The Harmony Fire District serves Harmony and Zelienople Boroughs, and Jackson and Lancaster Townships. Our district provides fire and rescue services to these four communities directly, which covers approximately 50 square miles, but also responds to our surrounding communities for support when needed. Our call volume has increased year over year and last year we were dispatched to over 510 different calls. As the region grows, our call volume has increased, and will continue to do so. We are funded by a mix of fire tax mileage, fundraisers, and donations. Unlike EMS agencies, we as a fire district have no ability to charge insurance companies for our responses. Since the inception of the volunteer departments in our area, which we can trace our roots back over 150 years, we always rely on the generosity of our residents and businesses to support us.
When the Harmony Volunteer Fire Company and Zelienople Fire Department began discussing merger options, and ultimately merging into the Harmony Fire District that exists today, the need for a new building to call home had already been identified. At that time the current location in Harmony was identified as being too small and too costly to renovate to fit the growing needs of the community. Harmony and Zelienople Boroughs, as well as Jackson and Lancaster Townships, helped us merge and are now helping to keep our volunteer department succeeding for the future. After years of research and design meetings the Harmony Fire District is in the final steps of this process. A new Fire Station will be built on the site of the former Hockenberger Motors location on South Main Street in Zelienople. This location was ultimately decided upon after evaluating many variables including drive time for responding members, drive time from the station to various areas in our response district, historical data for where our calls have been focused, where our highest risk areas are located, and of course the overall costs incurred at various sites. We are happy to announce this location allows us faster overall access to the most densely populated areas of our district, such as the housing plans in Jackson township, and the downtown areas of Zelienople and Harmony Borough. We continue to maintain our “Lancaster Station” in Middle Lancaster which will play a vital role in the future protection of the projected growth on the northern side of our response area, and this station will be our “Zelienople Station”.
This new station is being designed to fit the needs of today, with the ability to adjust to the growth we are seeing for the future. This station will house four of our large apparatus – two engines, a ladder, and our rescue. It will also have two smaller pick up sized vehicles – a squad and a brush truck. The apparatus bay will be four bays wide for all large vehicles to exit towards main street, and the remaining two vehicles will have smaller bays at the rear. On the southern end of the building there will be the training rooms, office spaces, kitchen areas, a small on-site gym, and bunk spaces. The new station will allow for 24/7 staffing with these accommodations providing everything needed to encourage our members to spend as much time at the station as possible. Through this design process, and learning from other departments in the area and around the county, the best way we can ensure we are able to help respond when you call for aid is to have a crew at the station. This saves valuable minutes that it takes a home responder to arrive, get dressed, and get an emergency vehicle on the road. While the Harmony Fire District will continue to have home responders for each call, having members at the station around the clock has already made the difference in multiple fires over the last year that we have been operating this way at our current station. This will allow us to continue to strive to meet the NFPA 1720 guidelines for responding to incidents in a timely manner. This is ultimately what the community should be most concerned with – how long does it take from the time you have a problem until someone arrives to help.
The new station design has been completed by working with an architectural firm who specializes in emergency services. This has allowed us to design every aspect of this building to work for its intended purpose. Our station will be designed around preventing the number one killer of firefighters today, cancer. This includes appropriate ventilation systems in the bay areas that keep exhaust out of the living and administrative sections of the building and training locations built into the building that will allow for competency and confidence training in several disciplines without overbuilding. Decontamination areas for gear and equipment will ensure our firefighters no longer bring home the chemical cocktails that are the byproducts of modern construction materials burning during fires. The administrative and operations office spaces of the building are designed to encourage those who can work from home to come and spend time at the station and set up a workstation there. Over the last two years we have had a significant number of weekdays covered by having this option in our current open meeting room. While we understand working professionals cannot always drop what they are doing and respond to calls, we have seen significant results that justify doing all we can to support this. Not only will these offices be available for “work from home” members, but also for places to complete education work.
Throughout this process we have worked with our municipalities to ensure we are building a fire station we need, but also one that we can afford. We want the community to know that we are attempting to uncover every possible source of funding for this project. We have openly asked all four communities for increases in our fire tax, from 1.5 mills for Jackson, Harmony, and Lancaster, and 2.0 mills from Zelienople, to 3 mills for everyone. Our stance is that a resident or business owner in all four municipalities are receiving the same level of service and should all be charged the same. While this seems like a large increase it is important to understand how this really looks. A local member’s home was recently appraised for $360,000 however the home’s tax assessed value is only $28,000. That home will pay $84 annually for the fire tax. This home happened to be in Zelienople where they already paid 2 mills, so the increase is $28 a year, up from $56 a year. As residents of the community we serve we understand no one likes paying more in taxes, but we also understand that this area needs a fire district that can appropriately respond when needed. We are also in contact with our local, county, state, and federal elected officials to search every grant program we can to secure more funding for this project. We remain very hopeful for some of those avenues, but we are also turning to the community we serve directly for donations. We continue to host fund drives and raffles, but attempting to fund a project like this with those alone is not sustainable.
One early hurdle that has been crossed was the concern of contaminated soil as the site was previously an automotive repair facility. We were able to work with our partners at the county level and secure funding through a Brownfield Grant that supplied the funding for a Phase 1 and Phase 2 study that ultimately covered all costs required to mitigate any potential concerns. While we are still working through the final steps, overall the site was considerably cleaner then initial expectations. Asbestos mitigation has mostly been completed and demolition will begin in early December to clear the site for construction next year.
You likely have or will soon receive a letter requesting a donation for our new building. As explained in that mailer, we are soliciting donations of various amounts, with different levels of recognition based on the amount you can give. This community has always supported us through good times and bad, and we understand some are not able to donate, but some are. We ask you to think deeply about donating to this cause. Donations received that meet the recognition thresholds will have their name memorialized on a plaque inside of the station and will be granted an early tour of our building before our public ceremony. Above is a digital version of the mailer. This is also available on our social media pages and we have a “DONATE NOW” button above on our website. Please understand that any donations we receive will ultimately lower our yearly payment from this building and allow us to fund other areas of our operations that directly help you, the homeowner, the local working, the traveler passing through, etc., when you need our assistance by purchasing much needed equipment and developing programs that continue to ensure our ability to respond quickly with the appropriate manpower and resources.
Please check back to this page often as we will update with building facts, progress reports, and milestones crossed as we proceed with this project.
Welcome to our new station’s page! Here you will find updated information about our progress.