Lancaster Amish Bring Their Firefighting Tradition To Virginia

We’ve got a nice look here at how Amish volunteer firefighters help their communities. The community here is at Farmville, Virginia. This growing community has roots in Lancaster County, which has a long-running tradition of Amish and other Plain people serving on fire companies. So it only makes sense that the Amish who’ve moved here continue that service in their sister (daughter) settlement.

Amish volunteer firefighters in Lancaster County. Photo: Ed C.

In this article from the Farmville Herald, we get a look at how Amish help volunteer, through the example of an Amishman named Benjamin Beiler:

TOGA – It’s a crisp and clear day in Toga, and Benjamin Beiler just got word about a fire in Buckingham County. Beiler lives only about a half a mile from the fire house, but time is of the essence. He’s got to get there quickly, so he hops on his scooter, outfitted with a light and a siren, and kick-starts the ground to be on his way.

The scooter has no motor. It’s not battery-operated or gas-fueled. Beiler is Amish, and good ol’ fashioned foot power is his mode of transportation. “Obviously having an emergency flasher makes it like a fire truck which is just fun,” Beiler says with a laugh.

On how the Amish started volunteering in the area, and one example of how they work together:

As the Amish started to move into the county over the last decade, Bates says his department formed an Amish Outreach Committee to assist in integrating them into the community. “We rode out, met a couple of folks and introduced ourselves,” Bates said. “They had expressed an interest in learning more about the fire department, and that’s really how the conversation started. I’m really glad we did that.”

The effort, like a volunteer-run fire department, is a community one. Though Bates admits the Amish are ingenious about getting to the firehouse, they’ve worked out a network that can help if they need it.

“Obviously, they don’t drive,” Bates said. “So if I know the route I’m going to respond to a call will take me to one of their homes, I’ll get on the radio and be by their location. And if they’re there, I pick them up and we roll, otherwise they’re good about getting rides from their neighbors.”

Benjamin Beiler sounds like a fun person to be around:

Beiler, like many in his community, works a job in construction. The days stretch from 6 a. m. to 6:30 p. m., but if he can find the availability, he takes the calls and rushes to the fire house, flipping on his scooter’s siren so his wife knows he’s on his way. He says the Amish and other men who work with the department have great camaraderie.

“It’s just a time when you get together, socialize, talk common interests, and sit around and tell tall stories,” he says. “Just like any social event where men folk get together and raise cane.”

Bates says they bring a unique perspective to the team. “They’re happy to help,” he says. “They are very practical and pragmatic, which is what I’m hopeful to find in volunteers in my department, and they do that as well as anybody.”

The article is not very long, but worth checking out as it also includes a photo of Beiler with members of the fire team prepping for an upcoming fundraiser. Volunteer fire companies in Lancaster County of course hold mud sales to raise funds for their operations. I don’t know if the fundraiser in question here is also a mud sale or some other type of fundraiser (like a firehouse dinner).

But I could see them certainly bringing the mud sale tradition along with them to their new communities, just as they have with volunteering on the fire companies themselves. Another example of Amish volunteering on fire companies would be in the Lancaster-origin settlement in Seneca County, New York.

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