Young to retire as Rothsville Fire Co. Chief

By on January 16, 2019

There was never any question that Claude Young Jr. would one day be a volunteer firefighter with the Rothsville Fire Company.

As a young boy, “Sam” lived across the street from the fire hall and watched fire trucks as they responded to fire calls. His father, Claude Young Sr. was the fire chief for 30 years. Fire calls often came into the family home and Ethel Young answered the phone and served as dispatcher.

Now, at 72, Young is handing over his title as fire chief to his nephew — also a Young — Greg Young, a 32-year veteran volunteer with the fire company.

Sure enough, Sam Young joined the Rothsville Fire Company as a junior firefighter when he was only 12. When you are a Young in Rothsville, it’s kind of your calling in life. Over the years, he followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming fire chief in 1988 when his father retired. He has served the Rothsville Fire Company for 60 years, 30 of them as fire chief.

Now, at 72, Young is handing over his title as fire chief to his nephew — also a Young — Greg Young, a 32-year veteran volunteer with the fire company.

“It was always my goal to make it to 30 years as fire chief, like my father,” says Sam Young. “I was raised to serve the community and now it’s time to retire.”

Still, it is a bittersweet moment in his life.

“I don’t hunt. I don’t fish. I don’t travel. The fire company has been my whole life and my family’s life,” says Young, noting that his wife Gloria has also been involved with the fire company auxiliary.

In his retirement, he plans to relax and take it easy. He will still serve as a member of the volunteer fire company, and will be available to offer any assistance to his nephew as the new fire chief.

“When I started with the fire company at 12, I helped out with things like the peeling potatoes for French fries for the Ladies Auxiliary,” says Young.

Retiring Chief Sam Young Jr. (right), who joined the Rothsville Fire Company as a junior firefighter when he was only 12, show here with his father Chief Sam Young Sr. (left).

By the time he was in high school, at 16, he was a junior firefighter, and helped the fire company on calls. Over the years, his responsibilities grew and eventually he became assistant fire chief, under his father. When Claude Young Sr. retired in 1988, his son was ready to take the reins.

All of the Young boys joined the fire company, including Sam and his younger brothers, Gary, Craig and John. Their sister Linda was also involved with the auxiliary, as were their wives.

Young remembers a barn fire in the 1960s in Creek Road that made him realize how important service was to the community. There were cows and mules that had to be rescued from the barn and many of them perished.

In 1972, it wasn’t fire but water that threatened the community. Hurricane Agnes flooded roads and bridges all over the township served by the Rothsville Fire Company. Young remembers a house on Karen Court that was flooded to the first floor. The fire company faced many detours to get to the house to rescue the homeowners because of flooded roads. In early 2000, Young remembers a tragic car accident when a speeding vehicle crashed into a house on Newport Road, killing the driver and a young man who was asleep in his bed in the house.

“The fire was so bad, we didn’t even realize there was a car at first,” says Young. “The house was fully engulfed in flames.” There have been many occasions when the fire company were true heroes. One of the most notable happened in 2007, when John Gibbel was burning brush in his backyard. When the flames flared up unexpectedly, he tried to put them out. His wife called 9-1-1.

When the Rothsville Fire Company arrived moments later, the burning brush was the least of their concerns. Gibbel had collapsed. His heart had stopped. Fortunately, the fire truck was equipped with a defibrillator. Some of the firefighters put out the fire, while the others administered CRP to Gibbel and were able to provide the electrical charge that restarted his heart and saved his life. Gibbel was then transported by ambulance to the hospital, where he underwent heart bypass surgery.

The Youngs and Lutzes: (left to right)
Gere Young, Allen Lutz, new Fire Chief Greg Young, Claude Young Sr., Craig Young, Sam Young, Thomas Young, Jason Lutz, Gordon Young, John Young

“This was one of the many times when we realized how important the fire company is to the community. This is why we serve,” says Young.

Today, the Rothsville Fire Company has about 36 members, all volunteers. There are also about five volunteer Fire Police members, who help to direct traffic during emergencies. Many of the ambulance members are also volunteers, although the Rothsville Ambulance has contracted for paid ambulance crew members to make sure there is vital coverage for ambulance calls by highly trained personnel.

“It is a continual challenge to have volunteers for the fire company,” says Young, noting that it is difficult to have new, younger members for the fire company, due to people who work outside of the community or have various activities, like sports for their children.

While it has been family tradition in Rothsville to serve with the fire company, ambulance or fire police, the Rothsville Fire Company has been reaching out to newcomers to help carry on the tradition. Once the fire company roster had only names like Young, Musser, Zimmerman, Bowman, Lamb, Lutz, High, Hoover or Shreiner. Now they welcome new names like Beiler and Purnell as the Rothsville Fire Company marks its 101st year.

The fire company’s roots began much earlier in the early 1800s, when the village of Rabbit Hill was renamed as Rothsville after tavern-keeper Phillip Roth. In 1888, Rothsville resident Jefferson Usner purchased two hand-drawn, two-wheeled chemical carts with tanks that could be used to fight fires. Twelve years later, Rothsville acquired its first pumper, made by the Deming Company. That pumper is now preserved at the Landis Valley Museum.

The fire house in Rothsville was built in 1909, and in Sept. 4, 1917, the Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company was officially organized and chartered. Three years later, the company purchased its first motorized fire truck. In 1927, the ladies auxiliary was formed. The first fire truck to feature the Rothsville bunny was a 1941 Hahn fire truck, with the running rabbit paying homage to Rothsville’s early name of Rabbit Hill.

In 1948, the current fire hall was built on Main Street in Rothsville. The Rothsville Fire Police were organized in 1951, and the ambulance corps was organized the next year. Chief Claude Young Sr. formed the junior firefighters in 1958. In 1975, and the most recent remodel came in 2005, with updated space for training, bunk rooms, offices, a gear room and four engine bays.

“I’ve spent my whole life here, but it’s time for someone younger to take over as chief,” says Young.
As fate would have it, someone Young, that is.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the Record Express. She can be reached at lknowles21@gmail.com. 

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