Who is Undercliff Volunteer Fire Company?
Undercliff VFC is completely volunteer and is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our members have dedicated countless time over many years training, fundraising, and maintaining our department to provide the absolute best protection and services to the members of our community. Shaler Township does not have a fire tax like other municipalities do, and therefore, we depend on the residents of our district to make donations to allow us to have up-to-date equipment to keep you, your family, and our members safe.
Undercliff Volunteer Fire Company gives emergency protection to the residents of Undercliff's fire district and all other fire departments in Shaler Township, as well as mutual aid emergency services to the neighboring communities of Etna Borough, Hampton Township, Ross Township, Millvale Borough,Indiana Township and more. Undercliff is fortunate to be able to provide a wide variety of emergency services. We have the ability to provide truck company response, engine company response, basic vehicle rescue response, flooding response, and also now rapid intervention team (R.I.T.) response. This is all made possible by your support and the dedication of our members.
We thank you in advance for your continued support of Undercliff, and in return, we will maintain the same quailty service and protection that we have been providing since 1909.
WHERE YOUR DONATIONS GO:
We would like to sincerely say THANK YOU to everyone who has supported our annual fund drives. As stated above, Shaler Township does not have a fire tax and we rely on donations from our residents and fundraisers to allow us to purchase life saving equipment as well as covering other maintenance costs. All the money we raise goes right back in to the community to provide our residents with first class fire protection. We could not do what we do without all of your help! Thank you again to everyone who continues to support us.
Did you know it costs over $12,000 to outfit one firefighter?! Below is a breakdown of what it costs to outfit a firefighter in today's times.
THE HISTORY OF UNDERCLIFF VFC:
The Undercliff Volunteer Fire Company is one of six fire companies located in Shaler Township, PA. Shaler Township is located in Allegheny County, PA and is just north of the City of Pittsburgh. The Township is 11.7 square miles with a population of approximately 28,000 and includes a stretch of the Allegheny River and PA Route 28 a 4 lane divided highway, as well PA Route 8 a 4 lane business highway runs through the heart of the township. There are several other State and County roadways throughout the township that serve as main arteries for traffic with a mix for residential and commercial structures. There are also 2 railways that run through the township. Though the township is mostly residential there is a significant amount of commercial zones, some industrial and, several religious and educational facilities. All 6 fire companies in Shaler Township are 100% volunteer. Undercliff also provides mutual services to several surrounding municipalities such as Etna Borough, Ross Township, Millvale Borough, Hampton Township and, many others that may request assistance. Undercliff currently operates a fleet of four apparatus, a 100 foot ladder tower, a standard fire engine, a special operations unit and, a pickup truck responding to an average of 400 calls a year and providing a wide range of services.
The Undercliff Volunteer Fire Company began to organize in 1909, and became an operational fire company in 1912 with Sam Swindell as the first Fire Chief. Undercliff VFC acquired the old Braun School House which would become the first firehouse for the company. During this time Undercliff VFC operated as a bucket brigade until the Etna Volunteer Fire Company donated their old hose cart to Undercliff. The hose cart was repaired and upgraded with an assortment of modern firefighting equipment for the time period as a hand drawn hose cart this became Undercliff’s first “fire truck”.
On June 6, 1923 Undercliff VFC submitted an application for charter with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas which was granted on July 24, 1923. Also in the same year the fire company purchased it’s first brand new and first motorized fire truck a 1923 American LaFrance. As time went on there was an increasing need for fundraising arose leading to the formation of a Ladies Auxiliary in 1926 and was led by Tillie McElwain. In 1927 Undercliff VFC merged with the remaining members of the Reeseville Volunteer Fire Company and continued to operate out of the old Braun School House location. The merger was the first and only known merger of fire companies in Shaler Township.
In 1930 Undercliff VFC and the other fire companies within Shaler Township created the Shaler Township Firemen’s Association. As the community continued to grow Undercliff VFC purchased a plot of land from the Braun Family in 1933 for $101 to build its first new firehouse. As the 1930s roared by the members of the fire company felt the need to upgrade the equipment and purchased a 1939 Buffalo Quad Truck which was reported to best available at the time and was the first of it’s kind in the township. In 1942 and 1951 the fire company purchased additional property from the Braun Family finalizing ownership of the property where the fire station remains today. In 1946 an International Emergency Car was purchased. Around this time Undercliff installed a Civil Defense Siren to alert the community of attacks and disasters the was another first for the area. Shortly thereafter another major purchase was made to improve the level of fire protection provided by Undercliff VFC which was a 1955 International Pumper. The following year the members of Undercliff realized a growing need for another service in Shaler Township, and started the very first ambulance service in the township.
As the 1960’s approached Shaler Township was growing rapidly and buildings were becoming larger Undercliff once again realized the need to improve their capabilities to provide a better service to the community. The fire company purchased a 1960 International 65 foot Quint to replace the which was the first ladder truck in the township and also replaced the 1939 Buffalo Quad Truck. In 1966 Undercliff made another innovative purchase a 1966 International Squad Fire and Rescue Unit replacing the 1946 International Emergency Car. This unit was four wheel drive and had the ability to drive and pump water at the same time making it especially useful for brush fires. The squad also carried an assortment of rescue equipment for vehicle crashes. Late in the 1960’s Undercliff started a weekly Bingo for the increasing need for funding. The Bingo has been upgraded and reorganized several times over the years and is still in operation today. An emergency generator was installed in 1968 in the event of a power outage to provide emergency shelter as well as continued ability to operate as a fire company. In 1971 there was a need for an additional vehicle to transport additional personnel and a 1971 Ford Van was purchased. In 1974 Undercliff replaced the 1955 International Pumper with a 1973 Mack R600 Model Pumper. A 75 foot Mack CF Series 75 foot Aerialscope was purchased in 1978 to replace the 1960 ladder truck.
1983 was another year where the fleet was updated with the purchase of a 1983 Ford Van to replace the 1971 Ford Van. The fire station was renovated and received an addition in 1986 to it’s current style. In 1991 Undercliff VFC purchased a 1991 Mack MR/Saulsbury Special Operations Vehicle or SOV another first of it’s kind for the area. The SOV was ordered to replace the 1966 International Squad, while waiting for the SOV the ’66 International was sold and a late ‘70s Dodge School Van was purchased to use for approximately 6 months until delivery of the SOV. The SOV was designed as a mobile command post and had the same radio capabilities as the dispatch center in that era and was often used as the dispatch center during power outages. Also the SOV was equipped with a cascade system for filling SCBA cylinders at large scenes. The SOV was also frequently requested for lighting details and other public service details. With the increasing demand for the ambulance Undercliff VFC, Elfinwild VFC and, Shaler Villa VFC merged their ambulance services in 1993 to create Shaler Area EMS, which currently operates as Shaler Hampton EMS and currently employs several members of Undercliff. During the nearly 40 years that Undercliff operated an Ambulance there were a total of 4 ambulances throughout that history with the first two being Cadillacs. Due to increasing safety standards the 1973 Mack R600 Pumper was replaced with a 1978 Mack CF Pumper that was purchased from Cherry City VFC. An interesting fact about the newly acquired pumper is that the serial number was few numbers off from the 1978 Mack Aerialscope meaning they were on the assembly line together. The late 1990’s were very exciting for Undercliff the 1978 Mack Aerialscope was refurbished in 1998. The refurbishment added much needed compartment space and upgraded the emergency lighting. Late in 1999 the company took delivery of a 2000 Freightliner FL112/4 Guys Pumper that is still in service today. At some point in the late 1990’s Allegheny County issued 3 digit Station numbers to all Fire Companies locating in the county, Undercliff VFC was assigned as Station 264 and continues to utilize this number today.
At the dawn of the new millennium Undercliff continued the tradition of upgrading the equipment to provide the best possible service to the community. A 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD pickup truck was purchased to replace the 1983 Ford Van which was sold to Millvale VFD. The 1983 Ford Van eventually met it’s demise in September of 2004 when it was destroyed in flooding caused by Hurricane Ivan. In 2005 the 1978 Mack Aerialscope was replaced with a 2004 KME 100 foot aerial platform this was the first and only 100 aerial in the township and remains in service today. The Mack Aerialscope was sold to Benwood Fire Department in West Virginia. The 1991 Mack SOV was also sold at this time to help pay for the new aerial. The SOV was sold to Hudson Falls Fire Department in New York. In September of 2005 after a failed attempt the previous year a Junior Firefighter program was started at Undercliff allowing 16 & 17 year olds to join to assist with company operations also while getting a head start on training, Dwayne Steinmetz became the first junior firefighter at this time until his 18th birthday 2 months later and remains an active member today.
In 2017 the KME Aerial was in need of body work and was sent out to be repainted while it was being repainted the emergency lighting was upgraded to LED to improve safety. While the the KME was out of service for a significant time period, the Benwood, WV Fire Department was gracious enough to lend Undercliff the 1978 Mack Aerialscope that the KME replaced to allow the fire company to provide the same level of service. Late in 2018 with an increased call volume and increasing membership there was need for an additional vehicle, a 1992 Mack MR/Saulsbury Walk in Rescue was purchased from the Adams Area Fire District and was identified as the “SOV” as a tribute to the old SOV. The new SOV is equipped with a plethora of rescue equipment, firefighting equipment and, flood response equipment and operates as a multipurpose support unit. In 2019 the emergency lighting on the 2000 Freightliner Pumper was upgraded to LED to improve safety. 2020 was a difficult year for everyone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this cause the Bingo to be shutdown and changed how the fire company had to find raise. Getting ideas from other fire companies in the area Undercliff began doing online “Sure Tip Raffles” where there was a possibility to win a variety of prizes. The Bingo was restarted in August of 2021. Keeping with the tradition of getting the best available equipment to provide the highest level of fire protection to the community, a 2022 Seagrave Marauder pumper was ordered in September of 2021 to replace the 2000 Freightliner Pumper. The new Seagrave Pumper is expected to be delivered in late 2022.
The current membership is extremely proud of the history of Undercliff VFC and continue to honor the legacy of past members. They take pride in the community and the equipment. Several of the members have a variety of specialized training such as vehicle rescue, rope rescue, hazardous materials, Rapid Intervention (RIT), Swift Water Rescue and many other specialties. They all bring a unique area of expertise that ultimately benefits the citizens of the community.
~History Written by UVFC Member, Dwayne Steinmentz