firefighter Adam Friend, left, of the former Yoe Fire Co., and Lt. Bob Bracken of the former Dallastown Rescue Fire Co. No. 1,  explore tanker apparatus outside of the recently formed Southern Area Fire and Emergency Rescue (SAFER) Station 13-1 in York Township, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. The two companies recently merged and will begin operating as the new entity in May. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Depleted ranks and lack of funds have led to many companies merging, and regional consolidation has become familiar territory in York County in recent years.

In late 2019, Leo Independent Fire Engine Co. No. 1 in Red Lion and Union Volunteer  Fire Co. in Felton merged to form Alliance Fire and Rescue Services.

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. 

York Township Commissioner George W.W. Jones Jr. said the merger between the Yoe and Dallastown companies, both of which serve York Township, will allow them to combine their costs for training and equipment and expand the ranks of their membership.

"It just generally gives them a larger pot of finances to work with, as well as additional talent," Jones said.

The York Township Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday in support of the merger.

Officials from Rescue Fire Company No. 1 in Dallastown could not be reached for comment.