DEWART - Fire extinguishers and smoke detectors often are forgotten until they become necessary to save someone's life or property. Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company has been supplying those items for more than 60 years.
The company was founded in 1951 by Max L. Foust Sr. and was known as Fire Extinguisher Sales and Service. At the time, he also worked as a firefighter near Harrisburg.
In 1970, he retired as a firefighter and began operating the company on a full-time basis with two part-time employees. Two years later, Max L. Foust III was hired as a fire extinguisher service technician. Over the next few years, Keith D. Foust and Linda L. Foust Confer were hired.
Max Sr. transferred ownership to his children, Max II, who serves as president, Keith, who serves as vice president and Linda, who served as secretary and treasurer until retiring in 1998.
"It's a family business," Max II said. "We intend to maintain that as long as we possibly can."
One of the reasons Max II wants to keep the business in the family is because it allows for more personalization.
As the company grows, oftentimes the customer receives less focus.
Customer service at Susquehanna Fire is about more than just the sale.
"Our real focus has been on service after the sale," Max II said. "It's not that we don't think sales aren't important. We feel service brings the sales. Our company's mission is focused on that type of vision."
The company expanded to add automatic fire suppression systems for restaurants, industrial and commercial applications in 1990.
"We service any business from a small grocery store to industrial, municipality or government," Max II said.
This year, the company added fire sprinkler inspections and maintenance to its list of services.
The company covers about 66 percent of the state, with its northcentral location, a Pittsburgh showroom and a location in North Versailles.
One thing that has recently grown the company is the gas industry coming into the area.
"We do a lot of business with shale and shale-related companies," Max II said.
That generally includes fire protection and safety equipment.
In addition to products and services, Susquehanna Fire also provides training for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, normally on-site of the business.
Over the years, certain products stay the same, while others continue to advance.
"It depends on the product," Max II said. "The mark for fire suppression pretty much stays the same."
Yet as electronic equipment evolves for phones and computers, so do the electronic products for fire equipment.
"It becomes smaller, more compact and easier to use," Max II said.