The History of the Kunkle Fire Company

The Kunkle Fire Company was formed in approximately 1921, known as the Kunkle Forest Fire Crew. Marvin “Jiggs” Elston was the president of the forest fire crew. In 1937 Shadyside Dairy donated a car that had been converted to a dairy truck by putting a box on the back. The dairy vehicle was converted into a fire truck. In 1937 the makeshift truck responded to a fire on Camel’s Ledge behind Pittston where other vehicles were unable to go. The truck was housed in the red barn behind the Wertman house on Old Route 309.

Indian tanks with names on them were kept in the possession of each individual fire crew member. The reason for this being each member was responsible for the condition of their Indian tank. When there was a fire the fire truck would gather the members en route and they would stow their Indian tanks behind the seat.

Mr. Kulp was in charge of the forest fire crews for the district. Phil Kunkle and Frank Boston were fire wardens. Herb Whispell manned the fire tower which was located on the Irem Temple Country Club Grounds approximately where the cellular tower is today. Cecil Boston worked at the fire tower. Jean Hilbert and June Tregan remember walking to the fire tower as young girls. The meeting were held in an old chicken coop which was located on the property where the Dodson residence is located today.

The Fire Company was originally chartered in 1949 as the Harry S Smith Volunteer Fire Company. Harry S Smith, a local resident born on April 20, 1920 and died serving our country during World War II, at the Battle of the Bulge on January 15, 1945. Harry S Smith was laid to rest in Belgium. The Harry S Smith Volunteer Fire Company was chartered in the red building located on Kunkle Road across from the Saab dealership. The Harry S Smith Volunteer Fire Company was incorporated in 1949. The men of the Kunkle Forrest Fire Crew formed the nucleus of the newly chartered company. Original officers were President, Jason Kunkle, Vice President, Donald Cosgrove, Secretary, William Haddle, Treasurer, William Eckert and Fire Chief, Fred Dodson.

A project was undertaken in 1949 to purchase a new fire truck for the newly incorporated Harry S Smith Fire Company. The chasis was purchased from Bonner Chevrolet, Kingston and delivered to St Louis, Missouri where the Central Fire Truck Corporation equipped the truck body. The new fire truck had the distinction of being the only white fire truck in the Back Mountain. The cost of the truck was approximately $9000.00 and was completely paid for in approximately a year without aid of federal appropriations. The new fire truck was housed at the former Kunkle Grange Hall, located where the fire hall currently stands. A red neon sign stating “Kunkle Fire Dept” was made by Sev Newberry and proudly adorned the building. The original sign is still displayed in the station today. Mr. Cosgrove obtained the first fire siren from the West Pittston Fire Company.

In 1968 a 1969 pumper was ordered at the cost of $21,000.00. An auction was held to pay for the new fire truck netting over $5000.00. This was the beginning of the Kunkle Fire Company Annual Auction. On September 18, 1969 an open house was held to celebrate the arrival of the new fire truck. Funds to pay pay for the new truck were raised by auctions, chicken suppers and coin card donations.
Somewhere around 1944 or 1945 the first chicken supper was held. The annual tradition is continued today to raise funds for the fire company. In 1946 the first fire company clambake for the Kunkle Firefighters was held at Perrins Marsh. Subsequent annual clambakes were held in the picnic grove on Elston’s hill well into the 1970’s.