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BEVERLY WILSON v. DRAVOSBURG VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT NO. 1 (10/16/86)

decided: October 16, 1986.

BEVERLY WILSON, APPELLANT
v.
DRAVOSBURG VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT NO. 1, DRAVOSBURG VOLUNTEER FIRE CO. NO. 2 AND BOROUGH OF DRAVOSBURG, APPELLEES



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in case of Beverly Wilson v. Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Department No. 1, Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Company No. 2 and Borough of Dravosburg, No. GD 84-4962.

COUNSEL

Louis R. Salamon, Salamon & Lang, for appellant.

Timothy D. Appelbe, Reale, Fossee & Ferry, P.C., for appellee, Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Department No. 1.

Louis C. Long, with him, Raymond H. Conaway and Thomas V. Gebler, Jr., Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck, for appellee, Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Co. No. 2.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Colins, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.

Author: Crumlish

[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 285]

On April 4, 1983, the Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 and the Dravosburg Volunteer Company No. 2 (collectively called fire companies herein) were summoned to clean up a diesel fuel spill on a highway adjacent to the lakes on which Beverly Wilson maintained a fishing operation. The fire companies applied a liquid chemical to the highway in an effort to disperse the fuel. Wilson filed a complaint in trespass in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, alleging that this procedure polluted the lakes, thus causing the destruction of various fish and other aquatic life.

The fire companies filed preliminary objections, arguing that Wilson's complaint should be dismissed as to them because they are entitled to governmental immunity under Sections 8501 to 8564 of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa. C.S. §§ 8501-8564 (1980 Immunity Act).

The trial court sustained the preliminary objections and held that the fire companies are "local agencies" as defined in the 1980 Immunity Act and entitled to governmental immunity under 42 Pa. C.S. § 8541.

In Zern v. Muldoon, 101 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 258, 516 A.2d 799 (1986), this Court examined in depth the legal relationship between volunteer fire companies and the local municipalities they serve. We wrote:

[ 101 Pa. Commw. Page 286]

Our extensive review of Radobersky and the precedent cited therein leads us to the conclusion that volunteer fire companies, because of their distinct creation and present relationship to municipalities, presently enjoy governmental immunity.

This conclusion is supported by a recognition that the functions and accomplishments of volunteer fire departments affix to their continued existence a public, governmental character. The extensive statutory legislation which enhances and directs the organization of volunteer fire companies demonstrates an adoption by the Commonwealth and its citizenry of the governmental characteristic of volunteer fire companies. The charitable emphasis in Boyd I and Boyd II has been replaced by the critical realization of the need for ...


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