I was reading a story about a run-of-the-mill (really, no pun intended) sawmill fire at an Amish business in Ohio the other day and I stumbled upon an interesting nugget of information. After studying Amish culture for so many years I'm still always learning. In Pennsylvania there is a rich tradition of Old Order Amish serving on fire companies. In fact, in some Lancaster County areas the fire companies are majority Amish with maybe a token non-Amish or two to drive the truck. This is not something I have observed elsewhere and now I think I know why. First, tradition does play a role in things like this. Something that "catches on" in one Amish area doesn't in another. But there is a more practical reason for why you may not see the Amish in Ohio serving on fire departments: state regulation.
When Aden Troyer's sawmill burnt down last week in Morrow County, many Amish swarmed to the scene to help firefighters who were on the scene. But they weren't there in an official capacity. Apparently the issue in Ohio is beards. Click here to read the full article. One does wonder if there are any religious exemptions, such as could a Muslim be a firefighter in Ohio or an Orthodox Jew?
LUMBERING IN AMISH COUNTRY: While are on the topic of sawmills, Farm and Dairy has an interesting article about the growing importance of forestry and wood as business for Amish in Holmes County, Ohio. Sounds like kind of a dry topic, but there are some neat interviews with Amish entrepreneurs in the article. Click here to read.
Here in Michigan firefighters (even volunteer) are required to take several college courses in fire science. That's probably why we don't have any here.
Brian, interesting...so in Ohio it's beards, Michigan college...both would be strong deterrents for Amish involvement....
The beard regulation is mostly due to the air pack that firefighters wear... The mask needs to have a good seal between the skin and the ribber of the mask... Most facial hair can get in the way... When I was on a volunteer fire company in Connecticut we did have a couple older members that had beards, one similar to those worn by Amish men... They were strictly in support roles like driving the trucks and manning pumps... They left the hard inside work to those younger... That was twenty years ago, so things may have changed a bit since then...
I can't say about now, but about 7 years ago we had chimney fires twice at our farm, and both times the crew was composed of mainly German Baptists, with beards. So perhaps the law has changed recently, but beards didn't used to prevent them from being volunteer firemen.
interesting about the German Baptist firefighters with the beards, since it was a farm fire and outdoors maybe that is why you saw them, or as Jason said, perhaps they were in some sort of support role?
No, these GB's were the actual "firefighters" who came in and took care of checking that the fire was out. Like I said thought this was 7 years ago or longer, so that might be the difference.
Most of our local fire stations are all volunteer. And a lot of those volunteers are our Mennonite neighbours. It's getting harder and harder to have a fire department because so many people have to drive to Ottawa for work. That means they aren't close enough to be on call. Luckily the Mennonites work on or near home.
I don't believe religion has anything to do with it; it's a matter of firefighter safety. My husband has been a volunteer firefighter in Ohio for over 20 years and was the fire chief of our local department for several years. In order to complete basic training, they cannot have a beard. They can have a moustache, but not a beard or chin hair. That's the only way to get a good and safe seal on the breathing apparatus (S.C.B.A.). It prevents smoke and fumes from affecting the firefighter. However, once basic training is completed, the firefighters can have the facial hair (including beards) but can only fight fires from the outside of a building. Maybe the Amish men could take their basic training before marriage (i.e. before beards) and then be able to fight the fires from the outside (like they did with this sawmill fire) after they have the beards....???