The new Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department responded to two calls during its first week of operation, won its first parade trophy and is planning an open house to allow residents to meet the volunteers now serving the city.
The department took over fire service in Bellaire from the Neffs Fire Department just after midnight July 31. Chief Bill Swoyer said the department's first call came at 2:36 a.m. Monday, and the first engines were en route to 129 3rd Ave. in West Bellaire by 2:42 a.m.
Swoyer - who also serves as Bellaire's code enforcer - was familiar with the address. On Sunday, he had gone to the home to cite resident Tom Wassum following numerous complaints from neighbors regarding trash and high weeds on the property.
The Ohio Fire Marshal's Office has not determined the cause of the fire. Swoyer said two issues did arise during the incident.
Eight of the 20 volunteers for the department turned out for the early morning blaze. Some missed the call because they didn't receive the page over their phones, Swoyer said, and that issue was corrected later in the day Monday. In addition to the eight Bellaire firefighters, four responded from the Spirit of '76 fire department, and another four from the Ohio River and Western fire department.
"We had plenty of personnel on the scene," he said. "If Neffs had responded, there would have been only two guys and the time of response would have been the same."
The second issue pertained to the hydrants at the fire scene. While they had plenty of pressure, they couldn't be turned off, and residents of West Bellaire were without water for several hours Monday.
The department also was called out early Thursday, but that call turned out to be a false alarm, according to Swoyer. It capped an eventful week for the department, which also saw members win a first place chief's choice trophy during the Shadyside Fireman's Festival.
Moving forward, Swoyer said volunteers will work to get the fire house at 2450 Belmont St. ready for an open house, scheduled for Sept. 11. Prior to that event, a fountain that hasn't been operational for several years will be repaired. There is also a war memorial on the property which will be refurbished. Members also will be on work detail this weekend to paint the interior of the station.
"People were saying it couldn't be done," Swoyer said of the department's creation. "We're showing it can be."
The fire station has a new phone number at 740-676-2000, but Swoyer advises those with emergencies to call 911.