MCADOO -- Officials say a merger involving firefighters from Schuylkill and Carbon counties is now official and will result in better fire service.
Fire companies in coal country have deep roots involving history, culture, and geography, so for fire officials, getting people to make a break with that past wasn't simple.
Firefighters along the Schuylkill and Carbon County line have traditionally given each other a hand, working side by side. Now, officials say a merger involving three departments means crews from two counties will truly operate as one.
The change has been in the works for 18 months and involves two companies in Schuylkill County--McAdoo and Keystone---and one from the village of Tresckow in Carbon County. All three are now under the umbrella of the McAdoo fire company.
"The merger is great. It's needed. It had to come. We just upped the level of protection," said firefighter Chip Steinmetz.
Bob Leshko and Joe Geusic were chiefs of separate departments. They now work together. Leshko is chief and Geusic is his assistant.
Before the merger, Tresckow struggled to find enough firefighters to survive.
"It was getting to the point where we could have had people hurt or worse than that, and we were not going to be able to serve our community properly," Geusic said.
While the merger wasn't simple, both men point to benefits like improved fund raising and bookkeeping.
"It really was one of the very first few that has crossed county lines. Most organizations have done it within the same community or county," said Leshko.
The merger also means that the fire house in Tresckow will no longer get money from the social club just down the street. The club is getting a new name, The Hosey, and plans to raise money for local projects.
"If they want new playground equipment, we are going to try to help there, anything we can do to help the community," said David Bodner, president of Tresckow Hosey.
While there were some hard feelings about the merger, people seem to be adapting to the changes.
"When all the dust settles and everything seems to be going good, I would hope to see everybody back together. That would be my wishes, and I think it will," David Gentele of Tresckow said.
On Tuesday, the 911 center in Schuylkill County will begin dispatching calls for the Tresckow fire station in Carbon County. It's another step towards unifying firefighters once divided by boundaries.