Category Archives: History

Flickering Embers from the Past

Dave Haldeman and Bud Shirk were interviewed, along with Les Fazekas and Glen Siegrist, in January 2016. They are the source of many historical stories that are told in this Flickering Embers column.

Memories of Bud Shirk

For many years the Fire Company knew exactly how to deal with their water and electrical problems. They had two very skilled firefighters among their ranks, Glen Siegrist who is a plumber and Bud Shirk who was an electrician. These men lent their vocational expertise whenever there was a plumbing or electrical need at the Fire Hall.
Les Fazekas jokes, “When there was a problem that involved both water and electricity, we wondered whom we should call, Glen or Bud!” Les also explains that Bud could test electrical currents with his bare hands. He stuck his fingers into a socket to see if it was live and could touch 110 and 220 volt wires without getting shocked!
Bud shared memories about helping to clean up the hill outside of the Fire Hall and sweeping the sidewalks. He also remembered helping with a water rescue on Beechdale Road by the mill where the Mill Creek had flooded. He recalled, “We backed in with a ladder truck and took it across to the roof to bring the people out of the second story of the house.”
Bud also recounted that  “When I responded to a fire call, I didn’t know if I was going to ride home with the Fire Company or not. It was always, ‘While you’re here Shirk, can you take care of this?’ Bud was a true servant and often stayed longer than the rest of the firefighters to make sure that the electricity was safe for the people after a fire had been put out.

Memories of Dave Haldeman

Dave Haldeman’s garage was located at the corner of Route 340 and Beechdale Road close to the railroad underpass. He was in the very center of town and could get to the Fire Station quickly. This made him a vital link to the town’s safety. Before 911 and pagers, the phone number for Dave’s garage was a follow-up number when the first call at Lloyd and Miriam Weaver’s home could not be reached. When a call came to Dave, he hurried to the Fire Hall to set off the siren.
At one fire on Irishtown Road a building was burning down for a second time. Dave was working to put up a portable pump in the spring. Dave reminisced, “I was working with the pump and I felt something brushing around my neck.” At first he thought it was just a cow and he slapped it away. But instead of a cow, it was a bull!
The problem of loose animals was discussed at the next fire meeting. Mel Esh suggested that the firefighters should have an extra rope on the truck to tie up bulls!
Dave had a lot of support at home. His wife Mary was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary and kept a loaf of bread in the freezer at all times in case there was a big fire and she had to make sandwiches.
Mary explains, “When the fire siren went off, Dave left and I made calls to see if it was a bad fire and if they needed to have the auxiliary’s help. Then we went to work making sandwiches for the firefighters. Kauffman’s Fruit Farm and Market was a very big help. We got food from them.”

In Memoriam – James H. “Bud” Shirk

James H. “Bud” Shirk August 26, 1928 – April 12, 2017 Age 88

Bud was a member of the Fire Company for 42 years, beginning in 1975. His notable service was as the first official Fire Company chaplain, starting in 1977. He served in that position for over 30 years until 2010 and made an incredible impression on multiple generations of volunteers. Bud also shared his skills as an electrician with the Fire Company by giving advice and doing repairs as needed.
As an electrician with Lapp Electric for many years, his service went well beyond the community of Bird-in-Hand. He worked with disaster relief and with Habitat for Humanity in places such as the Deep South after Hurricane Katrina, West Virginia, Texas, Alaska, the Caribbean and Central America.
Bud was a long and faithful member of First Baptist Church in Lancaster. There he served as a deacon, trustee, Sunday school teacher, property committee member, and usher. Active with the American Baptist Men of PA and DE, he was named Layman of the Year in 2007.
Bud and his wife Grace lived at Lancashire Terrace Retirement Village in Neffsville. His first wife of 48 years, Katherine, passed away in 2002. They had five children, 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

In Memoriam – Richard L. “Rick” Nields

Richard L. “Rick” Nields May 14, 1962 – June 21, 2017 Age 55

Rick was a member of the Fire Company for 39 years, beginning in 1978 when he was 16 years old. He served as chief engineer, on the Squad Committee, and was trained and qualified to drive the engine, tanker and squad. He drove Engine 41-1 to one final call on Saturday evening June 17, four days before his heart attack.
One of Rick’s passions was driving the tanker in the Mother’s Day convoy for Make-A-Wish. He was one of the top fundraisers for this organization. He enjoyed seeing smiles on the children’s faces as he handed out firemen’s hats and coloring books, plus he always had a large stuffed animal for the child who rode with him.
Each Saturday evening there is a distribution at the Fire Hall of baked goods leftover from a market stand. After local families had chosen what they could use, Rick put the remaining food in his pickup truck and delivered it to Water Street Mission in Lancaster. Rick had a heart of compassion.
Rick began his career as an auto mechanic at Dave Haldeman’s Garage in Bird-in-Hand as a teenager. After Dave’s retirement, he worked for Jack Robinson’s Garage also in Bird-in-Hand. For the past three years he owned Rick Nields Garage, LLC in Smoketown. When he fixed minor problems on his friends’ vehicles or Fire Company vehicles, he would say, “Merry Christmas.” Rick had a generous heart.
Rick leaves his wife Betty, son Randy and daughter Jennifer. Four hundred people gathered at the Fire Hall on Sunday afternoon, June 25, to pay their respects to Rick.

In Memoriam – David G. “Dave” Haldeman

David G. “Dave” Haldeman September 3, 1919 – March 22, 2017 Age 97

Dave was a member of the Fire Company for 69 years, beginning in 1948. He served as Hand-in-Hand’s 6th chief for 20 years from 1952-1971. Other positions he held were president from 1978-1981, vice president, board director, Zone-4 delegate, Lancaster County Firemen’s Association delegate, Pennsylvania State delegate, and Community Safety and Fire Prevention Committee.
Dave attended almost every fire meeting and he and his wife Mary could be counted on to help with Fire Company activities and any need in the community. He owned and operated Dave Haldeman’s Garage in Bird-in-Hand for 33 years where he did car maintenance, small engine repair, fixed lawn mowers, pumped gas, and provided a place for the community to gather.
His community involvements touched many. A member of the Paradise Rotary Club, he had 58 years of perfect attendance. He was a charter member of the East Lampeter Park and volunteered with the Boy Scouts until he was 94. As a member of Conestoga Church of the Brethren, he served as choir member, Sunday school teacher, deacon, and administrative board member.
Dave and Mary retired to Brethren Village in Lititz. They have three children, Edward, Sara, and Sandra, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

2017 Turkey Dinner

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.

Families Support their Firefighters

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.


Flickering Embers from the Past: Naming Siegrist Road

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!”

Flickering Embers from the Past: Daily Visits to the Firehouse

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.

Flickering Embers of the Past: Becoming a Firefighter in the Old Days

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.