Handy crew in Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN – Members of the Johnstown Fire Department are good at putting out flames.

They’re also good at caulking a seam, edging a window frame and replacing a carpet.

The station on North Perry Street was built in 1969, and fire Chief Bruce Heberer says his firefighters have taken on more and more responsibility for station repairs and improvements to ensure their home during working hours is up to date.

“We do way more [in-house work] than most fire departments do,” says Heberer.

In recent months, in-house projects have included repainting of walls and reflooring the second floor of the station.

Led by fire Capt. Paul Stegel, the latest in-house projects include the remodeling of an old radio console area on the first floor.

“We pretty much do everything in-house,” Stegel said.

City firefighters also do routine maintenance such as groundskeeping, electrical work and some vehicle maintenance.

City officials notice the firefighters’ work, often praising the 24-member department for taking pride and saving the city money.

“It saves the city a lot of money,” said Mayor Michael Julius. “These guys are responsible firemen, and they look out for the city.”

Heberer said city firefighters, especially in more recent years, have done regular maintenance for the station and its driveway.

“We’ve always taken care of the physical plant,” the chief said. “We’re also taking on larger projects.”

Everybody pitches in, including Heberer. He said some of the work on projects is done during duty hours and some is done voluntarily by firefighters when they’re off-duty.

A window replacement project, he said, was done in 2012 and involved replacement of 48 windows with steel frames.

“We remodeled the kitchen in 2014,” Heberer said. “This year, we remodeled the whole upstairs.”

He said the fire station ceiling was repaired, and firefighters did carpeting, painting and cleaning.

In the past year, city firefighters have updated the lighting at the station, including outside with new LED lighting.

The fire department has two electricians. The station’s radio room is due to be remodeled this week with a separate office.

“It’s kind of inefficient right now,” Heberer said of the radio room.

Heberer said the in-house work by his firefighters saves the city from paying an outside contractor or private laborer.

Sometimes, he said, the city Department of Public Works helps the Fire Department with bigger projects.

He said firefighters can do routine maintenance on vehicles, such as changing oil or filters, but won’t fix an engine onsite.

Heberer said the money that comes for in-house projects is generally from the city budget, through the building maintenance portion. He said the department also sometimes receives donations from the community for projects.

He said firefighters reveal their special interests and apply their expertise to a particular project.

Stegel said that several years ago, the department had many leaky, drafty and energy-inefficient windows that caused the heating bills to go up. Those bills for city taxpayers have gone down dramatically since the window replacement project, he said.

Stegel showed some flooring at the station that was replaced with tiles. He said it used to be all carpeted and got extremely muddy when firefighters came back from calls.

“It got worn out,” Stegel said.

He said the department’s ceiling work eliminated drafty areas and made the station more energy-efficient.

Of course, when a call comes in, Stegel said, firefighters have to “drop everything” to respond. He said it’s a little harder to get repair work done during the day. During that time, he said, there are other routine duties, mainly code enforcement and fire inspections.

Stegel said there always seems to be work to be done at the station.

“We’re still not completely cleaned up,” the captain said.

Stegel said the homey and accommodating surroundings of the fire station are appreciated by others in public safety. He said visiting city police officers often say they would love to move into the fire station. He said some firefighters from other departments have said they would never do all the extra work Johnstown firefighters do.

“We’ve got a good bunch of guys,” Stegel says.

Several Johnstown firefighters also pitched in their time and efforts years ago to build a glass display case for an antique chemical fire engine. It’s on display outside the firehouse on the corner of North Perry and Briggs streets. The engine was bought for $500 in the 1860s.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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