by Sally Cohen
Edward Prath joined Wyndmoor Hose Company No. 1 in 1939 at the age of 19, and he proceeded to hold various line officer or business officer roles in the company for 20 years of his 40-year volunteer service to the firefighting department. Possibly his most significant contributions to the company were related to his innovative knowledge of engineering.
Chief Prath was commissioned in 1956 to begin planning the design and purchase of a new “Utility Truck” for the company. Knowing the needs of the community, Chief Prath drew the plans to design a truck that actually met the specifications of a modern day “Heavy Rescue Truck.” By December of 1959 the truck that Chief Prath designed had arrived.
According to John Fleming, a spokesman for Wyndmoor hose Company No. 1, “In June of 2006 his apparatus was purchased back by Wyndmoor Hose Company using privately donated funds pledged to be used for something to benefit the company in a ‘non-operative function.’ The 1956 Mack Rescue Truck is currently being restored. (Videos of this apparatus can be found on the homepage of the company’s website at www.wyndmoorfireco.com.)
“In 1973 Chief Prath again led Wyndmoor Hose Company in making history by purchasing the first ‘Jaws of Life’ in Montgomery County. The $4000 purchase drew the attention of Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Joe Rizzo as he wrote a letter stating he was ‘very pleased’ by Wyndmoor Hose Company’s purchase. Shortly thereafter 100 firefighters congregated in Wyndmoor to witness a demonstration of the new equipment.”
The dedication of Chief Edward Prath to Wyndmoor Hose Company No.1 will not soon be forgotten. He shaped the focus of the company toward rescue operations: “saving lives” and not exclusively fire suppression. Chief Prath remained active with the Company until his death on January 31 of this year at the age of 91.
Prath was the husband of Jayne W. Prath. He is survived by his sister, Shirley Fitzpatrick, sister-in-law Trudi K. Prath and nieces and nephews. His funeral service was held Feb. 6 at Grace Lutheran Church in Wyndmoor, and he is interred at George Washington Memorial Park.
The Wyndmoor Hose Company invited residents of Wyndmoor and other nearby communities to memorialize Chief Prath last Saturday afternoon, June 2, at the site of the first firehouse in Springfield Township, the Joseph B. Timoney Memorial Park, at the corner of Queen Street and Mermaid Lane in Wyndmoor.
The Wyndmoor Hose Company No. 1, a 100 percent volunteer department, is currently celebrating 105 years of service to the community. The 50-plus members who make up the working force are notified by digital paging systems, day and night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Beyond fire supression activites, the company is active in fire prevention programs, and they have weekend birthday parties held at the station, sometimes several parties each day which often include a 15-30 minute presentation on fire safety. Throughout the year they also present fire prevention programs to local schools, camps, day-care facilities and other businesses and organizations. Annual demonstrations are made to The Boy Scouts of America to display not only safety messages but also drunk-driving warnings.
Wyndmoor Hose Company No. 1 has also forged a relationship, approaching almost a decade long, with United Cerebral Palsy, an organization in Wyndmoor that provides direct services to over 2,400 adults, children and their families with a variety of disabilities including cerebral palsy, head trauma, stroke and spinal cord injury. Groups of Wyndmoor firefighters can be found at any one of UCP’s six annual fundraising events.
In the late 1990s it was decided that the fire company would add emergency medical services to its already expanded list of rescue operations. The company purchased the QRS (Quick Response Service) unit that houses enough basic life support and first-aid equipment to complement the Springfield Ambulance Association’s arrival.
The company is also currently holding its 6th annual Community Carnival, which began June 5 and is continuing through Saturday, June 9, with fireworks on Saturday night.