The buildings that housed the Willow Grove Fire Company, Lodge Hall, Bowling Alleys and Club, shown below on the left, were located on the east side of York Road opposite Cherry Street from 1906 to 1924.
Historic accounts mention the existence of a Fire Company in Willow Grove as early as 1854. Also, one of the first hand drawn maps dated 1857 notes a “Fire Engine” located near what is now the intersection of Easton and York Road, near the Ehrenpfort Block. But little is known about this group, and it must have been disbanded by the turn of the century, because after a destructive fire on November 21, 1906, a group of citizens recognized the need for a fire company and held several organizational meetings at the Knights of Columbus Hall, near York Road and Cherry Street.
Several prominent business and professional residents signed a petition and an application for Charter was filed with the Montgomery County court on December 26, 1906. Some of the notable petitioners were Samuel Keightley, J. B. Houpt, William McAvoy, P. W. Triebels, David Nolan and Jesse Winder.
Other prominent citizens named as officers included : W. L. Kentner, George Wynkoop, John Larzelere, Henry Specht, J. Dyre Moyer, W. B. Cornell and George W. Quigley.
On March 6, 1907 the County Court granted the charter and the WILLOW GROVE VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY No. 1’s first order of business was to purchase some equipment.
A horse drawn cart was purchased and kept at the Knights of Columbus Lodge on Old York Road near Cherry Street. An old metal railroad wheel was donated by Baldwin Locomotive to be used as a fire alarm. When a fire was detected, the first person to arrive at the lodge would strike the wheel with a sledgehammer to alert the firemen.
In 1908 a water line was extended from Abington Township along Moreland Road to Cherry Street and the Township’s first fire hydrants were installed.
Between 1912 and 1924, the Company operated several makeshift used motorized vehicles. The first new motorized apparatus purchased by the Company was a 1924 American LaFrance triple combination pumper (shown on the right). This piece of apparatus was purchased; after member Roy Sellers contacted the American LaFrance company and found out that they had a pumper that was originally ordered by the Boston FD. Boston was not able purchase this pumper so WGVFC#1 got the money together and bought it. This now antique apparatus, affectionately known as “Bertha”, has been fully restored and is still maintained today as a showpiece by the Fire Company and Township.
In 1925, a two story brick building was constructed at 221 Davisville Road to house the new apparatus. As the town grew, and additional equipment was purchased, the building received additions and expansions in both 1937 and 1949. This building is still standing and houses the Volunteer Fireman’s Relief Association of the Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Company #1. The second story corner stone is visible from Davisville Road.
In 1932, the Fire Police unit was organized to assist police with traffic and crowd control at fire scenes. Today the unit also assists the Township police at accident scenes, power outages, parades, and searches.
During WWII, due to the shortage of firefighters, seniors at Upper Moreland High School were permitted to respond to fire calls to assist in protecting the community.
The present firehouse at Davisville Road and Abbeyview Avenue was built in 1967 and dedicated in 1968 along with the Company’s first tractor trailer (tiller) American LaFrance ladder truck. A three-hour parade with over 2500 firefighters representing 96 companies was the highlight of the festivities.
In the 1970’s the Company contracted with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to be the primary fire responder for a ten-mile stretch of that limited access toll road.
As many of the farms in the northern portion of the Township were sold for housing development and shopping centers, there became an increasing need for additional fire protection for that area. In 1993, a sub-station of the Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Company was constructed on Davisville Road near County Line Road at the Marketplace shopping center.
In early 1999 a 1994 LTI “Tiller” was backed into the firehouse to replace the Ladder truck that had been in service since 1982, when the old tiller was replaced. In December of 1999, after many months of hard work and determination, it was placed in service.
Today’s modern volunteer Fire Company uses pagers instead of railroad wheels for alarms, and receives many hours of extensive training to handle the numerous hazards that did not exist years ago. The Willow Grove Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 responded to over 900 fire calls in 2003.
A new addition to the main station at 227 Davisville Rd. was completed in 2005. This addition has an office area for the career staff and will also has a glass enclosed area for the public to see“Bertha”. In early 2006 the specification process was started for the purchase of a new pumper. The bid will be awarded some time near the end of 2006.
CHIEFS OF THE WILLOW GROVE VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY No. 1
|1907 – 1918||Unknown||1942 – 1957||Kirk*||1987 – 1988||Kaiser|
|1919 – 1921||Corson||1958 – 1964||Outten||1989 – 1994||Perlmutter|
|1922 – 1924||Slugg||1965 – 1967||Akers Sr.||1995- 1996||Rewald*|
|1925||Turner||1968 – 1969||Schultz Sr.*||1996 – 2000||Tolton*|
|1926 – 1927||Swayze*||1969 – 1971||Akers Sr.*||2000 – 2003||Focht*|
|1927 – 1928||Turner*||1972 – 1974||Tarman*||2003 – 2012||Perlmutter*|
|1929 -1930||Clymer||1974 – 1976||Erb*||2012 – 2016||Focht*|
|1931 – 1934||Sellers||1976 – 1977||Tarman*||2016 – 2018||Lee*|
|1935 * 1936||Koons||1978 – 1979||Outten||2018 – Present||Perlmutter *|
|1936 – 1939||Sellers*||1980 – 1983||Akers Jr.*|
|1939 – 1942||Hoff*||1983 – 1986||Hostvedt*|
* Note : Each Chief served part of the overlapping year.