The following article continues a series detailing various positions that our firefighters fill. From basic skills to top management, all roles are vitally important in making our Fire Company function well. We hope these articles help community members better understand how we function as a team using everyone’s strengths within a chain of command.
CAPTAINS & LIEUTENANTS
The captains and lieutenants are known as line officers. They are on the front line at the scene of a fire or accident and serve as crew leaders on the ground. The chief gives these officers their tasks and they in turn figure out how to get that job done. That means the officers receive orders and then turn around and give orders.
They know the abilities of all of the basic firefighters and understand their individual strengths. Thus, these officers know best which firefighter should be doing which job. They are well qualified to match the firefighters’ skills with the requirements of the job at the scene of an emergency. They depend on their years of training and service to help them organize and lead their ground crew.
In order to serve as a line officer, a firefighter has to be…
- a very active member of the Fire Company
- a senior firefighter
- available to show up for calls
- willing to go through the rigors of training
- a capable person who can handles tasks well
- physically fit with lots of stamina
The three company chiefs meet to choose their team of officers. That means the line officers are appointed, not elected. A certain level of responsibility comes with being chosen. Even though newly appointed officers might not feel ready for their positions, they know someone saw potential in them. They accept the positions assured of future leadership and mentorship.
In addition to being a line officer, they all have other tasks. Members of the present team have these individual responsibilities: in charge of confined space rescue equipment, in charge of engine bay, help with power equipment, in charge of managing turnout gear, and help with training.
When the officers respond to a typical call, two ride on the engine, one on the tanker, and one on the squad. When there is overlap on fire calls, they go by seniority since there is a respect that is learned in the ranks. They know each other well and call out, “I got it. I’m taking it.” In order to provide training and experience to his officers when there is a lower key incident, the chief will occasionally go to the back of the engine and say, “You’re up front.” That puts the officer in charge!
Thanks to Ephraim Stoltzfus (Captain 1), Junior Stoltzfus (Captain 2), Mike Burkholder (Lieutenant 1), and Mark Beiler (Lieutenant 2) for taking part in an interview for this article.
Benjamin Franklin started a fire brigade in Philadelphia that had one purpose – to fight fires. Hence, the men were called firefighters. We fight against something negative; something people don’t want, such as a fire in a building.
Fire service in America has followed that concept quite closely. However, today’s local fire companies are much more than fighters. They are also providers; providing something people want. They provide rescue at vehicle accidents, assist property owners in investigating automatic alarms at local businesses, control hazardous materials spills, provide traffic control, assist EMS crews, and provide farm and wild land rescue services.
These responses all require knowledge and this means many evenings and Saturdays spent in training. What’s in the name firefighter/provider? Come see for yourself at the Bird-in-Hand Fire Station on the third Tuesday evening of each month as you watch your firefighters go through training.
Bird-in-Hand’s most senior firefighters met together at the Fire Hall on Thursday, January 14 for a morning of reminiscing. As Dave Haldeman (68 years), Glenn Siegrist (66 years), Dan S. Fisher (53 years), Les Fazekas (45 years), and Bud Shirk (41 years) told their stories, they flamed up fading embers from the past. John Schell (57 years) added his memories in a later interview.
Their stories follow a common theme of dedication to their community. Together they have served an impressive total of 330 years. These men were firefighters, chief, deputy chief, fire police captains, chaplain, president, and board member. In their words, “We did what needed to be done.”
Here are some brightly glowing embers that flicker from the past:
- In the old days, the way to get started as a firefighter was to pay the annual dues and come to the fire meetings. There were also firefighting courses available but not everyone took those. Dan S. Fisher came to the meetings with his dad Dutch and then started going to the fires too. He “freelanced” at firefighting. “Whenever we saw smoke, we went to the fire. When we got there, we grabbed a hose and ran.” Firefighters came, but farmers and neighbors also showed up to fight the fire.
- At a low point in the Fire Company, when only six men came out for the Fire Company meetings, the Brubakers from the Beechdale Duck Farm worked hard to keep it going. They said, “Let’s have a turkey dinner.” They supplied the turkeys from their farm and Vince Miller was the chief cook.
Fifteen people were at that meal at the old fire station before the kitchen addition was put on the back. They sat on the running boards of the fire truck since there was no other place to sit. Today it is still called the turkey dinner, but instead of 15, now 150 community people gather to enjoy the evening.
- Early on, the Amish in our community were encouraged to join the Fire Company. One of the first Amishmen was Andrew Beiler. He bought one of the two-wheeled handcarts that the firefighters used. It was pulled by a rope and the pressure was generated by dumping water, soda, and acid together. The water shot 60 feet in the air. The Beiler family has been faithful to the Fire Company. Today three of Andrew Beiler’s greatgrandsons, Andrew, Mark and Benjamin are firefighters.
- Aaron Miller from Gibbons Road encouraged John Schell to join the Fire Company a few years after John bought his house on Beechdale Road and moved to the Bird-in-Hand area from Lebanon County. John suspects Aaron needed a ride to the fire station. When the fire siren sounded, John drove his pickup truck along Beechdale Road and slowed down enough for Amish firefighters to jump on the back. He arrived at the station with a full load!
There are still many more stories to retell from the January 14 roundtable discussion. Watch for brightly glowing embers in the next issues of the Fire Company newsletter.
Congratulations to Paul Fisher on his 25-year Service Award!
Doug Glick grew up in a family of firefighters. His grandfather Jake Glick of Smoketown volunteered for many years with the Witmer Fire Company and his father Dave served there as assistant chief. It was natural for Doug to become a junior fireman at Witmer when he was 14 because it meant spending time with his dad. Constantly being around the scanners in his home as a child perked his interest in radio.
When Doug returned to the area after finishing his schooling, Wilmer Lapp and Jerry Smucker encouraged him to help the Bird-in-Hand Fire Company with their radio system. The next year in 1987, Doug joined as a regular firefighter.
Over the years Doug has served as a lieutenant and captain. He also was a part of the 2000 Engine Committee, 2008 Building Committee, and the 2013-2014 Tanker Committee. Presently he responds to fires as a driver/operator and serves as one of three trustees who take care of the building and grounds. Doug is often seen at the Fire Hall replacing light bulbs and doing the routine repairs that keep the building in tiptop shape.
Doug values this opportunity to serve his community, a service he knows is very much needed and is important to the wellbeing of his neighbors. At the Fire Company he has learned about leadership, teamwork, acceptance, and trust. He says, “Bird-in-Hand is an exceptional Fire Company. We trust our leaders and the leaders trust that the others are going to follow them. Plus, we have used patience when things don’t happen exactly like we want them to. An example is our financial budget where we have used a good process to project what our bottom line will be in 20 years. That will keep us sustainable.”
Most people in the United States have become familiar with the 9-1-1 system since it was first implemented in 1968. Today dialing 9-1-1 from any telephone in North America will link the caller to an emergency dispatch center, which can send emergency responders to the caller’s location in the United States and Canada.
When should the 9-1-1 system be used? Our Fire Company recommends that when a fire is discovered, getting out of the building and then calling 9-1-1 early is much better than trying to fight the fire alone.
However… someone called 9-1-1 to check the game schedule for his favorite football team. Another person reported his neighbor’s cat prowling on his front porch. Another called to complain about his utility bill. These inappropriate 9-1-1 calls, which are a misuse of the emergency system, actually happened here in the Lancaster/Harrisburg area.
Prank calls like these tie up the 9-1-1 emergency phone system and can delay response to real 9-1-1 calls. Remember that the 9-1-1 system is intended for use in emergency circumstances only; those types of situations where a quick response from EMS, police, or fire is needed. The 911 reporting system works well – let’s not abuse it.
Written by Chief Lonnie Kauffman
Recently Lancaster County residents have heard about an increase in the number of vehicle accidents involving Amish buggies. Speed and carelessness are the culprits in almost every case. Carelessness can be the fault of either the car or buggy driver.
Motorists should be aware that even though most horses are trained for the road, they can still spook. When passing a buggy under normal driving conditions, motorists should primarily watch the horse. Watching only the buggy is a mistake. Safe driving requires vigilance and focus by all buggy and motor vehicle drivers.