Fox’s 11th annual Pizza and Prevention fundraiser to be held in town Saturday

PUNXSUTAWNEY — You're in bed sound asleep when you’re awakened by the beeping of your smoke alarm, and even worse, you also smell smoke.

Sadly, this isn't a dream. Your nightmare has become reality, and your house is on fire.

Hopefully, you'll never need the services of the Punxsutawney Fire Department, but if you do, you can take comfort in the fact that members are well-equipped and trained to handle your emergency, whether it's a house fire, or if you're trapped in your vehicle following an automobile accident.

You can do your part to help ensure that your fire department, which consists of three fire companies — Central, Elk Run and Lindsey — will continue to be ready to respond as needed by participating in this year's Pizza and Prevention — taking place Saturday at Fox's Pizza Den in Punxsutawney.

"This is the 11th year, and I never realized it would reach the proportions that it has in raising an incredible amount of money, which last year, amounted to $33,128.13," said Scott Anthony, owner of Fox's Pizza Den and originator of Pizza and Prevention, which began Sept. 11, 2002, on the first anniversary of 9/11.

"I think the public, often times, takes the fire department for granted until they need them, and never thinks about fire prevention until they have a fire," Anthony said.

He also noted that October is the perfect month to hold Pizza and Prevention, because the first week of October is Fire Prevention Week, and October is also National Pizza Month.

Anthony said Pizza and Prevention begins at 11 a.m. Saturday and runs throughout the day, and Fox’s is offering a Big Daddy pepperoni pizza for only $9.11.

The special is a 40-percent savings over the regular price.

Anthony said the focus of the fundraiser has changed from just baking and selling pizzas to selling the coupon cards that can be used anytime throughout the year to purchase a Big Daddy pepperoni pizza when it's quicker and more convenient.

He said that two-thirds of the fundraiser involves the purchase of the coupons, with only one-third actually being pizzas purchased during the fundraiser.

IUP-Punxsy stocks up on them for its many pizza parties throughout the year, he said.

Anthony said that nonetheless, Fox’s still utilizes four ovens, including the auxiliary oven that is located in a trailer and is donated by Edge Ovens of Connellsville.

"Every year, we send out letters to area businesses asking them to purchase pizza coupon cards," he said. "The late Tony Gianvito, the former president of the Punxsutawney Fire Department, would been have surprised after we raised $6,000 the first year that it would have grown to this amount."

Anthony said the phone number is 938-4615, and there are four phone lines, warning that after 3 p.m. they will be jammed.

"The people appreciate the event and are not just in it for the great price on a Big Daddy pizza," he said.

Anthony said that once again this year, Matt Kengersky, of the Kengersky Insurance Agency, is a co-sponsor of the event and is providing free smoke detectors to anyone who is in need of one.

Kengersky is very grateful for the hard work and fearless duties the Punxsutawney Volunteer Fire Department handles.

"We are proud to have distributed over 3,000 smoke detectors to local residents over the past ten years of Pizza and Prevention," Kengersky said. "We offer peace of mind to anyone with an array of insurance policies, but smoke detectors and firemen save lives."

Anyone in need of a smoke detector will receive a coupon and can pick it up at Kengersky's office.

Anthony said along with the fundraiser, “Touch the Truck” is back again this year, with several trucks utilized by the department, and will make for a great photo opportunity with the trucks located on South Findley Street.

Anthony said Pizza and Prevention, which originated in Punxsy and has grown to be the department’s largest fundraiser, has now been picked up by other pizza shops around the country to raise money for their own local first responders.

Scott Depp, Punxsutawney Fire Department assistant chief and Central Fire Department chief, said that Pizza and Prevention has become the largest fundraiser for the department.

"Scott (Anthony) believes that this fundraiser is important to the community as well as the fire department," Depp said, adding that there is a tremendous amount of money raised in one day.

"It's amazing how the community comes out and supports the fire department the way they do," he said. "The first year it was done on 9/11 on a weekday, and we brought in $6,000. And then, it was switched to the weekend."

Depp said costs continue to climb for everyone, including the fire department.

"Our members would like new turnout gear, but it continues to rise in price," he said.

Depp said a pair of pants and a coat cost approximately $1,600, which doesn't include a pair of boots or a helmet.

"By the time you purchase all of that and a Nomex hood, which protects a firefighter from the flames and heat, it's over $2,000," Depp said.

"We have to keep our firefighters safe, because if we can't keep them safe, how are we going to keep the public safe?," he said.

Depp said there are unexpected expenses that occur as well, like the year the state decided that emergency workers must wear a green tear-away vest when at an accident scene but supplied no money to purchase them.

"We purchased them in bulk which cost us $20 apiece; the regular price was $45 per vest," Depp said, noting that there are approximately 100 members in the department and each one had to have his or her own vest.

Depp said the newest truck that was purchased was the new engine at Elk Run, which cost Punxsutawney Borough $309,000, and the Elk Run Volunteer Fire Department purchased itself a Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) for $68,000.

"With CAFS, you'll use less water to suppress a fire," he said. "A homeowner who has a two-story house and has a fire in one bedroom, the less water you use, the less water damage there's going to be to the rest of the house."

Depp said the foam will also penetrate and keep fires from rekindling later on.

"In the Punxsy Hotel fire, the debris rekindled numerous times and was finally suppressed with the CAFS," Depp said, adding that the foam itself is quite expensive and comes in five-gallon drums.

"Bob Crawshaw, a nonprofit marketing expert, has been watching our Pizza and Prevention event from Australia for a few years and has even mentioned us in his blog," Anthony said.

Crawshaw said in an interview with The Spirit that he has been conversing with Anthony for five years, and he has noticed that Anthony has time and time again put his community ahead of his business.

"Once people latch onto a community event like Pizza and Prevention, it becomes sustainable over time," Crawshaw said, adding that it's people giving to a group that they truly admire and respect, such as the volunteer fire department.

"Every year I contribute my business consulting skills and offer six free workshops to our local community organizations, which may or may not result in business for me," Crawsaw said, adding that he would like to visit Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day sometime.

Firefighters who deliver pizzas will check and replace the batteries (courtesy of Walmart) on old smoke detectors or provide coupons for brand-new detectors from Kengersky's for those who don’t have one, Anthony said.

The number to call to order a pizza, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, is 938-4615.