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Firefighters work together for Clay area
Over the weekend of Feb. 25, more than 100 volunteer firefighters from a half dozen local companies were out in force, helping the residents of northern Lancaster County after a wave of destruction caused by strong winds whipped through the area.
At the March meeting of the Clay Township Supervisors, Durlach-Mt. Airy Fire Company Captain Jonathan Zimmerman gave an update of the service provided by the fire company in the wake of the devastating event.
“The 911 calls came pouring in, just one on top of the other,” Zimmerman said, adding the calls started around 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Calls came for trees on houses, burning wires, burning trees, and structural damage. Much of the damage, including razed barns, could be found along Route 897 in West Cocalico and Clay townships.
“Wherever we went, we had to cut our way there and dealing with electric wires was a hazard,” Zimmerman said.
A Pennsylvania State Police helicopter helped the fire companies and police, directing personnel to areas of destruction, Zimmerman said.
By Saturday evening, crews were sent home after captains determined it was no longer safe to be out due to trees and wires on roads, Zimmerman said.
“Finding out if downed wires were live or not was a problem,” said Durlach Fire Chief Don Moyer.
No injuries were reported from the townships involved.
Other fire companies assisting included Brickerville, Lincoln, Stevens, Lititz, and Richland. Volunteers consisting of church groups, the Red Cross, and First Response of America also lent aid. The ladies auxiliary provided meals.
One Red Cross unit was set up in the fire station to give temporary shelter to any families displaced by the storm, but township residents were able to either stay in their homes or go to relatives.
Sunday morning, fire company volunteers went door to door to make sure everyone was okay, Zimmerman told the supervisors.
In all, the fire companies provided about 2,500 man hours of work during Saturday and Sunday. Close to 70 firefighters came to the area on Saturday and 83 firefighters and 45 volunteers worked to help residents on Sunday.
Donations of food to the firefighters came from Martin’s Country Market, Weis Markets, and Redner’s Market.
While the word from “First Response of America” was that the storm was an EF1 tornado, official word from LEMA was that the damage was caused by straight line winds clocked at 90 miles per hour.
“It went well, considering the caliber of the disturbance we had,” Zimmerman said.
Supervisor Chairman Tim Lausch said he heard only positive feedback about the assistance from the local police and firefighters.
“On behalf of the supervisors, I want to extend our thanks and a special thanks to all the emergency responders,” Lausch said.
Moyer asked township manager Bruce Leisey about the status of the volunteer firefighter tax credit bill, which would give property tax relief to firefighters.
Leisey said the state bill — modeled on similar bills in other states — passed the legislature last fall, but details still have to addressed.
On Wednesday, March 29, members of the Lancaster County Association of Township Supervisors will hold a meeting to focus on the provisions of the bill.
“We haven’t adopted any regulations to do it; the township still has to figure out the details,” Leisey said. “From the beginning, we didn’t want it to be a bookkeeping nightmare for the fire companies.”
Each municipality will have to pass an ordinance regarding the firefighters’ bill, Leisey said.
The bill states that a volunteer firefighter is entitled to a credit, against his individual adjusted gross income tax liability. For qualified volunteer firefighters, local municipalities can credit real estate or state income tax credits.
The amount varies from state to state, from about $200 to $500.
“How you go about doing this, and who qualifies are what most municipalities are trying to figure out,” Leisey said.
Firefighters generally have to work a required number of hours to qualify for the tax credit. Each volunteer fills out an application to determine eligibility.
The bill was designed to attract more individuals to become volunteer firefighters, as those numbers are currently dwindling throughout the state.