Back when Tim Meyers was a student at Pitt-Johnstown, he didn’t live in a dorm like the others.
Instead, he lived above the Richland Township Fire Department, where he was always standing by.
“A lot of long nights and a lot of early mornings. But it was definitely worth it. I tell people all the time, I classify it at five of the best years of my life,”
When that alarm would sound, Meyers would be just steps away from a fire truck instead of having to drive in.
Those few minutes could mean life or death, according to Bill Lehmann, the President and Training Officer of the Richland Township Fire Department.
“It allows the department to have a very, very rapid response time. Whereas a traditional volunteer fire department might take minutes three, four, five minutes to assemble a crew and respond, our live-in crews can be out the door in 90 seconds or there about,”
Lehmann said they’re the busiest volunteer fire department in all of Cambria and Somerset Counties.
While they have eight rooms available for firefighters to live in, they only have one living there full-time.
“We’d love to have eight. We’d love to put double bunks in them and have 16. But eight would be a great goal,”
One way they’re trying to reach that goal: a new scholarship fund to attract live-in firefighters to the department.
It’s through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.
Since many live-in firefighters are students, the incentive is to provide scholarships to help them with education expenses.
“As long as they’re attending an institution of learning, maintain a grade point average, and also meet the requirements of our live-in program, they’ll be awarded some money to help offset educational expenses,”
The Community Foundation’s $7,000 donation was matched by the 1889 Foundation to help the fire department get started on their mission.
That’s according to CFA’s Communications Officer Kecia Bal, who helps hundreds of local organizations with their initiatives.
“We were happy to help them get this moving and get it started, raise awareness for the program and how important it is, and just support a very busy regional fire department,”
To spare the extra miles for those who go the extra mile.
“The experience you gain is invaluable, because you are always the first one there. You’re always the first one to see everything and make those decisions on what to do next sometimes before maybe a chief gets there. You’re in charge and it’s your show,”