If you were involved with the Fire Company in any position in the past, you are invited to the annual Turkey Dinner! Mark your calendar: The next dinner is on November 15, 2017 (location TBA). The dinner is always scheduled on the Wednesday evening before the week of Thanksgiving. Questions? Leave message on fire station voicemail 717-392-0112.
The Bird-in-Hand Fire Company held its annual Turkey Dinner on November 16, 2016 at Good and Plenty Restaurant. This is a time when present Fire Company members enjoy getting together with those who have served with the Company in the past. It is truly a heartwarming event with lots of good food and great conversation.
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of Lifetime Service Awards to Glen Siegrist and Les Fazekas. To recapture the value of their long years of service, family members were asked to provide photographs and give presentations.
Dawn Siegrist Waltman, daughter of Glen and Louise, spoke about the adventures that she and her siblings shared with their father during his 66 years of service. Since Glen was a plumber and a firefighter, he was constantly responding to emergencies. Even though the Siegrists’ family life was full of interrupting phone calls and fire sirens, pride in their father’s community service came through loud and clear.
As a child, Dawn held her father in high esteem because she mistakenly thought the hat that Glen wore as Fire Police Captain meant that he was in charge of all firefighters and police everywhere! Glen’s children imitated him by directing “fire traffic” in their driveway with their riding toys. After the fire at the Dairy Queen on Route 30 in the mid-70s, Glen brought home free ice cream treats for his children. They enjoyed them even though they tasted like smoke!
Jim Fazekas, the son of Les and Barb Fazekas, spoke for his family and honored his father for 45 years of service. Jim is a former Bird-in-Hand firefighter and presently works as an air traffic controller in Leesburg, Virginia, where he volunteers as a captain of a duty crew with the Leesburg Fire Company. In the past his three brothers, Steve, John, and Mike, and his mother were also involved with the Bird-in-Hand Fire Company and Auxiliary.
Jim described the scenario of his brothers and father responding to their pagers in the dark and trying to get dressed and down the stairs without waking their mother. Invariably the cats were in the wrong place at the wrong time and several got launched down the stairs along with the boys!
Dawn and Jim’s presentations underscore the importance of the support of a firefighter’s family. Balancing family and firefighting responsibilities can be complicated because of the time demands of training and meetings, the unpredictability of fire calls, and the inherent dangers of fighting fires.
A firefighter’s family plays an important support role in personal accountability, wellness, fitness, and advocacy for safety. It is a great benefit to the Fire Company to have family members who are positive and supportive. When firefighters’ families understand and accept the physical and emotional demands of the job, it helps Company morale. Whole families can be inspired by the firefighters’ unselfish service to their community and be equally committed to the cause.
We are blessed with caring families in our Company. We appreciate the many ways they support their parents, spouses, and siblings as firefighters because it is with their help that we can build a strong foundation for excellent fire protection.
Years ago there was only a field lane in the area of Siegrist Road. A better road was needed so Glen Siegrist’s grandfather donated the ground from his farms for a new road. An old atlas shows that it did not follow exactly the path of the original lane, but was laid out to serve the residents who lived on the nearby farms.
When East Lampeter Township decided to name their roads, they asked Glen’s grandfather if they could use the family’s name for the road since they lived in the area and he had donated the land. The Siegrist family members have always had a strong presence along the road so the name is appropriate. Glen says, “My parents lived there and I was born and raised there and that’s where I expect to stay!”
A coal stove heated the original Firehouse across from the present station. In order to keep the stove fired up during the winter months, someone had to tend to it on a daily basis. This chore fell to the town mailman, Vince Miller, since he passed by every day while on his mail route. Ironically he lived where the present post office is located, so he was not far away.
Dave Haldeman remembers, “Vince would go past while on his route so he visited the firehouse every day. We depended on him. He acted as the spokesperson. When it was time for a new chief, he is the guy who said, ‘Here, this is yours. You’re chief!’”
According to Dan Fisher, anyone who knew Vince never forgot him. He was quite a character who, along with the Brubaker brothers from the Duck Farm, helped keep the Fire Company alive when it was waning. They revived interest and support among community members by planning the first annual Turkey Dinner. Always doing his part, Vince Miller saved the Fire Company by cooking the turkeys for the meal.
When Dan Fisher Sr. joined the Fire Company in 1963, there were no training requirements. He had attended fire meetings as a boy with his dad, Levi “Dutch” Fisher, in the old fire hall across the street from the present one. Ironically they were called “smoke meetings” because the meeting room was blue with tobacco smoke! Always there was chitchat after the business of the evening was finished.
While he was still a child, Dan started helping with local calls. Whenever he saw smoke, he ran to the scene along with farmers and the rest of the neighborhood. It was a bit like freelancing at firefighting.
When Dan was 17 he officially joined the Fire Company, paid his annual dues, and rode to the fires on the equipment. At that time the basic process of joining was paying dues and attending monthly meetings. There was also training available on the county level as evidenced by training certificates that were earned, but not nearly everyone took the training. According to Dan Sr., firefighting was learned through experience.
n the early 1950s there were Fire Company competitions at Green Dragon in Ephrata.
According to Dave Haldeman, there was a starting point and at the sound of a whistle each company moved into the source of the water supply. Then they hooked up their pump and delivered on the target. The quickest company was recognized as the winner.
Bird-in-Hand had practiced for the competition with their old 1936 Diamond T. However, East Petersburg arrived very proud and confident with their brand new Seagrave engine and pump .
When the whistle sounded, Bird-in-Hand started their rotary gear pump. It was the kind that took awhile to start putting out water. Cliff White was holding the hose and waiting. When the engineer shot to full pressure right away, Cliff was not prepared and it knocked him down on his behind, but Bird-in-Hand took the prize! The old Diamond T delivered faster than the new Seagrave engine and pump!
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.
In 2009 the Hand-in-Hand Fire Company responded to 124 calls. This is somewhat higher than the average of 110 calls per year over the past decade. Present Fire Chief Lonnie Kauffman explains, “The number of calls per year is definitely increasing, although this has only been noticeable in the past two-three years. In 2010 we are already over 100 calls at the end of September.”
The average number of Hand-in-Hand firefighters who respond to a call is 20-25, enough to run three or four pieces of equipment. If Hand-in-Hand has a fire in its first due, as many as 30 responders turn out in addition to retired firefighters and other community people. Since the 1960’s some of the largest fires that firefighters remember are:
- Carriage Machine Shop – Maple Avenue – saved office, lost building
- Reuben Stoltzfus’ farm – Old Philadelphia Pike (construction materials) – loss
- Benjamin Riehl’s tobacco shed – Mascot Road (12/1989) – loss
- Paul Smucker’s barn (now Jerry Smucker) – 431 Beechdale Road (2/1965) – loss
- Amos Stoltzfus’ barn – 2870 Church Road (2/2010)
- Christ Riehl’s Cabinet Shop – 259 Mascot Rd. (2010) – saved horse barn area
- Omar Petersheim barn fire – loss
- Beechdale Woodworks – Beechdale Road – loss
- Manny L. Fisher’s cabinet shop – North Ronks Road – loss
- Wilmer & Marilyn Lapp’s home – 2684 Evergreen Drive – 2 big fires, 2 saves
- Bird-in-Hand Window Sales – 367 Lynwood Rd. (2/2005) – 1st time save, 2nd time loss
- Weavertown Coach Shop – 2 fires – saved
- Henry Blank’s chicken house – Gibbons Road – saved
- John Petersheim’s home – N. Weavertown – saved home
- David Beiler Farm – 280 Maple Ave – roof fire burned into attic
- Don Oatman – 2600 Old Phila. Pike – very cold winter night – saved house
- Aaron Y. Beiler – house @ foot of Molasses Hill – saved
- Christ Beiler’s home – end of Miller Lane -saved
- C.B. Miller – Gibbons Rd. – saved house
- Dan Esh farm – Gibbons Rd. – fire started in lower level stripping room – saved
- Amish Barn Restaurant – 3029 Old Philadelphia Pike – wooden shingles roof – saved
- Vallorbs – 2591 Old Philadelphia Pike – 3 saves (2 flammable metals, 1 main building
- John U. Stoltzfus’ Wood Shop – 2957 Church Road – saved
A reliable source of water is a necessity for a fire company to successfully fight fires. The source should be conveniently located with an abundant supply of water available for use at all times. With this in mind, the residents of Bird-in-Hand met in a public meeting with the intent of raising money to build cisterns. A total of $500 was pledged at the meeting to construct two cisterns, each with a capacity of 13,500 gallons.
They were built in 1946 for the total cost of $1,684.46. One was located at 2695 Old Philadelphia Pike near the junction of Maple Avenue on land deeded to the Fire Company by Clarence Bitzer of Bitzers Hotel. The second one was located at 2644 Old Philadelphia Pike in front of the old 1922 fire hall and across the road from the present fire hall. Witmer, Lafayette, and Strasburg Fire Companies helped fill the cisterns by relay from the Mill Creek in December 1946.
These cisterns are no longer in use today, because they lack suffient volume to fight large, modern-day fires. In addition, four of today's large tankers can bring the entire contents of a cistern to the fire. The designated fill sites are the lake on the grounds of the Bird-in-Hand Restaurant and Family Inn, the reservoir behind the Business Center on Beechdale Road, and some of the local streams.