Through the eyes of firefighters
The 30th Annual German-American Firefighter's Association fire apparatus show and muster was held last weekend featuring good food, good friends, good fun and fire trucks.
If you were born and raised in this beautiful four-county corner of the Commonwealth, where Berks, Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery counties come together, chances are your ancestry includes a Germanic background. This is especially true if you’re a fourth, fifth or more generation with deep roots in the area.
There several groups and organizations in the area that cherish their German-American heritage and work hard to preserve the wonderful history and culture of it.
Every once in a while it’s nice to step outside of our local comfort zone and see how others celebrate that German-American culture, and the 30th Annual German-American Firefighter’s Association fire apparatus show and muster provided just such an opportunity this past weekend. The event is held in conjunction with the Gibson Road Antique Fire Association.
The event was held at the Vereinigung Erzgebirge German-American Club, on their lush 34–acre Waldesrauchen (Whispering Woods). The club is located in Warminster, Bucks County, about a 40-minute drive from the Upper Perkiomen Valley.
This 14-by-4-foot section of the Berlin Wall in front of the Vereinigung Erzgebirge German-American Club stands as reminder of a time when the city was separated by the 46-kilometer span.
Gracing a garden in front of the club was a section of the Berlin Wall. The 14-foot by 4-foot section stood as a reminder of a time when the German city was separated by the 46-kilometer span. Nearly 190 people were killed and thousands imprisoned trying to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin. The wall was built in 1961 and began being torn away in 1989. It was totally razed in 1990.
The German-American Firefighter’s Association (GAFA) event took on an added significance this year as it was named in honor of Karl Blank Sr., founder and longtime president of the GAFA. Blank died in May of this year. He was a retired firefighter, instructor and assistant fire marshal with the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Current GAFA President Dave Kearney spoke with reverence and respect when talking about Blank, Sr. and said, “Karl was proud of the fact that his son, Karl Jr., is a Philadelphia firefighter with Engine 24. This is our biggest event of the year and Karl was instrumental in starting it.”
The free event opened at 10 a.m. Scores of fire apparatus and related equipment filled the parking lot of the club and one could see old and new fire engines, trucks and specialty units while munching a Bavarian pretzel. A lunch break featuring bratwurst, sauerkraut and German potato salad kept one going well into the afternoon. At 3 p.m. trophies were awarded to the winners in more than 25 different categories.
Walking among the rows of old standards and the new behemoths, it was a wonder how firefighters of yore battled fires and an education to see the ultra-modern equipment now standard on most models.
The old was well-represented by a 1913 hand-drawn hose cart and the new by a 2012 Rosenbauer rescue/pumper. There were plenty of other different years, makes and models in the show. There was even a 1976 Mercedes-Benz 407D supply truck that once served the Technical Relief Agency of Ladenburg, Germany.
Scores of visitors visited the fire apparatus on display at the spacious grounds of the Vereinigung Erzgebirge club in Warminster.
With the 2012 event still going on, Kearney said that he is already looking forward to the 2013 muster and making it even bigger and better.
GAFA is fraternal organization that consists of men and women who seek greater enjoyment in life through traditional camaraderie. The ranks of GAFA, while obviously Germanic in essence, doesn’t exclude other ethnic backgrounds. The firefighter service of the members is diversified and they enjoy a mixture of active and retired, paid and volunteer firefighters.
For more information on GAFA or to join, visit www.igafa.com.