Pa. volunteers aid West Hancock
By Jennifer Lenain
Feb 22, 2013, 21:21
Eight volunteer firefighters traveled more than a thousand miles from Lancaster County, Penn., to dedicate their time and efforts to the West Hancock Fire Rescue in Pearlington.
The firefighters, ages 16 to 36, are volunteer members of the Bird-In-Hand Fire Company and Witmer Fire Co. in Lancaster County.
They arrived last Friday and will be helping out at the station until Monday.
So far, they have been responding to calls and working on improvements at the fire station.
The crew responded to three calls before noon on Tuesday, according to West Hancock Fire Chief Kim Jones.
Half of the men in the crew are Amish.
All of them hold full-time jobs aside from their firefighting duties.
The ten-day trip is an out-of-pocket expense for the firefighters.
“It’s a vacation to work and volunteer and help other brother and sister firefighters that need a break,” Witmer Fire Co. President Ted Gallagher said Tuesday.
"We came down to make a difference in people's lives. It's very rewarding to save a life or a piece of property," Witmer Fire Co. Assistant Chief Chris Kauffman said.
"It's important that at the end, everyone goes home safe," Witmer Fire Co. Lt. Reuben Blapp said.
By the end of their trip, the firefighters will have logged a total of 2,000 hours at West Hancock Fire Rescue.
The firefighters found out about West Hancock's need of assistance by word of mouth, indirectly through the group Hancock Hope.
Hancock Hope was organized after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 by a group of firefighters in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, with a mission to provide help for the fire departments in Hancock County.
Executive Director Dan Macakanja, of Buffalo, N.Y., said that Hancock Hope is like the "Salvation Army of fire service."
The primary focus ended in Hancock County and now Hancock Hope assists any department, anywhere, whenever possible, Macakanja said.
"Groups of firefighters offer man-power wherever it is needed and they provide supplies to departments that are suffering financially," Macakanja said, "if there is a need, we try to fulfill it."
"We appreciate the guys coming," Jones said, "we are still suffering."
West Hancock Fire Rescue has 15 volunteers on its roster and only eight or nine of those are active, Jones said.
"We hurt the most during the day," Jones said, "but hardly a month goes by when another group of volunteers comes in."
West Hancock, Clermont Harbor and Bayside fire departments are all in desperate need of volunteers, Jones said.
For more information on Hancock Hope; visit http://hancockhope.org, or find them on Facebook.