LUZERNE — John Tarreto’s home can pass for a firefighting museum.
Tarreto, 85, has been a volunteer firefighter in Luzerne Borough for 64 years. In his home, he displays firefighting items through the decades, such as old fire alarm boxes, ticker tape machines, fire hose nozzles, firehouse bells and even an old air raid alarm.
One walk through the house and you can tell that firefighting has been — and still is — John Tarreto’s life.
Tarreto and his wife, Mary Ann — a former fire company auxiliary member — have lived in the home John built 35 years ago. It looks like they moved in yesterday.
“We both clean the house,” Tarreto said. “We help each other out.”
Tarreto still wears a pager on his hip, keeping him at the ready to respond when a call comes in to the Luzerne Borough Volunteer Fire Company.
“I’m two blocks away from our fire house,” he said. “I can get there quickly.”
Tarreto said he has a son and grandson who are also volunteer firefighters in Luzerne.
“It’s not about just being a firefighter,” Tarreto said. “There’s always a lot of work around the fire house.”
One of the biggest challenges facing volunteer fire companies today is funding. Tarreto said state and federal grants aren’t as plentiful these days, so the fire companies have to depend on fundraising events to stay afloat and to upgrade equipment.
“Our legislators really need to address this and find the funding for us,” Tarreto said. “Or one day soon, there won;t be any fire companies in the towns.”
Which, Tarreto said, would likely result in a county-wide consolidation of fire companies. He said that would demand a significant increase in taxes.
The Luzerne Volunteer Fire Co. will hold its annual Chicken Barbeque on Aug. 28 at the firehouse, 66 Tener St. Call the fire station at 570-287-7006, for more information.
Tarreto said his father was a fireman and his brother was a fireman, and Tarreto served as fire chief in Luzerne.
Tarreto said he has seen a lot of changes in firefighting over his 64 years as a volunteer.
“We really have to convince our legislators to provide funding for fire companies,” he said. “We absolutely need funding for fire companies — we have no other choice. If we don’t get that funding, fire companies will be a thing of the past.”
Tarreto said most communities operate with cooperative agreements with neighboring towns to assure all calls are covered.
“The only reason I’m still involved is to help keep our company going,” Tarreto said.
Tarreto said the Luzerne Volunteer Fire Co. has about 34 active members.
“We had 12 guys over at the fire station last night,” he said.
With that, Tarreto showed off his fireman’s helmet.
“That’s me, No. 157,” he said.
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Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.