PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh City Council gave overwhelming approval to have Pittsburgh firefighters provide protection for Ingram Borough.
This decision is not sitting well with people in the community, or the members of the Ingram Volunteer Fire Department.
About 2,000 people showed up at the borough council meeting Monday night in Ingram. They were armed with a petition with some 700 signatures, asking the council to keep the volunteer fire department open.
“Isn’t this kind of a slippery slope to go on?” asked one resident. “Because the city is hurting for money, don’t you think this is just a way they can incorporate Ingram into the city?”
Ingram Councilman Peter Fiset responded, “There is absolutely no interest in being swallowed up, or merging with the City of Pittsburgh. Not at all.”
The big issues facing leaders in Ingram is daytime fire coverage in the borough. Borough leaders say the fire department doesn’t have the manpower.
“Meeting after meeting, all I hear is there is a lack of volunteers, lack of manpower,” said Mayor Sharon Stetz. “I really want what’s best for the community. It was a wonderful show of support from the community tonight, but did you see any of them willing to step up and volunteer?”
Ingram Volunteer Fire Department Chief Don Browning agrees about the staffing issues, but said the department is adding new members.
“We have committed members at Ingram Volunteer Fire Department. We have not missed a call, we have always got apparatus out the door,” Chief Browning said.
One firefighter at the meeting said, “For the City of Pittsburgh to come and protect this borough, when we have every able body here, plus other communities who support us, it’s crazy.”
Chief Browning said the department has started a junior firefighter program aimed at helping get new volunteers. So far, that program has resulted in two new members, and a third ready to join.
“You have to consider all options. We’re very reasonable,” said Chief Browning. “We’ve had five new members in the last year-and-a-half, we are continuing to work.”
Councilman Fiset agrees with the shortage of volunteer firefighters.
“This is probably one of the best things that can happen, as far as getting everyone to understand what needs to go on. Volunteer fire departments in western Pennsylvania are under a serious threat, because they need manpower,” he said.