LAURELTON — Four years after a social club embezzlement case swayed 20 of 35 firefighters to quit, the once-decertified Union County West End Fire Company has been reborn with a force of nearly 50 volunteers.
“We voted to disband it,” said Stephen Buttorff, the Hartley Township supervisors chairman who represents the municipality on a new fire company board.
In 2008, with 57 percent of firehouse members bailing for the Mifflinburg Hose Company in response to the embezzlement of their social club funds, township officials deemed West End unable to fully protect the municipality, Buttorff said, and worked with Mifflinburg to keep a truck in its township firehouse.
But no one wanted to give up completely on West End.
“We resolved to sit down and come up with a plan to resolve all these issues,” Buttorff said, and in 2011 that’s what all parties did.
And since September, the Union County West End Fire Company is back under Fire Chief Mike Buoy.
According to its Facebook page, the fire company responded to six incidents by mid-October. It was the lead responder on a recent house fire in Millmont and assists in all calls in its reach in western Union County.
Buttorff wasn’t surprised he was the only official willing to talk about West End to The Daily Item.
“It’s been a long story, and everyone is weary of media at this point,” he said. “That said, we’re glad ... we’re back in business.”
Met with attorney general
In 2011, Hartley Township supervisors went to Harrisburg to meet with fire company officials and a representative of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. The attorney general became involved because the company, unable to meet its charitable purpose of providing fire protection in Hartley Township, no longer qualified as a nonprofit, which the attorney general oversees. The office sought to revoke the company’s nonprofit status, a case that landed in Union County Court as West End members fought the move, saying it was unclear what response the attorney general wanted.
“We sat down with a set of goals, and it took almost a year until we finally got it all done, approved, everything,” Buttorff said.
“What we came up with was the West End Fire Company would remain as it is,” he said. “The social club would split off and create a new entity. It didn’t move anywhere.”