Alpha Fire Company

The Alpha Fire Company is the volunteer company that serves State College, Penn State, and the surrounding townships.

The company was founded in 1899 as the Union Fire Company. A year later, the name was changed to Alpha Fire Company. George T. Graham, a barber who later owned a popular local shop, served as the first president and held the position for many years.

Penn State students had organized a volunteer fire company in 1862, and the two companies often had a lighthearted rivalry when a fire broke out. Both used hand-drawn hose carts and would turn the hoses on one another while fighting a fire.

Members of the Alpha Fire Company posed for a photograph with the company’s two motorized trucks. (Centre County Historical Society)

With State College and Penn State growing, the two companies merged in 1924. Penn State discontinued its fire company and provided needed funding for Alpha. The student firefighters were allowed to join Alpha.

The first Alpha fire station was built on Frasier Street between College and Beaver avenues in 1908. The company moved to a new station on South Atherton Street in 1974. Substations opened in Patton Townships (2001) and College Township (2003)

For many years, Alpha held a popular Fourth of July parade and carnival as a fundraiser. Today, the Centre Region Council of Governments, which includes the State College Borough and College, Ferguson, Halfmoon, Harris, and Patton townships, provides the major source of funding for the company. Penn State University provides about 10 percent of the budget.

Alpha provides volunteers with all the instruction and equipment needed to serve. The instruction includes live training, online coursework, and various certifications. The company also has a “live-in” program, where firefighters stay at a room at one of the stations in exchange for being available to respond to calls.

For many years, Alpha was an all-male organization. Today, women play an essential role as members of the company which has more than 100 firefighters. In 2023, Alpha’s first all-female crew respond to a house fire.

With the growth of the Centre Region and Penn State, the company has been responding to an increasing number of calls in the 104 square miles of the county it is responsible for covering. At the same time, the number of volunteers has decreased.

Leaders of the Centre Region Council of Governments have said if the trend continues, a full-time firefighting force likely will be needed. A volunteer company would supplement the full-time crew.

Anna Ludwig


Alpha Fire Company. (Accessed December 7, 2023).

“Alpha Fire Company: 75th Anniversary,” Town & Gown, September 1974.

Dawson, Mike. “We Want to Be Ready,” Town & Gown, May 2019.

Hazelton, Bob. “Alpha Fire Co. Eyes 125th,” Mansion Notes, Spring 2023.

First Published: February 3, 2024

Last Modified: March 31, 2024