Manheim Fire Dept. will take ownership of firehouse in January

By on January 2, 2019

Ownership of the Manheim firehouse will be transferred from Manheim Borough to the Manheim Fire Department in January. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

The Manheim Fire Department’s firehouse at 83 S. Main St. will change hands in January 2019. It’s currently owned by the borough and leased to the fire department. In January, it will become the property of the fire department.

“Nothing will really change for us. To us, it’s always been our building, and we’ve maintained it,” said Terry Theal, fire department president, “The difference is that we won’t have to wait for permission from the borough to do maintenance or improvements.”

It’s a move that also makes sense for the borough. Council member Brad Roth, who also serves on the council’s finance committee, said transferring ownership to the fire department will make the budget process “cleaner.” The borough’s 2018 budget included payments of property and liability insurance on the building, as well as utilities and maintenance for the building for a total expenditure of $23,100 on the building. Moving forward, the borough will provide an annual contribution toward operating costs. The amount budgeted for 2019 is $26,500. The borough will continue to pay worker’s comp insurance and funds toward vehicle operation.

Manheim Fire Department has a long history of serving the borough. It was organized Jan. 9, 1812, 26 years before the borough was incorporated in 1838. The first hand-engine, which had been imported from England in 1754, was also purchased at this time from the Union Fire Company in Lancaster. This engine is now located in the museum at the fire station.

In December 1871, the borough purchased a hose carriage for the fire company, at a cost of $450. The carriage bore the words “Hope” and “1805” on it. This hose carriage is also still owned by the fire company and is also located in the museum.

On June 25, 1874, after years of many fire companies and fire company names in Manheim, the Hope Fire Engine and Hose Company, No. 1 was chartered. Duane Ober, fire company secretary and a fourth generation Manheim firefighter, said it’s still the department’s official name.

The bell at the front of the current Manheim firehouse. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

In addition, Manheim Fire Company and Manheim Fire Department are both recognized names for the fire company today. In 1904, the fire company moved into its new fire station at the corner of East High and North Wolf streets; it also housed borough council chambers. The fire company remained at this location until 1969, when the fire company moved to its new location at 83 S. Main St.

Ober said the Manheim Fire Police were organized in 1946, to provide traffic and scene control at fires, accidents and other emergencies. In 1995, a two-story addition to the rear of the fire station was completed. A year later, the fire company purchased the house and land to the north of the fire station, allowing the fire company to expand its parking area. The house is now a rental investment property for the fire company.

The additional second floor space has been transformed into a museum. It houses artifacts of Manheim’s firefighting history, including a hand pumper purchased by the department in 1812, a circa 1805 hose carriage, a leather bucket, a leather fireman’s helmet, photos and minutes from fire company meetings. Theal said school groups have toured the museum, which is also open for tours during events hosted by the fire department. He said it can also be toured when firefighters are at the station.

Another piece of Manheim’s fire history — a large bell emblazoned with Hope Hose 1 — can be found immediately outside the building. Ober said the bell is from the firehouse that had had housed the Union Fire Engine and Hose Company. The firehouse was built by the borough on Stiegel St. near New Charlotte Street in 1886, and the Union Fire Engine went out of existence in 1894.

The building became a garage, and although Ober said sometime in the 1960s a future owner of the property, who was planning to demolish the garage, contacted the Manheim Fire Department and asked if they would like to have the bell.

“We have photos of the guys lowering the bell from the garage. They also discovered an old hand pumper, which the owner donated to us, and is now in our museum,” he explained.

Ober said the fire company currently operates one fire engine, a ladder truck, a rescue-pumper, a tanker, a squad and three chief officer vehicles, with a combined value of nearly $2.5 million. The fire company operates from funds generated in an annual fund drive, financial support from Manheim Borough, Penn and Rapho townships, as well as income earned from grant awards and other sources of income.

Currently, the fire company serves a fire district of nearly 25 square miles and over 11,000 residents. The fire company responds to an average of 450 emergencies annually. The fire company is still 100 percent volunteer, comprised of over 50 active firefighters and fire police officers, all of whom continue the 205-year tradition of being dedicated and committed to saving lives and protecting properties in the Manheim community.

The Manheim Fire Department’s firehouse also has serves the public in a unique way. The digital sign at the firehouse is used to advertise community events.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at

These historic photos from March 1957 show members of Manheim Fire Dept. (Hope Hose Co. No. 1) removing the bell from the former Union Fire Engine firehouse. The old firehouse bell is now located in front of the Manheim Fire Department’s firehouse. (Submitted by Duane Ober)

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