Reader Ed C has shared some photos of Lancaster County firefighters putting out a blaze in the Strasburg area in winter 2012. You can read this post for more background on Amish serving on fire companies in the Lancaster community.
Amish are involved in more than a token way on fire companies in Lancaster County, with one official estimating up to 300 Plain firefighters serving on local crews. You’ll notice in the photos below a number of the firefighters are Amish, including the red-helmeted fire officer in the center of the 11th photo down.
This fire broke out in a small barn/storage garage, which as you can see in some of the photos below, was packed to the brim full of stuff. I’m not sure how many companies were involved, but besides the Strasburg company you can see there are also members of the Bird-in-Hand company represented here.
These photos capture a little bit of the drama of a firefighting operation in action. From the looks of it the firefighters got the upper hand on this blaze but not without significant damage to the structure.
Ed also includes photos from a couple of fire company-related events. This first set is from the Bird-in-Hand EMS/Fire Appreciation event in May 2005.
This final photo is of young Amish members of the Intercourse Fire Company manning the Fire Safety booth at Intercourse Heritage Days, June 2006.
Amish teens may start training on a limited basis with local companies after leaving school. A friend’s recently-graduated son is doing so now with the Blue Ball substation of Garden Spot Fire Rescue.
Enjoy this post? Support Amish America the next time you buy something from Amazon. It’s free and easy, and helps keep the posts a-coming. Here’s how.
You might also like:
Fascinating! Are these Volunteer Fire Depts or are they regular jobs? Do they sleep at the firehouse with the English firemen?
Volunteer Firefighting in PA
In Pennsylvania the Amish make up a good portion of the Volunteer firefighting membership of local companies. I for one am thankful for the support that they give for their local communities.
In the case of most volunteer fire companies, the firefighters do not sleep at the firehouse, they respond from their homes or wherever they happen to be. They have regular jobs, farms, just like anyone else. In my department, we respond to the firehouse and bring the apparatus to the scene. Some departments, some of the members may go directly to the scene from where they are, especially if they are close or pass by the scene.
A bit off topic.
But I’m on vacation in WY. Sat I met a young Amish couple from Wisconsin. I immediately recognized the young lady. It threw me for a moment cause there was no prayer kapo, or black bonnet. She had a blue scarf for head covering. The young man was also pretty much in traditional clothing. No jeans. Can’t remember if I saw suspenders.
I suppose a question I have is if they went for a hike the young woman would not change into even Capri shorts (the kind that come don below the knee). Being in a dress would make hiking more difficult. Could she have at least changed shoes to a more hiking shoe than tennis shoe.
The dyke along the Snake River is pretty flat but I find a cross trainer shoe–half tennis shoe and half hiking boot can be pretty comfy. String Lake is pretty flat. After that you can get some uphills and down. Taggart Lake has an uphill climb about a half mile. You gain about 3/400 ft in altitude. It doesn’t sound like a lot til you remember that you started close to 6200 ft in altitude and by the time you get to the lake it’s almost 7000 ft altitude!
So they had a driver. Not sure if they drove from Wisconsin or what. My sister tells me old order Mennonites come into town sometimes. I had to try to explain the difference and that this couple specifically said Old Order Amish.
How cool is it that 1 I didnt have my camera with me and 2 even if I had I still wouldn’t have snapped photos cause I know it’s very offensive to them.
The guy had a full beard. Not very long–but I don’t know how fast beards grow. My guess? They got married last winter or the year before. I didn’t see any kids.
It was kinda cool seeing them here. It’s a bit off the beaten path. But I’m so glad they went for an adventure and saw some of the prettiest countryside in this country.
Great photos! I think many people are unaware that Amish churches are involved in their surrounding communities in this way.
How do they get a seal on their air masks while having the traditional facial hair.
On May 3rd, we had a major fire in our town. We had 16 fire companies there – two of the fire companies had Amish and Old Order Mennonite firemen in them working side by side with the Englishers. The two companies with Amish, were volunteers. When they have all their fire suits and equipment on, you can’t tell the Amish from the Englishers. I happened to know one of the Old Order Mennonite Fireman and his family. We lost four buildings on our Main Street and the fireman told me his was sorry, they couldn’t save them. I told him to look at what he did save. Had it not been for them, the whole side of the street could have gone. Amish and Old Order Mennonite do not allow women to be fire fighters, at least in our area. They feel fire fighting is men’s work. I say God Bless to all fire fighters Amish, Old Order Mennonite, Englishers – men and women. They risk their lives every day for us.
Just curious, which community or company were the Amish and Mennonite firefighters from?
What Fire Company?
I saw Strasburg on one of the active truck doors.
The beard shave line may need to be adjusted. In the late 1980’s early 90’s we had a 30 or 40 hour Firefighter course, and if I remember correctly there was an exemption to allow a beard and a face mask, the concern revolved mostly around the State Insurance plan.
I would think that the high population of Amish close proximity to the Fire Houses, that is overlooked, because it is harder to find Volunteers..
John, interesting, I heard something similar suggested–could it be that they are getting certified before marriage/beards are in the picture?
They may have, however I would think there are some that would be certified later.
This is just great!! I’ve always been interested in the subject of Amish firefighters. Wow…great pictures! Not to be weird or anything, but I can’t help but think how cute this is! ehehe!
I dress Plain and hike in an ankle length dress very much like Amish dresses and do not find it uncomfortable at all. I have noticed, that often the non-Plain people assume Plain dress to be more uncomfortable and impractical than it actually is. If plain dress really was very difficult to wear in a farm environment (where all family members have to do lifting/climbing/other hard and dirty work), I don’t think it would not have survived very long. Plain dresses provide plenty of room for movement and the fabrics are light and breathable. While dress hems are long, they are not uncomfortably long.
This being said, there are other things besides comfort to consider. Amish take very seriously not just modesty in terms of appropriate amount of coverage, but also their belief that women should not wear men’s clothing (ie. pants) or vice versa. I believe that all Plain people regardless of faith would consider simplicity (whether obtaining clothing of limited usage is really a Plain choice). A Plain person could really not wear capris much except for hiking, so would purchasing a pair just for occassional hiking be justified? Also, the Plain testimony and separatedness important points. Traditional Plain dress sends a clear message of simplicity and peace, while English clothing does in general does not (even when it is in fact ethical/thrifted/simple). Therefore, if one is committed to the Plain way, it’s usually best to choose to wear Plain dress unless it is seriously inappropriate.
Do you wear the long bloomers? When I was younger I wore knitted leggings or bloomers to hide my under clothes. Also, this was when I was about 8 so may be it is used for children only.
Interesting photos. Can’t tell Amish from English when looking at their back in uniform.
Concerning the first fire: And I thought my mother and daughter were pack rats! Kind of an oxy moron if the place belongs to an Amish person.
It does not surprise me there are Amish Volunteer Firefighters. It is an awesome way to “serve” others. I was wondering about the packed to the brim building and if it was Amish owned or English owned. Whoever, that person is definitely a hoarder. What a shame to lose that much “stuff” as it must have been important to the owner to keep it, even if I think it is way too much.
Hoarding hazard for firefighters
Doing this post, I learned a new term Alice Mary, courtesy of Ed– “Collyer’s Mansion”, originating from the infamous hoarding Collyer brothers of Harlem. From Wikipedia:
A Collyer’s Mansion (also Collyer Mansion or just Collyer) is a modern firefighting term for a dwelling of hoarders that is so filled with trash and debris it becomes a serious danger to the occupants and emergency responders.
Also there this is from an NYT article entitled “‘Collyers’ Mansion is Code for Firefighters’ Nightmare”:
Thomas Von Essen, a former New York City fire commissioner, said that the term communicated crucial information to new firefighters. “What’s dangerous is that all this stuff could fall down,” he said. “Or it could weaken the floors, and when you put water on it you could have a collapse. You could fall into it and then you have a hard time getting out. You could get caught behind it; your mask could get tangled. I could guarantee you that people have gotten hurt in those kinds of situations.”
Firefighters are a special breed no matter their background. My female cousin up in Northern Wisconsin is a volunteer firefighter even in her mid 60’s. A friend’s son fought wildfires out west all thru college up til a few years ago. He quit when he married, now is a dad. He followed in his Uncle’s footsteps. He’s a lieutenant in our local fire company.
How do the Amish get to fires? Do Englishers generally pick them up and drive them? I would think that would usually be the fastest way, not so much hooking a horse to a buggy. Just curious.
God bless all firefighters!
I was wondering the same thing, Mary Alice! Do they carry a beeper when they’re on call?
I’m only familiar with the Amish in MN and I’m not aware of them being volunteer firefighters. Many of the communities they live in are rural and quite a distance from a large city.
Fascinating pictures! Thanks for sharing them!
How Amish firefighters get to the scene of fires
Good questions here, Matt touches on Amish carrying pagers in a comment below, and here are some comments from Ed who took the photos:
My observation is that many Amish firefighters carry pagers that alert them to fire calls. Each Fire Company has its own set of tones; I don’t know if the pagers also carry voice messages giving locations or other details of the alarms.
If they live or work close enough they go directly to the firehouse or to the fire scene, and as I mentioned previously I once saw an Amish firefighter ride his scooter down his farm lane to 340, where an English firefighter enroute to the firehouse picked him up in his car.
At the Bird-in-Hand window factory fire, I drove an Amish youth to a church service east of Intercourse to notify the factory owner. We arrived and learned he had already been taken by another person; I then drove three members of the Intercourse Fire Company to the firehouse to pick up their gear, and then to the fire.
Most departments in the U.S. still rely on “Voice” dispatching.
The pagers can be set to normally be silent, until they hear the unique combination of tones that “open” them up. You can then hear the dispatcher stating the department, call type, location, etc.
I do know there were a few, and even fewer if any left today, departments that used pagers but not voice. You’d just hear the pager beep and have to respond to the station to find out what the call was.
My area was an early adopter of alphanumeric dispatching. In my area most members wear alphanumeric pagers during the day, and keep a traditional voice pager at home by the bed to wake them up for night time calls. Calls are first sent out by alphapaging, then over voice.
The voice pagers are bulkier, heavier, and much more expensive than alpha pagers…though it is probably break-even over the course of a decade or so since the alpha pagers break more easily.
How can we get the Amish involved?
I have been doing some research and came accross this comment chain about Amish volunteer firefighters. We are working on starting up a fire department in an area in Charles County Maryland that has a modist Amish population. What wolud be the bast way to approach the local Amish comunity about interst in volunteering?
The Amish in that area of Maryland have roots in Lancaster County, which has the tradition of Amish participation in fire companies. That might lean in your favor if you approach local Amish on the matter. You might float the idea when you are speaking to someone from the community. It’s possible they have relations who are involved in firefighting in the Lancaster community.
Unlike those in the Lancaster community, most Amish in America are not involved to such a degree in their local fire fighting institutions, and tradition is important to the Amish. But again this connection may help.
Erik, once again, thank you for this wealth of information. I learn so much reading your articles.
Margaret, I was raised with ‘no pants, ever, mo matter what the activity’ and have survived just fine. It hasn’t stopped me or interfered with me enjoying the things I do, including hiking. I know that may sound strange, but it’s just what you are used to.
Glad you enjoy it Dali, and I forgot to thank Ed here for contributing the photos and his observations.
Fascinating pictures and how wonderful that the Amish play such a role in there community’s, is this on a voluntary basics ?. If so how do they get to the fire station in a emergence? Would think horse and buggy or scooter would not be fast transport . Great pics 🙂
Take a look at the last sign, CAUTION Watch for Responding Firemen, at:
The same scooter sign is shown here, posted in 2012,
I wonder if many of the Amish firefighters have an English neighbor willing to give them a ride when there’s an emergency? I suspect there are quite a few English folks in the areas with a lot of Amish representation on fire companies who are happy to help out, considering the incredible service these men are doing for their community. Thanks so much for the interesting photos! It really does show that all firefighters are brothers/sisters, doesn’t it?
My understanding is many church districts allow firemen to carry pagers.
Also, many of the Lancaster departments still run firehouse sirens — many would be civil defense sirens that in the midwest and south are often used instead for tornado warnings.
“Across Lancaster County, 31 fire departments, or nearly half of those responding to a “Lancaster County House Siren Survey” by the county fire chiefs association, say they use a siren on a 24/7 basis.
Another 18, like the Hempfield company, shut the siren off at night, while 19 others use no sirens at all, the survey found.
Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/863735_Sirens-sound-again-in-Landisville.html#ixzz2Z96u3aZM”
In wide open country like Lancaster, they’d be very effective — especially reaching folks who live without many electronic distractions or air conditioning.
Up here in Connecticut, I’ve heard some of my department’s older members muse how they used to be able to hear the siren while taking a shower, and now they’re so used to pagers they don’t hear it just sitting in the living room. We use ours for fire/accidents from 6am to 10pm, afterwards it’s just pagers except in rare situations when something is wrong with the paging system.
Many of Amish will “hitchhike” going out to the road and being picked up by English neighbors responding to the call.
I’ve looked, but I can’t find it online, maybe it is too new a news story, but apparently over the weekend a Mennonite Boy died in a silo fire in Southern Ontario. I think I might have seen it on either Global television, CTV, CP24 or CHCH. I wondered if anyone else in Ontario had seen this story. If you can find it, I’d appreciate it. A report I recall noted that the family lost track of the boy while one of the parents was trying to save the animals.
In an odd way it was “nice” that Erik posted this entry on Amish firefighters after I saw a report on the tragedy.
Also, I think that this, the Amish volunteer firefighter topic is logical because, in Amish/Mennonite/Anabaptist history, we read that there is examples of believers giving aid to people who need it, although I am thinking of the man who saved his drowning pursuer, saving his life even though the pursuer might have wanted to kill him. Being an Amish firefighter makes sense because they value human life.
These links are about a barn fire instead of a silo fire, but it was a 2-year-old Old Order Mennonite boy in Ontario. I’m not sure if it was the same one you had in mind. I understand a service is scheduled, even though no body was found.
“Search for boy gone missing during barn fire continues” was the title of another article.
“Search for toddler after barn blaze shifts to recovery”, July 13, CBC News.
Good Morning Erik,
When we had our village fire, the two towns that had Amish and/or Mennonite Firemen were Lyons and Gorham.
Thanks for answering!
A volunteer firefighter in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, was responding for an accident call, when he lost control of his personal car in the rain. Bruce Sensenig, 20, a Plain Mennonite, collided with another vehicle and was killed Monday evening. He had been married a year.
In Ohio, an interesting story has a good ending. An Amish EMT was responding to a call, driving a tractor on his way to the fire station, when he saw an open door and took a calculated guess that this was the home in need of help. He was correct. “There are no coincidences” http://www.holmesbargainhunter.com/article/20130715/FEATURES/707159931/-1/hbh
In an article titled, “Becky Mast: Pomerene Hospital’s own miracle, Woman inexplicably survives sudden heart failure,” an Amish paramedic arrived by tractor and continued CPR. (same people) She may have had postpartum cardiomyopathy.
This is a little correction. Bruce was only married four months. His young widow is hearing impaired.