History of the ETFD

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Reiffton Fire Company | Stonersville Fire Company | Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department | Additional Notes

The Reiffton Fire Company

The Reiffton Fire Company was established on October 8. 1913. One afternoon over a tall glass of iced tea, Morris Romig, a wheat farmer, and Amos Reiff discussed how it had been a dry, hot summer and how the sun made them feel like they were on fire. Amos Reiff then had the idea of starting an organization to put out fires in the area, which is now known as Reiffton.

Reiff called a meeting at the Black Bear Inn for thirteen members on October 8, 1913. At the meeting, company officers were elected dues were established at $0.25 per person. The members originally called their organization the Suburban Fire Company of Reiffton. They purchased their first apparatus on April 10, 1914 for $400.00. It was an American La France two-wheeled cart equipped with a chemical tank.

Reiffton Fire Company Charter Members: John Wein, Morris Romig, Paul Hafer, Franklin K. Schott, Walter Gilbert, Robert Burns DeHaven, A. Floyd Heller, Herbert Hafer, Amos Reif.

In May 1914 the newly formed fire company was put to its first test. They were called to a brooder fire at the chicken pen of Robert Hartline. Even though the chickens died, the men handled the blaze like veterans. After this fire they elected their first captain, John Wein, on June 3rd, 1914.

Mr. Reiff donated a plot of land and $200.00 towards the cost of erecting a one-story frame building, which would house their equipment. In 1923, they purchased a Hahn 250-gallon engine, however, their building was too small, so they built an addition onto the existing building. The present building at 33rd and James Avenue in Reiffton was built in 1928. The building originally housed an engine, meeting room, lounging room, and social room in the basement.

19XX – Hahn Assembled Triple Combination Model “L” (Mfg # 6133)

1929 – A Mack 750-gallon engine was purchased for $10,000.00.

A May 14, 1930 entry in Fire Engineering (Issue 10, Volume 83) states: “FIRE DEPARTMENT ACTIVITIES Reiffton, Pa., Opens Bids—Reiffton, Pa., has opened bids for the purchase of apparatus.”

1934 – A fireman’s relief association was founded in 1934

1946 – A jeep was purchased in 1946 – possibly a “Jeep Universal” – equipped to handle small grass and brush fires (a 1964 article lists this unit as in service for “10 years”)

1951 – Engine 2A – A new Mack L-model engine, fully equipped with modern accessories was purchased in 1951. Served department until sold to a private party in 1983 (Chuck and Marla Buschardt, Texas) for $3500. Purchased by the Exeter Township Fire Department in 2010 for $3500 – returned to Exeter.

1964 – FC-170 Jeep Truck – 250 gpm / 230 gal, 4 indian tanks, axe, bar, two hand lanterns, 16 foot aluminum ladder, two way radio, fire rakes, 2 150 ft booster reals, 600 feet of 1 ½ inch hose, two fire extinguishers, two spot lights, siren, revolving dome warning light, various miscellaneous equipment. Can pump from plug, stream, or own booster tank. Can discharge water from the booster reals while moving. Designed by Fire Chief and company Secretary Jack H. Gechter (information from article in 1964 issue of Jeep News)

The apparatus was getting larger and the building seemed smaller, so a utility house was built. This housed the jeep and the “Old Mack” engine on the former Romig propert

The station at 33rd and James Avenue was completely renovated to increase the amount of space available to house the apparatus. An addition was built, and the building reconfigured to provide four apparatus bays that faced 33rd Street. To the left of these bays and angled to fit the lot, a fifth bay was constructed to house additional apparatus. A day room with kitchen, office space, and work areas were also configured.

Engine 2-2 – 1972 Mack CF (1991 New Lexington refurb) – 1250 gpm / 500 gallon Engine 2-2, later Engine 25-3. Became reserve apparatus, now a historical unit.

Rescue 2 – 1978 Mack CF. Wagon cover was obtained from Larry Taylor Truck Sales of Wysox, Pennsylvania – from retired FDNY apparatus. Retired in 2007 after collision. Replaced with 1995 Pierce 1250/500 – served into ETFD as Rescue Engine 25, Retired 2018

1997 – Engine 2-3 – A Spartan engine was purchased from Saulsbury Motors, Inc, of Charlotte, Michigan, equipped with a 1500 GPM pump and 750-gallon water tank. The Gladiator model engine, known as “2-3”, was the first “wide-cab” apparatus owned by the company. The extra-large cab provided enclosed seating for up to eight firefighters, enhancing safety and comfort compared to standard fire apparatus cabs. Known as “The Magic Bus” the apparatus was one of the first of its type in the Berks County area. When a call for assistance came on August 13, 2008 from the Conshohocken Fire Department in suburban Philadelphia, the engine and its crew travelled 50 miles to assist in battling a major fire at the Riverwalk at Millennium apartment complex that was threatening that city and spent two days at the scene. Upon the merger of the Reiffton and Stonersville companies, the engine took the designation of Engine 25 where, upon the installation of Amkus hydraulic rescue tool system, it filled an expanded role as a rescue-engine. Engine 25 saw heavy service as a primary suppression piece and was prominently featured in the nationally-distributed Fire Trucks in Action calendar as the main photo for September 2014. The vehicle was sold to the Clearfork Volunteer Fire Department of Bastian, Virginia in November 2019 after 24 years of continuous service.

Tower 2 – 1972(3) Mack CF 75’ Baker Aerialscope – purchased from Third District Fire Company, Bristol PA. Sold to Duncannon Fire Company, Perry County PA November, 2004 for $20,000.

Tower 2 – 2004 Pierce Dash 95’ Ladder Tower, 2000 gpm / 300 gal. Became Tower 25. Sold to Gordonville Fire Company, Lancaster County PA. in August, 2015

In 2007 there were 52 active volunteers, 1 paid driver, and 10 junior firefighters that handled 687 calls for service.

Fire Chiefs of the Reiffton Fire Company, in order of appointment, were:

  • 1913-1915 – John Wien
  • 1916 – Paul Hafer
  • 1917 – Exavier M. Heck
  • 1918 – Daniel Heck
  • 1919-1920 – Walter Gilbert
  • 1921 – Otis Hartline
  • 1922 – Howard Reed
  • 1923 – George W. Snyder
  • 1924-1925 – Otis Hartline
  • 1926-1928 – Paul R. Grepps
  • 1929-1933 – Pierce Bechtel
  • 1934 – 1944 – Lawrence Hafer
  • 1945 – Daniel Hafer
  • 1946 – 1958 – Lawrence Hafer
  • 1959 – Daniel Hafer
  • 1960 – Jack H. Gechter
  • 1961-1962 – Robert Klein Smith
  • 1963-1973 – Gerald R. Keller (“Red”)
  • 1974-1985 – Terry Francis
  • 1986-1989 – Greg Rhein
  • 1990-199X – Robert Bechtel
  • 199X-2008 – Robert F. Jordan
  • Jack H. Gechter (1964), Gerald R. “Red” Keller, Robert Bechtel, Gregory Rhein, Terry Francis, Robert F. Jordan.

Assistant Chiefs who have served the Reiffton Fire Company:

  • Otis Hartline
  • George Leh
  • David R. Hartline, Sr.
  • Kenneth Houck
  • Gil Morrisette
  • Steven Kruszewski

The Stonersville Fire Company

The Stonersville Fire company dates its beginning back to March 3rd, 1942. The original founders of the group formed to organize a Volunteer Air Road Corps. This group remained in existence until February 7, 1944 when the purpose of the organization shifted to providing fire protection.

The Stonersville Fire Company applied for and received Incorporation status with the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County on July 13th, 1945. A Certificate of Charter was issued to the fire company on September 20th, 1945.

The Stonersville Fire Company completed and dedicated their existing building at 5580 Boyertown Pike on June 26th, 1948. With some renovations, this building continues to house fire apparatus and the Stonersville Social Quarters.

The Stonersville Fire Company was well known as an early adopter of Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) technology for firefighting. The company fielded one of the first CAFS units in Berks County which was built almost entirely in-house on a pickup truck chassis. As CAFS became available as an option from fire apparatus manufacturers, nearly all Stonersville Fire Company apparatus were delivered factory-equipped with the system. The primary fire engine from Stonersville was affectionately dubbed “Super Suds” as a playful nod to its CAFS capability.

The Stonersville Fire Company apparatus committee began the design work for a new engine tanker featuring a CAFS system in 20XX, with plans to increase its firefighting force. Engine Tanker 3 (or was it 3-4?), a 2000 Pierce / Freightliner 1500 gallon / 1250 gpm apparatus, was delivered in 2000 in Stonersville’s signature yellow paint scheme. It featured a 6-man commercial cab, CAFS capability, as well as 75 gallons of Class A fire fighting foam. Additionally, this piece was equipped with an AMPS hydraulic PTO generator and 1000 feet of 5-inch supply hose. The unit continued to serve the merged Exeter Township Fire Department as Engine Tanker 25 until September 2020, when the apparatus was sold to the Oliver Springs Fire Department in Tennessee, where it continues to see duty in the rural fire service.

The Fire Chiefs of the Stonersville Fire Company, in order of appointment, were:

  • Patsy DeMarte
  • Tim Shaffer
  • Travis Shaffer
  • Michael DeMarte
  • Steven Rhoads

Assistant Chiefs who have served the Stonersville Fire Company:

  • Christopher Bixler
  • Steven Rhoads

The Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department

In 2008, the members of the Reiffton and Stonersville Fire Companies began discussions about merging the two services to consolidate resources and manpower and more efficiently serve the community. In January of 2009, by an act of the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, the two companies formally merged into the Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department. Robert F. Jordan was appointed as Fire Chief of the newly formed department.In 2009 the department had 60 active volunteers, two paid career drivers, and nine junior firefighters. The department responded to 812 emergency calls in Exeter Township, St. Lawrence Borough, and surrounding communities.

With a total first-due area encompassing 26 square miles and now with two fire stations, the newly formed Exeter Township Fire Department sought to organize, equip, train, and maintain a central fire suppression system for the community.

A number of important roadways run through the area, including Route 422 the main east-west route to the Philadelphia area, as well as Interstate 176 which provides access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Vehicle accidents and other types of rescues account for a good portion of the call volume, and in an effort to develop a modern and capable rescue apparatus, the department took delivery of Rescue 25 in 2008. Rescue 25 was a 2009 Seagrave rescue pumper with a 500 gallon tank and 1500 gpm two-stage pump. The rescue was equipped with Amkus hydraulic rescue tools and a full complement of heavy rescue equipment. The apparatus saw heavy use as the primary rescue unit for the department, however it was heavily damaged in an accident in January 2018. The unit was subsequently repaired but never returned to service at the ETFD. It was eventually purchased by the Breezewood Fire Company in Blair County, PA. In August of 2018 the ETFD purchased a 1998 Seagrave Marauder (1750 / 500) from the Progress Fire Company (Engine 32-1) in Dauphin County, PA and after some minor rehabilitation this apparatus was placed in service as Rescue 25 where it continues to operate today.

In 2011 the department rostered 80 active volunteers and 8 junior firefighters that handled 1076 emergency calls for service.

A large portion of the area in Exeter Township is rural in nature and does not have the benefit of water mains and fire hydrants. Understanding that its ability to rapidly move large amounts of water to fires located in these areas was essential, the department began to work on evaluating and upgrading this capability. The department inherited two engine-tankers from the former Stonersville Fire Company – a 1997 Freightliner / Pierce (1250 gal / 1500 gpm) and a 2000 Freightliner / Pierce (1250 gal / 1500 gpm). As it had only a two-man cab and identical capacity as the 2000 model, the 1997 Frieghtliner was deemed redundant and was sold to the Gibraltar Fire Company of Birdsboro, PA in October of 2011. Looking to maintain the Insurance Service Office (ISO) requirements for rural water supply, the department desired the ability to have sufficient water “on the road” quickly. An apparatus committee was formed to draw specifications for an apparatus to meet this need. The bid for a new large-capacity tanker unit was awarded to Seagrave Fire Apparatus of Clintonville, Wisconsin and in 2012 the department took delivery of Tanker 25, a 3000 gallon elliptical tanker built on a Mack Granite chassis. Tanker 25 was equipped with a 1000 gpm Waterous pump, a 3500 gallon drop tank, dual 3-inch stortz rear inlets, as well as rear and side dump valves that could be remotely operated from the apparatus cab. At the time of it’s delivery Tanker 25 was the only example of a Seagrave elliptical tanker in existence.

In December of 2014, the Exeter Township Board of Supervisors designated the Exeter Township Fire Department as the primary provider of emergency medical services (EMS) for the township. Initially with the assistance of the Muhlenberg Ambulance Association, and later on it’s own, the ETFD maintained and operated basic and advanced life support ambulance service for the community until September 1, 2017, at which time the fire department based service was replaced by Life Lion EMS operated by the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. The ETFD continues to provide Quick Response Service (QRS) and is licensed by the PA Department of Health to respond to requests for urgent medical assistance ahead of the responding ambulance.

With a desire to standardize apparatus and reduce the overall size of the fleet, in 2016 the ETFD embarked on an apparatus replacement effort that sought to simplify training and operations by developing primary apparatus with similar specifications. The delivery of Rescue-Engine 25 2017 signalled the first step in this effort. Rescue Engine 25 is a 2017 Seagrave Marauder 1500 gpm / 500 gallon apparatus equipped with a Waterous 2-stage pump and a Hurst E-draulic rescue tool complement. This apparatus was designed to provide aggressive fire suppression capability while also supporting vehicle accident and light rescue operations. A follow up delivery in 2019 brought Engine Tanker 25 into service, which is also a Seagrave Marauder built to nearly identical specifications, with the exception of a tank capacity of 1500 gallons to better serve in the rural areas of the township where hydrants are not available.

Looking to simplify its aerial apparatus operations, in 2017 the ETFD purchased a 1995 FWD/Baker/Saulsbury 95’ tower ladder which previously saw service with the Monroe Township Fire District #2 in Middlesex County, New Jersey. This apparatus would serve as a replacement for the 2004 Pierce Dash that was inherited from the Reiffton Fire Company. After extensive review, the department felt that the lack of a pump and tank on the 1995 would eliminate the requirement for continuous maintenance on this little-used capability. Additionally, the simpler, analog controls of the earlier model would prove more reliable than the modern digital systems seen on the Pierce. After some major refurbishment, this apparatus was placed in service as Tower 25 in early 2017 where it continues to serve currently. The roof of the truck was eventually painted red to match Rescue Engine 25 and Engine Tanker 25, and the aerial device has featured several different ladder board designs over the years.

In February 2018, the ETFD underwent an extensive organizational update which included a revision of the department’s Bylaws and the creation of a Board of Directors. Steven Geibel was elected President of the Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department taking office on January 1st, 2019.

In December of 2019, Christopher J. Bickings was appointed as the second Fire Chief of the Exeter Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Fire Chief:

  • Robert F. Jordan, 2008 – 2019
  • Christopher J. Bickings – 2019 – Present

1st Deputy Chiefs:

  • Eric Lessig. 2008 – Present
  • Christopher Jordan, 2008 – Present

2nd Deputy Chiefs:

  • Steven P. Kruszewski, 2008 – 2010
  • Steven Rhoads, 2008 – 2011
  • Justin B. Shaffer, 2010 – 2012
  • Christopher D. Chamberlain, 2011 – 2017, 2019 – Present
  • James Herr, 2012 – 2019
  • Christopher J. Bickings, 2017 – 2019
  • Brian Rhein, 2019 – Present

Assistant Chiefs:

  • Michael G. Trievel – 2017 (The honorary rank of Assistant Chief was awarded upon retirement).

Additional Notes

Reading Eagle-Wednesday, September 15, 1915
HEART DISEASE CLAIMS FOUNDER OF REIFFTON-Amos Reiff well-known Retired farmer, dies unexpectedly-was married 55 years

Reiffton, Sept. 15 (Special)—Amos Reiff, founder of the hamlet which bears his name, was one of the best known and most substantial, retired farmers in Berks County, died of heart disease on Tuesday at 11 p.m. at his home here. He was aged 77 years, 4 months and 27 days. Although he was confined to bed four weeks , his death was unexpected and came as a shock to his many friends.

Mr. Reiff came from on of Berks County’s oldest families, he being one of the seven children of Daniel and Sarah (nee Deysher) Reiff, both of whom were natives of Oley township. He himself was born in Exeter township on the farm of his parents, which he owned at the time of his demise, and which originally consisted of several hundred acres of excellent land, a great deal of it in timber, on the eastern side of Neversink Mountain. He pursued farming all his life, but the last 10 years limited his activities to the management of his large estate.

Guests Name Village
In recent years Mr. Reiff sold a large number of lots lying on the edge of his property, along the Philadelphia turnpike and the Neversink road. The purchasers erected houses and these constitute quite a village. At the time of a large gathring at his home on Jan. 20, 1910, the occasion being the celebration of his golden wedding anniversary, he offered a reward to the person who proposed the name that would be adopted for the village, and Reiffton was chosen. The wedding anniversary was the occasion for an elaborate celebration, several hundred guests having been in attendance. There was a band and various men from all over Eastern Pennsylvania delivered addresses. The married life of the couple was an extremely happy one and they were seldom apart for any length of time, except when he was away on extended trips.

Made Observations Abroad
Mr. Reiff spent many hours in late years in reading and was, happiest when he was among a group of friends who would listen to the stories of happenings of his lifetime. In perusing magazines and newspapers he cut out articles which interested him and he kept scrap books which contained thousands of clippings. In 1881 Mr. Reiff visited the Pacific coast and was absent from home for 96 days. In 1882 he crossed the Atlantic and spent several months in England and Germany. He made personal observations of conditions as they exited then in those countries and the narratives of this trip were full of interest. One of his ambitions before he died was to visit the Panama Canal, in which he was greatly interested. He believed that the controversies which arose over its construction would eventually involve the United States in a war. Although not one of the so-called pacifists, he considered it ridiculous for civilized nations to expend millions of dollars in war preparations in time of peace.

Interesting Relics
The sitting room of the Reiff home is a veritable museum. He was the possessor of many relics and curiosities, some of which came from his family and a large number of which he picked up in the travels to the coast and to the old country. He had a deed from William Penn to one of his (Mr. Reiff’s) ancestors and another from John and Richard Penn to the same person.

One of the most important papers is a certificate of appointed as a captain in the revolutionary army, issued to Mr. Reiff’s great-grandfather, Daniel Reiff. The certificate is framed and hangs on the wall. Above it is suspended the canteen used by the captain and beneath it is the pistol which the same officer carried. Another important document is the muster roll of Captain Daniel Reiff’s company in the Revolutionary War. The company was formed in Oley.

Organized Fire Company
Mr. Reiff was one of the leaders in the Farmers’ Alliance movement when the organization was at its height in Berks County. In later years he was keenly interested in grange activities and frequently addressed meetings of farmers. He possessed advanced views along sociological lines and was altogether fearless in expressing them. Twenty to thirty years ago his pungent criticisms of local, state and national officials on the platform at outdoor gatherings were in many a case the feature of the day and occasionally provoked widespread discussion. His mind was a veritable storehouse of information along his favorite channels and in a public discussion he usually carried the day amid the plaudits of his hearers.

He was the organizer of the Reiffton Fire Company and donated the site on which the substantial engine house stands. The membership includes nearly all the male residents of Reiffton and vicinity.

Deceased was the last of his family. He is survived by his widow, Rebecca, a born Knabb, who is 79 years of age. One daughter, Annie, widow of James K. Kauffman, and two grandchildren, Paul and Edna Kauffman, remain.

Funeral on Saturday, Sept. 18, at 2 p.m. Interment in Aulenbach’s cemetery. Undertaker John f. Lutz, of Esterly, has charge. It is likely that the Reiffton Fire company will attend the obsequies in a body.

David R. Hartline, Sr., 88, of Wyomissing, formerly of Reiffton, passed away on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Country Meadows. He was the husband of the late Jean W. (Wenger) Hartline, who passed away May 17, 2013. They were married 58 1/2 years. He was the fiance of Eleanor Kurtz. Born in Reading, PA, he was the son of the late W. Norman and Irene M. (Heyberger) Hartline. He was a graduate of Mt. Penn High School and was a member of Community U.C.C. David was also a member of Masonic Lodge # 549, Reading and was the former 1st Assistant Fire Chief for Reiffton Fire Company. He proudly served our country in the U.S. Navy. David was employed by Firestone for over 26 years building truck tires. He retired from Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center where he was a custodian in the maintenance department. Surviving are his sons: Bradley D. (Kathleen), Valdosta, GA, David R. Jr., (Cynthia), Parkside, PA, Kerry G. (Angela), West Union, SC; daughter Lori J. Bush (Ronald), Mohnton; nine grandchildren, two step-grandchildren; and two step great grandchildren with a great grandson due in May. He is predeceased by his brother Norman. For everyone’s safety, the family has chosen to hold a private viewing in Lutz Funeral Home, Inc. following by a private interment at Forest Hills Memorial Park. A celebration of life is planned for a later date. Lutz Funeral Home, Inc. is in charge of arrangements. For online condolences, please visit www.LutzFuneralHome.com

Gerald R. “Red” Keller, 80, of Exeter Township, passed away, Friday, February 9, 2018, in his home. Gerald was the fire chief at Reiffton Fire Company for 14 years. (Published in Reading Eagle from Feb. 11 to Feb. 12, 2018)