SELLERSVILLE – When the National Guard arrived at the five-point intersection of Sellersville to help with flooding on September 1-2, 2021 as the remnants of Hurricane Ida passed through the area, the Guard asked directions in Perkasie.
“I don’t know. It’s all flooded,” was the response, “unless you can drive across that water.
“They said, ‘we can do this,'” Sellersville Fire Chief Kurt Wagner said. “They just crossed the water like it was no problem.”
The department generally does not condone attempts to cross floodwaters, he quickly added. Even fire trucks can’t do that.
“Our fire trucks, although big, really can’t go in high water,” said SFD Chairman Greg Swierzewski.
“They’re not built for that,” Wagner said. The air intakes and exhausts are low on the truck, he noted.
The five-ton cargo truck the guard was driving, however, can drive through 30 inches of standing water, he said.
SFD now plans to obtain a similar truck, which can be used in local communities for flooding or other uses, such as during snowstorms.
The cost of the truck is $46,000 to $48,000, Wagner said. Additional equipment, such as personal flotation devices and water rescue helmets, will also be needed, he said.
Faith Christian Academy has launched a fundraising campaign.
“When this opportunity arose, we wanted to step in and help them like they’ve helped so many other people, so we organized a $10,000 matching challenge,” said Henry Thompson, chief financial officer of the school.
The campaign’s goal is to raise enough to cover the full cost of the truck and equipment, he said.
“We have good traction with businesses. Hopefully we can get some more,” Thompson said, “and hopefully fund it all without them (the fire company) having to take anything out of their own pockets. .
He said he hopes the money can be collected in early March, after which the truck can be ordered.
As an added incentive for individuals and businesses to contribute, Faith Christian Academy Kindergartener Sammy, whose dream is to be the Sellersville Fire Department Chief for a day, will make that wish come true if the matching challenge is met.
Contributions can be made online at https://sellersvillefd.square.site.
Fire station, flooded grove
The Sellersville Fire Hall on Main Street next to the East Fork of Perkiomen Creek has flooded in the past, but not like the 2½ to three feet of dirty brown water that Ida brought, Wagner and Swierzewski said .
“Anything the water touched, pretty much if it was wood or any type of pressed board, was damaged beyond repair,” Swierzewski said.
“The floor we had just installed two years before had to be completely demolished,” he said. “The water actually ended up underneath and because of what was in the water, everything had to be brought up and it couldn’t be put back down.”
Poppa Joe’s grove behind the fire station had nine to 10 feet of water, he said.
Fire trucks were temporarily removed from the station due to flooding, then returned after the water receded and cleanup was done, Wagner said.
“We’ve never been out of service,” he said.
The rentals of the grove or the social hall have, however, been cancelled.
There had already been plans to replace and upgrade the pavilion in the grove, which was done after the flooding receded, Swierzewski said.
Work is continuing inside the fire station, he said.
“The biggest issue we’ve had is product turnaround time, just getting things in there,” he said, “but we’re getting there.”
The final elements are expected to arrive in March and be installed in April, he said.
New cabinets are raised eight inches above the ground to help minimize damage from future flooding, Swierzewski and Wagner said. The Auxiliary had planned to make improvements to the kitchen and bar in a few years, and have now advanced improvements that are underway with repairs, they said. Improvements are also underway throughout the fire station to modernize it.
The number of calls increases
“2021 ended as the busiest year in departmental history, with our volunteers responding to 393 calls for service in Sellersville and the surrounding community. In addition to call volume, our members participated in a total of 1,640 man-hours of training throughout the year,” the Sellersville Fire Department reported on social media.
In 2018, the department received 383 calls, followed by 379 in 2019, Wagner said.
“Twenty-twenty, with COVID, we thought we were going higher,” he said, “and we actually went down to 304.”
As people started to get out and do more in 2021, the number of calls went up, he said.
The 2021 numbers include 23 calls that were logged during the Ida flood, but the department actually responded to more than that, including some incidents they saw on other calls and some that been called and answered, but never recorded, he said. .
“Not all calls were entered into the system as calls,” Wagner said. “The volume was just too big.”
There may have been as many as 160 combined calls to Perkasie and Sellersville, he said.
Firefighter recovering from injuries
In another case, Sellersville Fire Police Officer Ed Johnson broke his leg after being hit by a vehicle while performing traffic control during an incident at Bethlehem Pike and Forrest Road in West Rockhill on December 8.
“When there’s an emergency vehicle, a police car or a tow truck on the side of the road, you have to slow down, move,” Wagner said.
“Try to be careful when approaching an accident scene,” he said. “It’s a great example where the car that hit Ed and knocked him down was stopped, but the guy behind him didn’t stop for some reason.”
The second vehicle struck the first from behind, pushing it into Johnson, Pennridge Regional Police Chief Paul Dickinson said. The driver of the second vehicle was ticketed for driving at an unsafe speed and pleaded guilty, he said.
Perkasie and Sellersville Fire Companies, Perkasie Borough Police Department and Pennridge Regional Police escorted Johnson home when he was released from Grand View Hospital, Wagner and Swierzewski said.
“He’s on the mend,” Wagner said in early February.
He said Johnson, who was working remotely from home, should be able to return to work in the coming weeks.