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Century-old fire crew's first all-female attack line

Plus, legends of the fall.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

October 20, 2023
Inside this edition: Leaf legends, tell-all, ice screams, zombieland, games on, and the women of Alpha Fire Company. Thanks for checking in.
🏆 HARD QUESTIONS: Did you stay on top of Pennsylvania news this week? Prove it with the latest edition of The Great PA News Quiz: Big election, pro-Israel donors, opioid billions, and a year on strike.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

What is the oldest amusement park in Pennsylvania?

A. Hersheypark
B. Idlewild
C. Sesame Place
D. Knoebels Amusement Resort

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One place worth peeping: USA Today readers ranked Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County the number one place to see leaves change colors in the country — and it's quickly approaching its peak. Pennsylvania also has some of the best fall drives in the U.S.

» One Q&A worth reading: Juana Tamale owner Jennifer Zavala made dinner for the Philadelphia Eagles last week and loved it. She talks about that, her Steve Keeley tattoo, the Cheesesteak Controversy, and why parking could lead her to leave Philly in this candid Q&A.

» One food (maybe?) worth trying: Ripleigh's Creamery in York County is offering ice cream with garlic, roasted crickets, or ghost peppers. If this sounds appetizing to you, you have until Oct. 31 to try them. 

» One genre worth bingeing: If you’re looking for a movie night idea, The Inquirer (paywall) reports more people die in Pennsylvania-based horror movies than any other state. Zombies were the main culprit. 

» One thing worth knowing: Speaking of backdrops ... The Last of Us is not the only video game with a chapter set in Pennsylvania. ABC27 compiled a list of games with action that takes place in the Keystone State.

The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Allegation against Shapiro aide was settled quietly

» Public pension funds at center of SEC claims

» The counties getting the biggest opioid windfalls

» Town wants to make it easier to fight injection wells

» Pennsylvania Election 2023: Complete coverage, guides

» Elecciones Pa. 2023: Traducciones al Español
Firewomen of Alpha Fire Company in action. (Courtesy Alpha Fire Company)

An otherwise routine day ended up being historic for Centre County’s Alpha Fire Company. 

In late September, firefighters Kara Stover, Claudia Rudisill, and Talia Cholach were heading to training when they received a call about a blaze in the Centre Hills Village neighborhood. They quickly went to the College Township station to gear up.

When they arrived on the scene, the women ended up forming the 124-year-old department’s first all-female attack line. An attack line is a hose used to extinguish the fire. When the line is receiving water, it takes multiple people to hold and direct it.

Stover said the assembly was pure luck given their typical work schedule, but said it felt natural.

“During the incident, we didn't realize what we were actually doing because we were training together. Being on an actual call on a fire ground we didn't look at it any different,” Stover said.

Rudisill said the absence of the men made her realize what was happening.

”I was more so looking at the absence of men as a surprise. It was not a surprise seeing us by ourselves,” she told PA Local.

When the company posted about the milestone on the department’s Facebook page days later, the women received an outpour of support from the community.

“They made a difference because they were willing to put in the time and effort to train so that when the call for help came they were able to respond and perform professionally as the initial fire attack in what was a significant operation with multiple companies operating on scene,” the post said.

Rudisill added: "No one is surprised to see this happen with Alpha. They were all supportive … It was definitely a moment of everyone being supportive of us being in history. It is definitely an expectation we are on those calls."

Fire Chief Jason Troup said the achievement did not cross his mind until a fellow member of the company mentioned it to him.

“They did what they were trained to do,” he said. 

Only 9% of the nation’s firefighters are women, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, a federal agency. 

Centre Region Fire Director Shawn Kauffman said there are 12 women active in their department, which is the most they have ever had. He said having three women working together is not rare, but three women putting out a working fire together was.

After the historic event, Kauffman said in a staff meeting that going forward women working together would be a regular scene. 

“They agreed. I don’t think anyone was shocked it occurred. They are happy it did. Hopefully,  this gets more women involved in the fire service,” he said. 

The West Chester Fire Department in Southeastern Pennsylvania also has seen recent growth in the number of female firefighters.

“Women in fire companies is becoming a more common thing in 2023 with each engine class. We come in, and we see more and more women applying and becoming firefighters. It’s such a cool feeling to be able to do that,” Stover said.

Rudisill echoed Stover, telling PA Local, “To see young women in fire service is rare. Over the years we have seen more join. Three years ago I didn’t think it would’ve happened with an attack line. It is quite a prideful moment.”

Kauffman said that when he joined the fire department 35 years ago, there was only one female firefighter. He hopes the numbers continue to rise.

“As it becomes more of a visual thing of women being involved and seen in the community, hopefully that makes them think ‘Hey, I can do that too,’” he said.

Stover and Rudisill said they also hope to see more women enter the profession, encouraging anyone interested to just go for it.

“Give it a try. Sign up and write your name. You may find out you don't like it. You can at least say you tried. It used to be the brotherhood, but now it is a family … You become super close to the people you work with in firefighting,” Stover said.

Tanisha Thomas, newsletter writer / reporter

Our favorite quote about Pennsylvania — or from a Pennsylvanian — this week.

“A view through a telescope is an opportunity to see something beyond the Earth, and in a way, it’s an inherently human experience.”

Brendan Happe of the Philly Moon Men offering passersby a glimpse of space through a telescope on a sidewalk at Sixth and South Streets

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
A double rainbow in Allentown, captured by Tim B. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
a double rainbow spreads across a dark grey sky
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

B. After 145 years, Idlewild in Ligonier is the oldest operating amusement park in Pennsylvania, ABC27 reports. It's the third oldest in the U.S.

The park was opened in 1878 by William Darlington, who owned the land it's located on, and began as a picnic ground for railroad workers.

Thanks for reading PA Local. We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 

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