Achey honored for 40 years as Reamstown Fire Chief
Nearly a hundred area firefighters and municipal officials honored, and then roasted Harvey Achey at Weaver’s Banquet Hall Jan. 11 at the annual Reamstown Fire Company Appreciation Banquet.
“It was a lot more than I expected,” said Achey, 73, of the celebration.
Gifts presented to Achey included a new fire chief hat, which states “Retired Fire Chief” on the front, and a custom-made gold watch. On the face is the chief’s trumpet.
Reamstown Fire Company appointed Achey as assistant fire chief. Although retired as chief, he will continue as a line officer.
Taking over as chief is Achey’s son, Scott, who received on-the-job training for many years as assistant fire chief.Firefighting and emergency work is a family affair with Achey’s wife, Shirley, honored last year for 36 years of service as ambulance chief. She’s served the ambulance for over 40 years total. Her nephew, Rick Carpenter, took over her position.
The Achey’s son, Bob, is active with Adamstown Fire Company and their late daughter, Cindy, was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
“Years back you didn’t have all the rules and regulations we do now,” said Shirley, of how it happened that the whole family became active in fire and emergency services. “When we were at the fire company our kids went with us. They respected what we did and they saw what we did.”
“A plaque celebrating the Achey family’s service to the fire company will be hung in the fire hall,” said Audrey Noll, Reamstown Fire Company Secretary, of honoring the Acheys.
Achey’s community service extends beyond firefighting, explained Noll.
“Harvey does our snow plowing,” Noll said. “When the bill comes it’s always marked ‘paid in full.’”
As head of his own construction company, Achey does other work for the fire company and community with no charge for labor.
“When we were ready to re-locate the Veteran’s Memorial, I made one phone call one time only to Harvey,” said East Cocalico Zoning Officer Tony Luongo.
“He had one question,” Luongo continued, and that was, ‘Is it (the Veteran’s Monument) going to stay in East Cocalico Township?’”
When Achey heard that it was, he simply said, “We’ll get it done.”
“And he did,” said Luongo. “Forty days later the relocated and refurbished memorial was dedicated. Harvey donated his time and manpower, and when other contractors were needed, Harvey contacted them and they readily agreed to do the work and most donated their services. It was all due to Harvey. He has the respect of so many people.”
“I know when it snows that after Harvey finishes his contracted plowing he clears the park’s parking lot and there’s never a bill,” said Dr. Ken McCrea, resident and Reamstown Park board member.
Achey is well known in the Plain community as well as the English one.
“We have many Mennonites who help us fight fires,” Achey said. “When I first started doing school fire prevention programs a long time ago, we had a Plain man who helped at Reamstown Elementary School.”
“Why don’t you do this for the one-room schools in the area?” the man asked Achey.
“We tried,” Achey said. “They don’t want us.”
“Well, I’m on the school board for one of the schools,” the man explained.
“The man saw the program and he wanted it done at his school too,” said Achey.
“We did the program the next year at his one-room school.” Achey said.
“Now we do programs at all three schools in the area &tstr; Napierville, Muddy Creek and Woodcrest.”
“I remember one Plain fellow who said to me, ‘You made quite an impression on the kids. They came home talking about having a meeting place outside the house and the importance of knowing their address,’” said Achey.
“I think the education programs are the most important thing that we do,” Achey said.
Serving the Reamstown Company as trustee, chief engineer and assistant chief before becoming chief, Achey saw a lot of changes over the years.
“The first year I was chief we had 18 calls. Now our volume is 200 calls per year,” said Achey.
“The worst thing that can happen at a fire is a fatality,” Achey said. “I’ve had three in my career.”
When asked for some highlights of his career, Achey thought a while and commented that there were many.
“We have a ladder truck that we waited a long time for,” Achey said. “First we bought a used one and used that for 10 years.”
“I remember I pulled a guy out of a burning car,” Achey said. “It was near the Church of God in Reamstown.
“I drove the first engine into the Zinn’s Diner fire,” he continued.
When asked what trends he sees for volunteer fire companies, Achey said, “Getting new volunteers and keeping up with all the changes in safety issues is tough. You’re going to see companies being merged, different departments join hands.”
“Another big issue is fundraising,” said Achey. “You see that everywhere. People who move from other areas, like New Jersey or New York were used to being taxed there. Most long-time residents do support the volunteer fire company. Eventually the burden of funding will fall on the municipality.”
“The other thing with funding is that some of the newer, big companies don’t support the local fire companies,” Achey added.
Young men and women are encouraged to join the company as junior firefighters. At the scene of a fire they are support personnel. For example, they can carry air bottles and clean up equipment.
“We have to follow state child labor laws,” said Achey.
Starting at age 14, junior firemen start training courses, adding courses each year until they reach 18, when they’re full-fledged fire fighters.
In summarizing all his contributions to the fire company and community, this reporter said, “You know you are a legend in the area.”
Achey’s solemn answer was, “I guess,” followed by a smile.