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North York selects York City Fire after Liberty disbands

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
York City Fire Department Chad Deardorff poses with equipment at Rex/Laurel Fire Station on South Duke Street Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. The station is the oldest continually operating station in the country. He is replacing Dave Michaels who retired recently after serving as chief since 2012. Bill Kalina photo

The York City Department of Fire and Rescue Services will take over coverage of North York in February, following the permanent closure of the borough's Liberty Fire Co. 

The unanimous vote from North York Borough Council during a special meeting Thursday night approved a three-year contract costing $70,000 in the first year, with a 2% annual increase.

York City Fire will begin covering North York on Feb. 11.

"It was brought to us, we gave an offer, and we'll just continue with what we've been doing," York City Fire Chief Chad Deardorff said.

York Area United Fire and Rescue also sought a contract with North York, which would have cost $85,000 in the first year and included a 5% increase in the second year of a two-year contract.

YAUFR Chief Daniel Hoff said North York had two good options, and either agency would provide the borough with quality service.

"We have a good working relationship with York City; they know we're going to be there if they need us," Hoff said. "I've told this borough before, I don't need an agreement to be a good neighbor. We're going to come help when they need it."

North York paid $62,507 for fire services to Liberty Fire Co. in 2020, according to the borough's budget.

Officials with Liberty Fire Co. said the closure was the result of ongoing issues with volunteer retention and finances. 

The closure also comes three months after former chief Stephen Miller was charged with embezzling more than $16,000 from the organization between 2015 and 2019.

"We just can't survive anymore," said Liberty Fire Co. Deputy Chief Kerry Herman on Jan. 16. "It's not safe to the residents of North York borough to not have a fire department that's gonna respond. We had to give up. It's all we can do."

Volunteer companies across the state have also struggled in recent years.

Firefighter ranks decreased from about 300,000 volunteers in the 1970s to 38,000 in 2018, according to a state legislative report from 2018.

In an effort to avoid imminent closures of their companies, many departments in York County have merged to form larger, regional organizations. 

Most recently, on Jan. 16, Yoe Fire Co. and Rescue Fire Co. No. 1 in Dallastown merged to form Southern Area Fire and Emergency Rescue, or SAFER.

More:After ex-chief charged with embezzling, North York's Liberty Fire Co. disbands

York City's fire department has worked closely with Liberty Fire Co. for a number of years. It has regularly provided personnel and equipment to assist Liberty Fire Co., Deardorff said. 

York City Fire handled nearly 40 emergency calls in North York in 2020, he added.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.