Firefighters are constantly training, learning and practicing even when they are not fighting fires. This spring, the DuBois Volunteer Fire Department is doing that by continuing a longtime tradition of washing down the parking lots of neighborhood churches and city streets.
“What’s surprising, probably, to a lot of people and actually even to myself, this is something we’ve been volunteering to do for well over 60 years,” said DuBois City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio. “I’d like to give you a definite timeframe but it looks like that’s as far back as I can go right now that the men and women of our fire department take time out of their busy schedules to do this each and every year.”
Suplizio said it’s a nice way to clean up and show support for the churches after a long winter and all of the salt, anti-skid and grime is all over the roads.
“It’s tremendous to me to tell everyone about this annual tradition,” said Suplizio.
The washing of the church parking lots started last weekend and will continue until all of them are done.
“We always try to get them done before Easter, which gets a little hairy when Easter is in March,” said fire Chief Joe Mitchell.
Mitchell said nobody really knows how the tradition started, but noted that it is not just cleaning up for the firefighters.
“It also acts as a training for our firefighters,” said Mitchell. “This is a good time for some of the younger members to get time running hose lines. It gets pump operators a chance to operate the pump. It kind of works out the winter kinks because we don’t do as much outside training in the wintertime. We do more inside classes during the winter. This is like refreshing the system.”
Mitchell estimated that approximately 100 firefighters participate.
Another 60 years-plus tradition is the firefighters’ annual downtown wash down which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 28, said Mitchell.
“We’ll have crews from all five companies throughout the city washing all the main thoroughfares and sidewalks,” said Mitchell. “We tried to find out how long we’ve been doing it. We know it extends back well beyond 60 years that they’ve been washing down, but we don’t know how much before that.”
“That totally shocked me as well,” said Suplizio. “Talking to the old timers, to the best of their knowledge, we’ve never missed a year. This is another way that the men and women give back to the community, and volunteer their time, and show their support for the City of DuBois, to show that they would like to clean up the area and make it more presentable.”
“There were some years we’ve even done it in the rain and threatening snowflakes, but it always gets done in the springtime,” said Mitchell.
During the past years, washing down the city streets has been done on Friday night, but they believe there will be less traffic so that’s why they will be washing the streets on Sunday night this year.
“It’s only one night. We just ask that motorists stay patient,” said Mitchell. “I know we tie up a lot of streets in town at the same time, so it’s tough navigating that night. But it’s for the public. It’s to make our community look better. It’s to make it welcoming and safe.”
“I cannot thank Chief Joe Mitchell and the DuBois Fire Department enough for keeping this tradition alive. Hopefully, it’s done for many, many more years,” said Suplizio.
The wash down will also coincide with the Downtown DuBois Revitalization Group’s annual spring cleanup to be held on Saturday, April 27.