One fire department, three stations as Lower Mac and Alburtis merge
After nearly a year of discussion and planning, Lower Macungie Fire Department Chief David Nosal and Alburtis Fire Department Chief Donald Smith Jr. told the Lower Macungie Township Board of Commissioners the two fire departments would begin to consolidate Jan. 1, with the goal of complete integration of the two entities by the end of 2018.
Nosal told the township commissioners at the Dec. 21, 2017 meeting the consolidation would strengthen fire and rescue related services in the rapidly growing western portion of Lehigh County.
Nosal said he anticipated the consolidation would reduce costs for not only the fire departments, but for Alburtis Borough and Lower Macungie Township as well.
“The consolidated department,” Nosal said, “will be able to better plan and use new apparatus and eliminate duplication of fire and rescue equipment that has been the case with separate fire agencies.”
The new department will retain the Lower Macungie Fire Department name and will operate out of three fire stations: the Wescosville Station at 958 Brookside Road; the Brandywine Station at 6229 Sauerkraut Lane, adjacent to the East Penn School District’s Willow Lane Elementary School and the Alburtis Station at 328 South Main St., Alburtis.
Plans call for new apparatus at the three stations within five years. The Lower Macungie Fire Department has decided to divide the two existing stations with new station numbers (80 and 81) and new dispatch tones effective Jan. 1.
“This will decrease the responses of each station by approximately 100 per year with the goal of avoiding ‘burn out’ of the members.” Nosal said. This will additionally increase the number of calls that will be able to be handled “in-house” to about 98 percent, and decrease the number of mutual aid calls from other municipalities, he said. This will have the added benefit of bringing back state funds that would otherwise go to outside departments sending mutual aid.
Consolidation will increase the combined number of volunteers to about 65. The department will have one chief, two deputy chiefs and an assistant chief at each station.
“Those six chief officers will allow for better command coverage for both municipalities by dramatically decreasing gaps in command coverage for emergency dispatches due to work schedules and vacation time,” Nosal said.
The three stations have agreed on a common training schedule and will begin consolidated training this month.
Nosal outlined apparatus replacement plans and financing projections into the 2030 decade.
Nosal said the proactive approach by the two departments reflects the national trend of decreasing numbers of volunteers going into the fire service, while population growth in the western Lehigh County region increases the need for stronger fire and rescue services.
Nosal said he sees consolidation as a trend for fire departments across the region.
“We saw this as inevitable in the future. We are just doing it sooner rather than later,” Nosal said.