The Gallatin-Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department began as most fire departments did back in the early 1900’s. A group of men sitting around discussing the news of the day; swapping tales, began to contemplate the idea of forming their own fire department. Uriah Grant, Tom Grant, and Angelo (Nick) Cattaneo were the three men who while sitting around Cattaneo’s General Store, came up with the idea.
Previous to 1932, most of Forward Township was protected by Fire Departments in the neighboring communities of Donora and Monongahela. Since few people had telephones, by the time these Fire Departments were notified and responded on often unpaved roads, the buildings had burnt to the ground. To add fuel to the fire, the nation was suffering the Great Depression and fighting prohibition. People unable to keep their homes due to bank foreclosure or unemployment, would merely set fire to them. Still others had their “bathtubs” or “medicinal apparatus” (stills) catch fire. Besides these occurrences of the times, there were still those everyday fires caused by coal furnaces and stoves, electrical wiring and pure carelessness. All in all, the need for a local community fire department was very much apparent. So, on February 12, 1932, a committee of nine men: Kenneth Large, Louis Sacane, Samuel Hoskins, John “Barney” Voelker, Uriah Grant, Thomas Grant, Daniel Sabo, Angelo Cattaneo (President) and Clyde Richardson (Secretary-Treasurer); met at the Voelker’s Garage and formed the Gallatin-Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department.
The Daily Republican, the daily newspaper printed in Monongahela, covered the story on the front page the following day. Also in attendance that evening were the Fire Chiefs from Monongahela, Frank Myers, and Donora, John Volk, who was quoted to say that a fire department was very much needed in the area since the most critical time of a fire was the time from the moment of alarm until the arrival of the fire engines. Both men then offered their support and help.
A meeting was then held at 7:00 p.m. on February 17, 1932 with the property owners of Forward Township. At that meeting twenty-five people pledged cash to aid the department. On Saturday, February 27, the Gallatin-Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department held its first fund raiser – a benefit dance at Ross’s Hall in Gallatin. The charter of incorporation was then finalized on July 12, 1932 and consisted of 15 members.
At first, the name of the Fire Department was going to be only “Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department” since all but two men, Tony Pascarella and Primo Panicucci, were from Sunnyside. But at the last minute, the name was changed and Gallatin was added; although the first parade hats read “Sunnyside V.F.D.” The first fund drive was held in 1932, headed by John Voelker and Primo Panicucci and encompassed Forward Township, Donora, and Monongahela. With the funds collected the firemen bought from the Munhall Fire Department, an American LaFrance chemical-pumper for 250 dollars. “Old Maude” as she was affectionately called, was in service by the time the charter was finalized.
“Old Maude” was the pride of the young fire department, with her large silver bell and crank siren. She was right hand, chain drive with two 50 gallon foam tanks and twenty-four galvanized buckets. As crude as this seems to today’s firefighting apparatus, “Old Maude” provided the fire protection needed in Forward Township.
Alarms were called into the Gallatin-Sunnyside Fire Department at Cattaneo’s General Store, where one of the Cattaneo family members would run to Volker’s garage to set off the siren. Volker’s garage was where “Old Maude” was kept and the first meetings were held until the present building was built in 1950. To provide the water needed to fight the fires in the area, two ponds contained 400 gallons of water. The first mutual aid company to be called in was the Donora Fire Department, since the Voelker boys and Tom Grant were good friends with them.
The first officers Gallatin-Sunnyside V.F.D. elected were Uriah Grant as Chief, Tony Pascarella as Assistant Chief, Angelo Cattaneo as President and Clyde Richardson as Secretary-Treasurer.
Other charter members were John Voelker, Americo Cattaneo, Louis Sacane, Kenneth Large, Thomas Grant, Primo Panicucci, Elgie Grant, Francis (Henry) Voelker, Matthew Pavis, Robert Togni, and Thomas Richardson.
The Gallatin Sunnyside Volunteer Fire Department has always taken great strides to be progressive and ensure the residents and visitors of Forward Township are safe. Throughout the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s the Fire department handled approximately 50-60 emergencies per year. Towards the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s the department began to see an increase in emergencies, answering approximately 90-100 calls per year due to the heavy traffic moving through the area transporting cargo via the main roadways of State Route 51 and State Route 136, along with the railway traffic of CSX and the waterways of the Monongahela River.
In early 1995, the department was struck with a devastating fire on January 15 leaving the entire building, personal protective equipment, firefighting equipment and 3 pieces of fire apparatus destroyed. With help from local fire departments and the communities support, we began the rebuilding process and have struggled, but were able to get the department to where it is today.
Early 2000’s - Present
At the beginning of the 2000’s the department began to see an increase in Motor Vehicle Crashes in the community and reached out to our local State Representative to assist us with securing funding for our first set of Hydraulic Rescue Tools. So in April of 2000, the department took delivery of a Hydraulic Cutter, Spreader and Power plant to run the tools. This led to an increase in members to the department who were eager to get the necessary training required to operate these tools efficiently and safely. Since then the Gallatin Sunnyside VFD has been able to take advantage of the Pa State Fire Department yearly grant for equipment. The rescue and firefighting equipment has been updated and many more items have been added to our inventory. Although we have never been fortunate enough to purchase a brand new piece of fire apparatus, we have been able to come up with some funds with the members’ constant dedication to fundraising to replace old and worn out apparatus with slightly used equipment that is adequate to serve our department safely.
Emergency: 9-1-13325 Rainbow Run Rd.Monongahela, Pa. 15063