New Duquesne fire Chief Frank Cobb (Cami DiBattista photo, special to Tube City Almanac)
Around 40 hardworking volunteers make up the Duquesne Fire Department, according to Frank Cobb, who became fire chief in January.
“We are a family and we are committed to the safety of the community,” said the lifelong Duquesne resident.
A 22-year veteran volunteer, Cobb has devoted his life to serving Duquesne, both as a firefighter and also as the city’s constable. Prior to becoming chief, he served as assistant chief for the Duquesne Fire Department.
“The adrenaline you get from being a firefighter is indescribable,” he said. “It gets in your blood.”
Front row: Firefighters David Blum and Nate Beck. Back row: Fire Chief Frank Cobb, President John Ellison, Captain Brian Griffin and Vice President Chas Woolsey. (Cami DiBattista photo, special to Tube City Almanac)
The father of three sons, Cobb is the first in his family to go into the fire service.
“Chief Cobb has been a dedicated public servant to the City of Duquesne for over 20 years,” Mayor Nickole Nesby said. “When choosing the appointment, I took into consideration the fire department members, community leaders, and my knowledge of his commitment to the city.”
Cobb said he was both shocked and honored when asked to become chief. He accepted the department’s first paid position in many years.
According to Cobb, Duquesne firefighters were paid until 1995 when tax revenue dropped, causing the positions to become voluntary. The fire chief position was a paid one until 2012.
After taking office at the beginning of the year, Nesby made the fire chief once again a paid position.
Cobb said he and Nesby are seeking out grants and funding opportunities in the hopes of eventually making the department a combination of paid and volunteer part-time positions.
“Even as a volunteer department, I have to commend our firefighters,” Cobb said. “We’re out the door within minutes of receiving a call.”
Cobb first became a public servant when he entered law enforcement as constable in 2006.
“Having cross-trained in fire and law enforcement, when it came to becoming chief I felt I already had the necessary mentality,” Cobb said. “My experience gives me the structure and obedience required for the job.”
Duquesne has three trucks --- a ladder truck; a rescue engine that holds 1,000 gallons of water and 60 gallons of foam; and a combination rescue truck/pumper that can hold 750 gallons of water and numerous life saving-devices.
The trucks are meticulously maintained by the family of volunteers, many of whom have known each other for decades.
“In this department, it’s all about family,” said firefighter David Blum. “I grew up in this fire station; I’ve been coming here since I was 10 years old.” Blum’s father was a previous assistant fire chief.
Vice president and department engineer Chas Woolsey, a 35-year veteran volunteer firefighter, stressed the importance of knowing and trusting your fellow firefighters and keeping up morale amongst the volunteers.
“When you’re fighting a fire, it’s like going to battle,” Cobb said. “You’re going off your instincts and your senses. You have to have your head in the game and be ready for anything. And you have to be able to wholeheartedly trust the guy behind you.”
A 17-year veteran of the department, Captain Brian Griffin said for him, firefighting is about giving back to the community where he lives.
“I enjoy being able to help others --- being in the action instead of on the sidelines,” volunteer John Ellison said. “We’re always there to help at a moment’s notice --- day or night, warm or cold.” A 12-year volunteer, Ellison is the president and assistant engineer of the Duquesne department.
Seventeen-year-old Nate Beck is participating in the department’s Junior Program, which aims to teach 15- to 17-year-olds the essentials of firefighting.
“The basically do everything except (experience) ‘live burn’ – which is when they go into a burning building,” Woolsey said. “It really gives a rewarding sense of belonging to youth.”
Participants complete training in rescue techniques and how to use ladders and other equipment in preparation for when they turn 18 and are able to become fulltime firefighters.
“You won’t get this experience anywhere else,” Beck said. “The quality of people here and the family life is what it’s all about.”
The fire department is looking for donations and community support, Cobb said. He hopes residents will support their fundraisers, which provide necessary funds to maintain equipment.
“We encourage everyone to be responsible and always think about fire safety,” he said. “Pre-plan for an emergency, use fire detectors and CO2 detectors, and have a fire extinguisher.”
(Cami DiBattista photo, special to Tube City Almanac)
Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer. For permission to use these photos, email her.
Originally published April 09, 2018.