Aerial Ladder: A ladder of at least 40 feet in length, fixed to a vehicle, mounted on a turntable. The ladder can be raised mechanically or hydraulically and can be positioned to support access or egress of firefighters or fire victims at a fire or rescue incident.

Aerial Platform: A vehicle equipped with an aerial ladder with a fixed or articulating platform at the tip capable of supporting extended operations by firefighters from the platform.

Aerial Truck: A vehicle equipped with an aerial ladder or aerial platform. Generally also includes a full complement of ground ladders.

AFFF: (pronounced "A-Triple-F") Aqueous Film-Forming Foam. Type of Class B foam; a water-based firefighting foam for use primarily on burning liquids. When applied, it forms a film barrier between the liquid and the air, depriving the fire of oxygen, extinguishing it. If it uses an alcohol base, it is AFFF-ATC and can be used on polar solvents as well as petroleum-based liquids.

ALS: Advanced Life Support. Medical care including the use of cardiac monitoring or invasive procedures. Defined in Pennsylvania by law.

Ambulance: A vehicle capable of transporting a patient on a stretcher or wheeled cot.

Apparatus: Any motorized or unmotorized firefighting vehicle.

Attic Ladder: A short collapsible or folding ladder capable of being easily carried through a building, used to provide interior access to areas of the building that cannot be reached by stairs.

BLS: Basic Life Support. Medical care excluding the use of invasive procedures. Defined in Pennsylvania by law.

Booster Car: A vehicle equipped with booster equipment only.

Booster Equipment: A pump and an on-board tank of less than 1000 Gallons, capable of discharging the contents of the tank under pressure through a hose. It was developed by the Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Company of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1913, and replaced the older Chemical Car.

Booster Reel: A hose reel with vulcanized rubber hose, usually of 3/4" to 1" diameter, capable of flow rates of 100 Gallons per Minute or less. It is a carry-over from the days of chemical cars, when the standard cotton jacket, rubber lined hose could not withstand the chemicals used to pressurize the water. The hose is often called "trash line" for its particular utility in fighting fires in dumpsters and similar enclosed containers, where its ease of cleaning and ruggedness outweigh its low flow rate and increased weight per foot.

CAFS: Acronym for Compressed Air Foam System. A system that injects compressed air into a mixture of firefighting foam and water. It makes much more efficient use of water, and allows less water to be used for the same volume of fire. It reduces water damage to the contents of the building, and makes the fire hose lighter, therefore easier for firefighters to handle.

Centrifugal Pump: A type of pump that uses a rotating disc (impeller) with passages through it from the hub to the rimto accelerate a liquid against a fixed surface (volute) to pressurize the liquid. A centrifugal pump can pump liquids only, and it must be "primed" (filled with liquid) before it can create a draft to pump from an unpressurized source below the level of the pump shaft. A centrifugal pump can be single-stage, with one set of channels through the impeller and a single volute, or multiple-stage, with two or more sets of channels side-by-side in the impeller, and a divided volute. In a multiple-stage pump, all the stages can work together from a common intake source and output to one discharge (parallel operation), or the intake of the first stage can send its output to the second stage, and so on (series operation). Parallel operation provides the maximum flow rate at lower pressure, while series operation restricts the flow rate but provides higher pressure. Series operation is used primarily for providing pressure to heights above 100 feet in high-rise building standpipe systems or water towers.

Chemical Car: A now-outmoded type of firefighting vehicle that used one or more tanks of chemicals, usually Sodium Bicarbonate and a dilute acid, that when mixed, reacted to produce a stream of chemical residue and water under pressure, which was discharged through a hose. Superseded by booster equipment after the 1930s.

Chief Officer: A line officer charged with command over several groups of firefighters and their company officers, with overall control of the fireground or a sector of the fireground. Chief Officers hold a rank with the word "Chief" in the title, such as Chief, Assistant Chief, Deputy Chief, Division Chief or Battalion Chief.

Class A Foam: A type of firefighting foam for use on ordinary combustibles. Its primary use is for structure fires.

Class B Foam: A type of firefighting foam for use on flammable liquids.

Company Officer: A line officer charged with command over a group of firefighters tasked to a single mission on the fireground, often responding on a single piece of apparatus. Company Officers hold the rank of Captain or Lieutenant.

Deluge Gun: A large nozzle, usually with multiple hose inlets, capable of flowing a large amount of water (at least 250 Gallons per Minute) under high pressure, capable of mechanical adjustments in the direction and elevation of the device. If it is permanently mounted to a vehicle it may be known as a "Deck Gun" or "Water Turret." If it is portable, it may be known as a "Monitor Nozzle." If it has multiple water inlets, it is an example of the "Master Stream Device."

Drafting: Pumping from an unpressurized reservoir like a river, creek, lake, swimming pool or portable tank.

Elevated Platform (EP): A vehicle equipped with a mechanically or hydraulically raised articulating boom with a fixed or articulating platform at the tip capable of supporting extended operations by firefighters from the platform.

EMS: Emergency Medical Service. A system of delivering prehospital medical care and transportation. Defined in Pennsylvania by law.

Engine: Narrowly defined, a firefighting vehicle that has a pump. Commonly used to describe any motorized firefighting apparatus. Also, the prime mover that powers a vehicle (diesel engine, gasoline engine, etc.).

Executive Officer: An officer of the department responsible for business operations, who has no authority specific to the office on the fireground. Examples include President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, or Trustee. Also known as a "Business Officer."

Fire Company: Narrowly defined, a number of firefighters under the command of a company officer, usually tasked to a single mission on the fireground, with a fixed set of equipment, and a single piece of fire apparatus to which they are assigned. Often used for historical reasons as the name of a fire department.

Fire Hose: A type of hose specifically designed for use in firefighting. It usually comes in 50 or 100 foot sections, and in standard diameters. Hose of 1-1/2" and 1-3/4" diameter is called "attack line" and hose of 3" diameter or greater is called "supply line." Hose of 2-1/2" diameter is used for both attack and supply and is often called "Standard" hose. Fire hose comes in several kinds of construction. "Regulation" construction usually refers to a hose with two woven jackets of cotton or polyester (or a blend of the two) lined inside with rubber. The standard abbreviation "DJCRL" (double-jacket cotton, rubber lined) or "DJPRL" (for polyester jacket hose) is still seen printed on the outside of these hoses. In fixed-facility applications, where the hose is not often used, such as in high rise buildings, single-jacket linen or polyester unlined hose is often used. This hose is unlined because the lack of use over long periods would cause the rubber lining to degrade and when used, clog the hose nozzle, and it is often single-jacket because it will be used at much lower pressures than hose used on fire apparatus.It is often made of linen because linen fibers swell rapidly on contact with water, and this prevents the hose from leaking. Booster hose is of vulcanized rubber with bias ply reinforcement, and is of smaller diameter. Newer fire hose may use a solid flexible plastic jacket or woven Aramid fiber jackets. These are lighter in weight and extremely durable. The hose sections are coupled together with threaded or quarter-turn lug (quick-disconnect or "Storz") couplings. Older hose used couplings of brass or bronze. Today, lightweight synthetic composite or alloy materials are more common.

First-due: The department or company that would, under normal circumstances, arrive first at a particular incident, either because of geography or politics. The officers of the first-due department generally have command of the incident. The area in which a department or company is first-due is also called the "primary service area" or "protected area" of the department or company.

Fog Nozzle: A type of hose nozzle that is designed to break up the water stream into smaller droplets. This allows more surface area of the water to come in contact with heated gases, and allows the water to absorb heat more rapidly. Most modern nozzles allow gradual adjustment between "straight stream" and full fog.

Gear Pump: A positive-displacement pump that uses an offset rotating disc with void spaces in the rim to pull a fluid from the intake side of the pump to the discharge side, where it encounters a meshing gear, which forces the fluid out, creating pressure. A gear pump can pump any fluid (liquid or gas) and thus is often used as a priming pump for centrifugal pumps.

Ground Ladder: A ladder not fixed to a vehicle, capable of being carried and placed where needed, designed to be raised from the ground and usually used to access a building window or roof.

Hard Suction: A kind of fire hose in which the hose jacket is reinforced to prevent it from collapsing under suction pressure. It is used in drafting operations. Also known as "Hard Sleeve."

Hazmat: Short for "Hazardous Materials." These are materials designated by the US Department of Transportation that present a fire, explosion, health or environmental hazard when released from storage or transportation containers.

Hose Wagon: A vehicle equipped with a bed capable of carrying at least 1000 feet of hose at least 2-1/2" diameter, sufficient to reach from a pressurized water source (hydrant or pumper) to the place where the water needs to be applied.

LDH: Large Diameter Hose. Hose used as supply line, with a diameter of 4" or more. Often equipped with quick-disconnect couplings and with lightweight, high-strength jackets.

Line Officer: An officer who has a defined function in the chain of command on the fireground.

Pumper: A vehicle equipped with a pump capable of pumping water from an unpressurized external source, such as a pond, river or portable holding tank, and discharging it under pressure through a hose.

Quadruple Combination Pumper (Quad): A vehicle that incorporates a pump, booster equipment, hose carrying capabilities and a full complement of ground ladders, including one or more of at least 40 feet in length.

Quintuple Combination Pumper (Quint): A vehicle that incorporates a pump, booster equipment, hose carrying capabilities, a full complement of ground ladders, including one or more of at least 40 feet in length, and an aerial ladder.

Rescue Vehicle: A vehicle equipped with supplies capable of effecting rescue of trapped people. It may be designed for a single rescue task, such as vehicle rescue, trench rescue, high-angle rescue, etc, or may be designed for "Heavy Rescue" involving many or all of these tasks. Narrowly defined, if the vehicle carries a full complement of ground ladders, it is a "Rescue Truck" and if it carries manpower it is a "Rescue Squad," but both terms are used for any rescue vehicle, and "Rescue Squad" is also used to describe an ambulance service in some parts of the country, particularly along the Eastern Seaboard.

RIT: Rapid Intervention Team. A fire company assigned to stand by at the scene of a working fire for the sole purpose of rescue of trapped, injured or endangered firefighters. Usually, RIT duties for a fire department or company will be assigned to a unit that is not otherwise a part of the department's response plan. RIT units are specially trained and carry equipment necessary for the assigned task of firefighter rescue. Sometimes called a "Go Team."

Roof Ladder: A straight, non-extending ladder with large hooks at the tops of the rails, designed to permit firefighters to work safely on peaked roofs.

SCBA: Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. A device comprised of an air source (usually a pressurized tank), a regulator, and a mask that provides breathing air to a firefighter working in a hazardous atmosphere.

Soft Suction: A short section (usually 25 feet or less) of hose of at least 4" diameter (usually 4-1/2" to 6") used to supply water to a pumper directly from a fire hydrant or other pressurized source. Often left coupled to a main intake on the pumper. Also known as "Soft Sleeve."

Squad: A vehicle capable of transporting firefighters and small equipment to the fireground.

Tanker: A vehicle with a water tank of more than 1000 Gallon capacity.

Task Officer: A line officer charged with command over a particular mission or task on the fireground that may affect multiple companies and their officers, or may be in support of the firefighting operation. Task Officers hold ranks specific to their function, such as Safety Officer, Communications Officer, Public Information Officer, Photographer, Fire Investigator, Engineer, etc.

Tower (or Water Tower): A vehicle with an elevating straight, articulating, or telescoping water pipe with a deluge nozzle controllable from the base of the pipe, capable of delivering a large amount of water under pressure to the top of the device. After 1940, usually combined with an aerial ladder, aerial platform, or elevated platform, but marketed successfully through the 1970s and 1980s as an accessory to a standard Triple Combination Pumper by A-T-O as the "Telesqurt." (Also marketed unsuccessfully by American Fire Apparatus as the "AquaJet." Bower Hill later owned the pumper that was used as the demonstrator for the latter.)

Triple Combination Pumper: A vehicle that incorporates a pump, booster equipment and hose carrying capabilities. It is the most common kind of firefighting vehicle.

Truck: Narrowly defined, a firefighting vehicle that carries aerial or ground ladders with at least one ladder of a minimum of 40 feet in extended length.Commonly used to describe any motorized firefighting apparatus.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: What does the big "255" mean on all your trucks?

A1: That's our station number in the Allegheny County Communications system. When the county started its countywide 911 system, they set up a new numbering system for every fire department in the county. The numbers started at 101, and they went alphabetically by municipality. Scott Township, with three departments, got numbers 255, 256 and 257. Bower Hill got 255.

Q2: Well then, why are the ambulances numbered "741," "742," "743" and "744?"

A2: EMS stations are numbered differently, and that system is much older. Bower Hill was Station 710, but when Scott Township EMS was formed, we used Glendale's former number, Station 740, since the old STEMS station number in the South Hills Firemen's Association was "74," and this meant we didn't need to renumber the vehicles. "Ambulance 74-1"  became "Medic 741." No new decals needed.

Q3: Why don't you have Bingo anymore?

A3: It wasn't providing much income, it was a lot of work for a few people, and there was too much competition with other organizations who were also holding Bingo.

Q4: Why don't you have a summer fair anymore?

A4: Our Lady of Grace Church started holding one the week after ours, and they had the space to do a much larger one than we could. People stopped coming to ours. The return wasn't worth the effort to keep it going.

Q5: Don't you have an ambulance anymore?

A5: Bower Hill Volunteer Fire Department and Glendale Hose Company No. 1 jointly own and operate Scott Township EMS (STEMS), with the additional participation of East Carnegie Volunteer Fire Department. The departments jointly own the four ambulances, and provide the facilities and equipment that STEMS operates, and each department appoints the members of the STEMS board of directors. Your subscription to Bower Hill VFD includes your subscription to STEMS.

Q6: Do you still rent tables and chairs?

A6: No.

Q7: Do you have any paid firefighters?

A7: No, we're all volunteers. The STEMS staff is paid, but as EMTs and paramedics, not as firefighters.

Q8: Is the hall available for rental?

A8: No. The hall was closed in 2014.

Q9: Do you have any female firefighters in your department?

A9: Yes, and we have for a very long time. Esther Padgelek was admitted as an active member in the 1940s. Since the 1970s, we've had many more.

Q10: Do you still have a Ladies Auxiliary?

A10: No, the Auxiliary members were all granted membership in the fire department itself, under a new membership category, "Friend of the Department." These members perform the same functions that they did as Auxiliary members, but are fully covered under the department's insurance, and they have the other benefits of membership in the department.


Trivia Item 1: The flagpole at the station came from Cook Elementary School in Bridgeville, which was demolished in 1976. The pole was erected at the fire station on June 13, 1976, and first flew the flag the next day, Flag Day.

Trivia Item 2: In the early days of the department, Bower Hill firemen were often disparagingly referred to as "The Milk and Cookie Boys" by other departments at parades because the department's bylaws prohibited members from drinking alcoholic beverages while in uniform. While this is a common policy among fire departments today, during the early post-prohibition era, it was regarded as odd.

Trivia Item 3: The department's emergency phone numbers in 1929 were "Bridgeville 30" during the day, and "Bridgeville 139-M" at night. In 1943, they were "Bridgeville 893-R," Bridgeville 903-J" and "Bridgeville 1108."  In 1944, they were "Bridgeville 903-J" and "Bridgeville 274-M." The "Bridgeville 274-M" number (the Berdnik residence, very near the station on Montgomery Avenue) lasted until the advent of direct dialing. In 1958, when the county fire station at Kane Hospital began to answer the calls, the direct-dial number was "CAnal 1-4411." When the alpha characters were converted to numbers, this was 221-4411. In 1984, when the county fire station at Kane was closed, Bower Hill began to use the Scott Township emergency number of 276-2323, which lasted until the county 911 system was established.

Trivia Item 4: The population of Bower Hill in 1930 was about 600. In 1940 it was about 1,600. In 1950 it was about 3,600. In 1960, it was about 6,100. It is slightly less today, since the average household size in the community is smaller.

Trivia Item 5: The red paint color on the 1942 pumper was listed on its order form from White Motor Company as #363967. The 1957 pumper was in what American La France called "Official Fire Department Red Lacquer." The 1969 ambulance was GM "Bolero Red." The 1970 pumper was International Harvester Red. On the 1977 pumper and subsequent equipment until 1992, including repaints, the formula was Dupont #94K-8610 with 24 grams of Black per Gallon. The 1984 Ambulance had Ditzler #70704 Red, which was nearly identical. The 1992 pumper used Ditzler #660A, which is much darker. The 1995 Squad was GM "Victory Red." The 1998 pumper is Sikkens Autocoat LV #70. The 2005 Squad is Ford "Red."

Trivia Item 6: In the days before radio pagers, each fire department in the area established a distinctive siren sound, so firefighters could tell which department had a call. Bower Hill uses a Federal Signal 10HP Model 3 siren with a 20 second on, 10 second off cycle. Glendale and Upper St. Clair use the same model siren, but with different cycles.

Trivia Item 7: The costliest fire in Bower Hill's history was the Giant Eagle Super Market fire at the St.Clair Shops on February 10, 1976. The damage exceeded $750,000.

Trivia Item 8: Until the regional ambulance run report was adopted in 1977, the department's ambulance reports included no information about the patient's medical condition.

Trivia Item 9: The day with the greatest number of unrelated incident responses in the history of Bower Hill VFD was April 24, 1982 (three fire calls and eleven ambulance calls).