DOVER TOWNSHIP, YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Controversy over radio communication between two York County volunteer fire departments: Saturday, crews with Dover Township and Dover Borough, aka Union Fire & Hose Co. #1, responded to reports of smoke in Smittie’s Soft Pretzels on Carlisle Road. Things took a surprising turn when the first department on scene was advised by the second to drive past it.
Between two different posts shared on Facebook, a recording of the radio conversation has gotten over 500 comments and nearly 600 shares. FOX43 contacted both fire departments asking each to explain the decision making heard in the recording, but neither wished to speak on camera.
In the recording, you can hear Dover Township Fire Chief Brian Widmayer tell Dover Borough to stage at a fire hydrant on Old Carlisle Road, which is around the corner from the pretzel shop.
“Engine 9, we’re ahead of you. We’re not going to stage at the hydrant,” responded Dover Borough. “We’ll assume first due.”
“Engine 6,” responds Widmayer. “This is Chief 9. You will go to the hydrant as directed.”
“Okay, if you want the first arriving scene to go past the scene, we’ll go to the hydrant,” responds Dover Borough. “Would you wish for our manpower to be dropped off?”
“Engine 6, go to the hydrant as directed or you can go into service – your choice,” Widmayer firmly stated.
The recording was shared on several Facebook pages, including Hook and Can. Some folks agree with the chief’s decision; others are concerned. It appears people in York County are just as divided as the ones behind their screens.
“It would make sense to go to the hydrant cause you need the water to get the fire out,” said Olivia Groft of York County.
“Don’t go to the hydrant. You go to the house first to make sure there is not a fire going on and assess the situation,” said Brandon Brown of Dover.
An email sent to FOX43 from a Daniel Hogan reads: “I can not emphasize how incredibly irresponsible, unethical, and probably criminal this would have been if this fire was a fatal fire. Lawsuits would have been filed within hours I imagine… Please, please, please ask the hard questions and press them for the answers we all want to be known.”
FOX43 called Chief Widmayer to try and clear the air, but he declined a recorded phone interview.
Widmayer did state the incident is a nonissue, adding he believes the Facebook comments are fake. When asked about department protocol, Widmayer said he advised Dover Borough and its engine to go to the hydrant to hook up its hose. Widmayer agreed to send us details about the call over text. He lists the dispatch, responding, and on scene times. He writes the call was reduced to “non emergency confirmed burnt cooking” and “no fire dept. services needed.” Widmayer also told FOX43 the issue has been resolved between the two companies.
FOX43 has more questions, though, including, what is protocol when a department arrives on scene? When should an engine hook up to a hydrant? Is there any benefit for volunteer fire departments who arrive first on scene?
FOX43 reached out to Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego to see what he can say about the incident.