The West Hanover Wildland Fire Crew has a proud history of dedicated service to the township of West Hanover, most municipalities throughout Dauphin County and across eastern Pennsylvania’s State Forest Districts. This specialized firefighting crew began as a State Forest Fire Crew under the direction of former Fire Chief John Houck and Assistant Fire Chief Earl Zimmerman, both of whom were Pennsylvania Forest Fire Wardens. The early years of the Forest Fire Crew dates back to the 1950’s and the membership was comprised solely of fire company members. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed legislation in the early 1900’s authorizing the establishment of a Forest Fire Warden program. This program provided for the appointment of Forest Fire Wardens who were charged with the responsibility of establishing, training and supervising Forest Fire Crews. These crews received minimal equipment from the Commonwealth and many were supported by local fire companies. West Hanover Township was one of the municipalities and fire companies that recognized the need for a Forest Fire Crew and supported the creation of the same.
In the early years of the Forest Fire Crew, and of the fire company, a majority of the responses involved field fires in the spring as many local farmers would burn off their fields in March and April in preparation for the spring planting season. Many stories can be told of large field and brush fires being fought with the 1949 Ford / Darley and later with the 1962 Ford Brush Truck. Our early Forest Fire Crew became very proficient at their work and rapidly earned a reputation for dedication, hard work and were frequently called through Dauphin County to assist on large field, brush and mountain fires.
As the years past, our Forest Fire Crew grew with the fire company. Throughout the 1990’s our Forest Fire Crew became known as a Wildland Fire Crew and at one time had over seventy fire members on the crew. This increase in membership came after an initiative to combine the crews of the West, East and South Hanover Township Fire companies with the Hummelstown and Londonderry Fire Companies. This concept worked well for several years and at one time was able to deploy thirty eight properly trained and equipped Wildland Firefighters to a mountain fire in Cumberland County.
As the fire company changed, so did the Wildland Fire Crew and today we have an active crew of about twenty- four members comprised solely from our fire company membership. There has been a renewed interest in the crew over the past year or so and we are again prepared to deploy crews outside of West Hanover Township.
Although our current Wildland Crew membership is comprised of only fire company members, anyone with an interest in fighting wildland fires can join this state crew. Anyone desiring more information on becoming a part of our Wildland Fire Crew should contact the station for more information.