Century of service: Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company celebrates 100th anniversary

By on October 11, 2017

(Left to right) Riley Ober, Tyrone Zimmerman, Elvin Zimmerman, Durell Zimmerman, Pat Lamb, Chief Sam Young, Jon Lamb, Bob Schreiner, and John Young all take great pride in their family tradition of serving the community.

If you live in Rothsville and your last name is Young, Musser, Zimmerman, Bowman, Lamb, High, Hoover or Shreiner, there’s a good chance you are a volunteer with the local fire company.

And if you happen to be a Rothsville volunteer, there is also a very good chance that your father, grandfather or maybe even great-grandfather was a volunteer.

It’s a family tradition in Rothsville to serve with the fire company, auxiliary, ambulance or fire police.

“My father was fire chief for 30 years, and I am now in my 29th year as fire chief,” said Sam Young, who started with the company as a junior fireman at age 12.

Today junior firefighters are 14 years or older, and they continue the cherished family tradition of volunteering. As volunteers get older, it’s crucial to have younger people step up to serve the community.

And it’s not just the familiar names.

“Fortunately, we have some young people who are volunteering, even though they didn’t have other family members in the fire company,” Bob Lamb, a long-time volunteer, said.

New names like Beiler and Purnell are starting their own new tradition for the fire company that marks its 100th anniversary this year.

On Saturday, the Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company held a 100th birthday celebration with a community open house that featured fire engine tours, hamburgers and hot dogs donated by Compleat Restorations, drinks from Turkey Hill, firefighter hats and coloring books for the kids, and safety give-aways.

This group of emergency volunteers has been serving an area just under nine square miles for more than a century. The number of people living in that relatively small space has grown substantially over the years, to about 5,000. In addition, Rothsville firefighters assist other companies outside their official coverage area.

Why do they do it? It’s a tradition and it’s about serving your neighbors, says Young.

The Rothsville fire trucks and ambulances still sport the rabbit logo that is a reminder of Rothsville’s earlier name of Rabbit Hill. There were indeed lots of rabbits hopping around the hilltop community. There still are.

Beth Wood and her sons, Michael and David, enjoyed checking out the fire truck during Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company’s 100th anniversary open house Saturday.

The village was renamed Rothsville after early settler Phillip Roth, who built a tavern in 1790.

It was many years later — close to 100 — when Rothsville resident Jefferson Usner purchased two hand-drawn, two-wheeled chemical carts with tanks that could be used to fight fires. That was in 1888. Twelve years later, Rothsville acquired its first pumper, made by the Deming Company. That pumper is now preserved at the Pennsylvania Farm Museum at Landis Valley.

The fire house in Rothsville was built in 1909, but it wasn’t until Sept. 4, 1917, that the Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company was organized and chartered. Frank Bowman was the first fire chief, and B.F. Lutz was the assistant chief.

Three years later, the company purchased its first motorized fire truck. In 1927, the ladies auxiliary was formed. A year after that, Rothsville traded in its old bell for an electric fire siren. 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.

“Everybody loves the rabbit,” said Young, as youngsters checked out the big red truck with the tiny rabbit hopping across a green meadow.

The current fire hall on Main Street in the center of Rothsville was built in 1948. The Rothsville Fire Police were organized in 1951, and the ambulance corps was organized the next year. Chief Claude Young formed the junior firefighters in 1958. In 1975, the fire station was expanded with three additional bays.

The most recent remodel came in 2005, with updated space for training, bunk rooms, offices, a gear room and four engine bays.

Since the Rothsville Volunteer Fire Company was founded 100 years ago, the tradition of neighbors serving neighbors continues on in the community that sits on the hill overlooking Warwick Township farmland.

Laura Knowles is a freelance writer who lives in Rothsville. She welcomes reader feedback at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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