Amish Firefighters & EMTs Are Using Motorized Scooters

A neat bit from Jack Brubaker’s “Scribbler” column today at Lancaster Online. Some Amish first responders are using motorized scooters to get to the firehouse faster.

Here’s what one looks like:

Photo via

As you may know, Amish are significantly involved in volunteer firefighting and emergency response in Lancaster County. And Lancaster County is one of the more prominent Amish communities where scooters are used rather than bicycles.

Amish Scooter: Motorized Version

More on what makes this machine different from the typical Amish scooter:

This scooter, as the placard states, is owned by a volunteer with the Gordonville Fire & EMS Co. He is an Amish EMT who happened to be attending an Intercourse Fire Co. benefit breakfast when the picture was snapped.

If you look closely, you will see accessories that do not appear on the standard Amish scooter made by Groffdale Machine Co. in Leola, the largest big-wheel scooter manufacturer in Lancaster County.

A strobe light is attached below the basket. When turned on, the flashing white light signals approaching traffic to get out of the way because the scooter’s rider is headed toward a fire or other emergency situation.

Now look closely at the hub of the front wheel. That’s a motor attached there. The motor, in turn, is attached to a rechargeable battery pack filling much of the bike’s basket. The battery powers the motor, which drives the scooter at about 25 mph. A battery typically propels a scooter about 12 miles before it must be recharged.

An Amish volunteer firefighter or EMT needs that extra boost to get to the station on time.

“They want to be there quick,” says one of the Scribbler’s informants. “These guys on scooters can’t get there as fast as guys in cars, but they get there pretty fast.”

The number of Amish using these is estimated as “dozens, if not hundreds”.

The price tag is about $1,000, financed by the fire companies.

A closer look at the strobe light and battery pack

What do Amish church leaders think?

But you may be wondering, how does this fit with Amish church rules, aka the Ordnung? The Scribbler had the same question:

But motorized scooters also are relatively fast. What do the bishops think of them?

“The bishops are sort of negative about it,” says one informant. “They’re working hard to get them put away.”

But this informant wonders how a bishop would feel if his barn were burning. Wouldn’t he want firefighters to get to the firehouse faster?

The article notes that these are particularly popular among younger Amish volunteers, some or many of whom you’d presume to be still unbaptized. In that case it would be harder to discourage their use.

Some young Amish schoolteachers apparently use them as well, for the cost savings versus keeping up a horse and carriage.

I can see the bishops’ concern. If a form of motorized vehicle creeps in – even for noble and hard-to-argue-against reasons like helping first responders potentially save lives – maybe this becomes the norm for regular-use situations in a generation (or sooner). Then why not a motorized Amish buggy, for other special situations?

Before we close, one other thing I learned from this column: some Amish go by horseback when emergency duty calls.

But no doubt it takes longer to saddle up, than it does to hop on a souped-up scooter.


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    1. Cheryl Mellblom

      When I was in Texas last winter, I heard the Amish are sending people to help with the recovery from Harvey. I think this is wonderful. If you haven’t done an article on this, please consider one. I wonder how they got to Texas, where they stayed as there are few Amish communities in Texas, and their reactions to a definitely different life style.

      1. We actually had a post already on Harvey Cheryl, thanks for asking about it. I don’t know if it covers all the questions you asked, but you can find it here, based off of a local news report:

        There is only one Amish community in Texas, so I’d guess they either stayed with hosts or in inexpensive motels. There are Mennonite communities in Texas, and Mennonites are a part of the effort too, so they may have been hosts in this case as well. As far as getting there, the 15-passenger van with a hired driver is a common way larger groups of Amish go long distances.

        1. OldKat

          Recovery from Harvey

          I live about an hours drive from Houston. That is an hours drive when there is little traffic; which I think occurs from 1:30 AM until about 3:30 AM most business days. (Kind of kidding about this, but not much.)

          Regardless, our news is pretty much what we see coming out of Houston. Earlier this week their Mayor, Sylvester Turner, was discussing the recovery work that has taken place. He also mentioned the number of people that are still not back in their homes. I forget the number, but it was staggering.

          Since we had had very little damage in our area, it is easy to forget how devastating that situation really was.

    2. Debbie H

      slippery slope

      I can see both sides of the argument. In my human view saving lives supersedes church law. On my spiritual side I view it as a slippery slide to growing away from Godliness. So many Christians (myself included) have slowly slid away from God by putting convenience and entertainment above God and living a God directed life. Soccer games over church, keeping prayer and Bible study short in order to get home to favorite TV show. This list goes on and on.

    3. Debbie Kuhn


      The volunteers at fire companies aren’t the only Amish using them. I have seen them on occasion on the roads of Lancaster County. I saw an Amish guy scooting really quickly one day on my way home with my Amish workers. I said to them while he is really moving fast. John said to me that it was motorized. I said nah get out. Sure enough it was. I teased my guys that there goes my job security, lol. I said next thing you know they will be driving cars. The guys laughed and said I would still have job security. I ask them, how do you figure? They said I could get a tow truck because with all the Amish driving there would be more accidents, lol.

      1. Hah, neat story Debbie. Well, I know it was said as a joke, but there may be some truth in this prediction…at least that would be the concern among church leadership.

        I will keep my eyes peeled for this now next time I’m in the area, since it will probably creep out into the “general population” as you’ve seen examples of already.

        I can’t speak about the tech side of this idea, but maybe buggies will get a motor at some point, to give a little extra boost for tired horses at the end of long journeys. As the community continues to expand geographically, you could see the justifications or desire for it (and the recent significant jump in the price of horses could also work into the argument). I could see something like that sneaking in, especially since it could probably be installed with little visual indication of it being there, and once people have had experience of using a similar device on another common and otherwise manually-powered vehicle it would make it theoretically easier to accept as well…

    4. OldKat

      Riding a horse for transportation

      Erik wrote: “Before we close, one other thing I learned from this column: some Amish go by horseback when emergency duty calls”.

      About 10 years ago, when I was having my mares trained to drive by a member of the Beeville, TX Amish community I would often drive down there one day, spend a couple of days with the young man that was training them & then return home. At night I’d stay in an apartment that a friend had attached to the barn on some property that he owned nearby.

      I’d get up early and drive the short distance to the community to watch the early morning activities around there. One thing I noticed was that the bulk of the boys were riding horses to school, but invariably they were riding bareback.

      I asked someone in the community about it, & he said they don’t like to have to saddle and unsaddle twice a day. So they just slip a bridle on them, grab a hand full of mane and swing themselves up on their horse and go. In the afternoon, they just reverse the process and head the other direction.

      My mother actually wrote a horse to school in the primary grades in the early 1920’s and one of the neighbor boys would unsaddle it in the morning when she got to school & place the saddle in a shed near the building. In the afternoon he would saddle the horse up for her. It was a good arrangement, but she said that she hated to rely on someone else to have to do that for her. She was too small to do it herself. Sounds like the Amish boys in Beeville have solved that problem.

      1. Horseback to school

        Neat anecdote Oldkat, first time I’ve heard that horseback riding would be the preferred way to get to school in a community. Maybe a dumb question but how much more difficult is it riding bareback vs. a saddled horse? And is saddling/unsaddling that much work that it would be worth skipping that step?

    5. OldKat


      I meant to say that she RODE a horse to school, rather than WROTE a horse to school. Not sure why I typed that. Knowing her fondness for all horses she probably wrote plenty about them , too.