On The Move
Off the Wall, June 1
, 2012

Every time there is a fire or accident, you can depend on volunteers from the Latrobe Fire Department to be there within minutes. But with that said, how often do you hear about the men and women behind the scenes that not only keep our children safe, but also help out tremendously when duty calls? Those of whom I’m speaking are our fire police.

Led by John Dixon, captain, and Tony Arbore, lieutenant, these patrolmen have more than their share over the years to pitch in when called to do so. Officers such as Ang Caruso, who has served with the fire police as part of the Latrobe Fire Department since 1954, has put in well over 58 years directing traffic, making sure our children are safe. Betty Braisle, took over my position when I resigned a couple years ago due to health reasons. And our newest member, Ed Chemski was added as a member six months ago.

Recently, the Latrobe Fire Department purchased a 1999 Chevrolet Suburban from Watson in Blairsville to aid in transportation of manpower, carry necessary cones and necessities used on the scene. This high-tech vehicle is a definite improvement over the former blue Suburban that ran its course, and eventually had to be retired.

“This one is a little different than the others,” Dixon said. Understandably so, as four different radios from low band to super high band are at a finger’s touch inches away from one’s right arm. “Everything is right here,” Dixon said. “If we go out of the city, we know what is going on and where they (fire fighters and police) want us. With Latrobe’s highband, Chief John Brasile can also tell us where he wants us and where to go.”

One of the features of this vehicle is the fact that its metallic gray letters spell out the words “City of Latrobe Fire Police.” Which ought to tell the public that this Chevrolet product was designed for trained officers such as our badged patrolmen. Even on the back of the vehicle, the letters will read, “Fire Police,” as well as on the front.

This is the third such vehicle the fire police have had. All have been purchased through donations. Every month, the fire police will station themselves where they will sell 500 tickets that can be redeemed. For example, one business will offer a $500 ticket, another, $400 and so on and so forth down the line. The tickets sell for $5 a piece.

When asked about the sales, Dixon said, “The public’s really been good and they really back us. As a result, we sell a lot of tickets.” He then pointed out, “We get everything through the sale of tickets and donations. The only thing the city pays for is gas and insurance,” he said.

“There is a 30-foot all enclosed trailer that comes with this Suburban. It is fully equipped for emergencies and we can put up tables and chairs and use portable radios in it in case we have to be at a scene where people need our help.” Dixon added, “When we got the trailer, we got 50 to 60 cones for traffic in addition to a couple wooden horses. In it we can also haul a generator that was donated through Company 6 and an oversized quad that can haul up to six firefights anywhere, along creeks, hillsides or in the woods.”

“Any fire police officer can drive this vehicle. It doesn’t have to be just me,” the long-time Latrobe resident stated. When asked when it was purchased and how many miles patrolmen have driven thus far, Dixon said, “We bought it in January and it arrived on February 13. Since then, we have kept it on the move, tallying over 600 miles.”

Seen twice a day at the Latrobe Elementary School, Dixon will drive the spruced up, shiny red SUV to the school where he will direct traffic and make sure children and parents will remain safe as they cross Ligonier St. “90% of the motorists are very good. You get a few bad apples. Some people don’t realize that the speed limit is 15 m.p.h. he said. Most the time, there is a Latrobe Police Department parked nearby. An officer will usually have its dog with him or her, or will let the children climb onto the back seat of the cruiser. “When people see the police cruiser there, they usually slow down,” Dixon said. “If we need the officers anytime for any reason, they will be right there to help us.”

So if you see the red, buffed-up SUV, sitting in front of LES, you can rest assured that a fire policeman of the LFD is doing one thing he was trained to do, protect your children.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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