Fire destroys longtime Airville-area Amish welding shop
A longtime welding shop in the village of Sunnyburn has burned to the ground, according to Airville Volunteer Fire Chief Ronnie Miller.
Sunnyburn Welding, at 32 W. Telegraph Road in Lower Chanceford Township, was a well-known local Amish welding shop owned and run by Joe Lapp.
"He's been around here probably 15 or 18 years," Miller said of Lapp and his shop.
No one was hurt, but the building and everything inside was destroyed, according to the chief.
"It was a total loss," Miller said. "He had a lot of specialized equipment that he lost."
Airville Volunteer Fire Co. crews were called to the scene about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"When we arrived, there was already fire through the roof, and part of the roof had collapsed," Miller said. "Because of the integrity (issues) of the roof, we did not go inside."
Buildings saved: Crews, including firefighters from a number of neighboring fire companies, battled the blaze from outside and were able to save the two buildings on either side of the shop, according to the chief.
It took about an hour to bring the fire under control and about three hours to completely extinguish it, he said.
Miller said the cause of the blaze remains undetermined because there wasn't much left to investigate afterward.
"It was too far gone," he said, but he added the fire doesn't appear to be suspicious.
Water had to be hauled in because there are no fire hydrants in the area, according to Miller.
"I think we had 22 tankers and, including our own engines, we probably had about eight engines," he said.
Community help: A damage estimate wasn't immediately available, but Lapp's neighbors, family and friends will undoubtedly help him rebuild, which is in the Amish tradition, according to Miller.
"When we left (the scene), there were approximately 100 to 125 (Amish people) there already, helping him clean up," the chief said.
By Tuesday afternoon, the community could be seen at the building, clearing debris with machinery.
Michael Esh, of Airville, an employee of the welding shop, was helping with the effort. He said employees and members of the York Amish community had been out there since shortly after the fire was extinguished.
Esh said everyone there was volunteering their time to help.
The middle section of the building was practically clear within a few hours of the blaze.
"The goal is to get it cleared out," he said. Esh said that blueprints for a new shop were in the works.
Mark Michael, of Airville, lives near the shop and was finding out how he could help his Amish neighbors. Michael said he was getting up for work and saw an orange glow coming from the area of the shop. He said at one point he saw an explosion.
"I could see stuff flying through the sky," he said.
Michael said he was about to call 911 when he saw firefighters coming to the scene.
"It was one of the ugliest (fires) I've seen," he said.
Michael, who is not part of the Amish community, said he couldn't help when the fire first started because he had to work. Hours later, Michael showed up at the site in his truck, offering to help in any way he could.
"Why not?" he said. "They help me, I help them."
He said his Amish neighbors let him hunt on their land. Additionally, he said, he knew quite a few people in the community.
Jacob Zook, another employee, lives right across from the shop.
"The whole roof was in flames," he recalled.
Zook said the community coming together is just what they do. As for the fire, Zook said they are trying to move forward.
"It's a mess, of course, you don't like to see such a mess," he said.
"What can we do?" he said. "Rebuild and just go on."
Zook said they will try to rebuild once they get the proper go-ahead.
Those people certainly weren't the only southern York County folks who helped Lapp, according to Miller.
He said every firefighter who showed up at the Tuesday-morning blaze is a volunteer.
"We know they probably all lost a day of work," Miller said, adding he sends his gratitude to all the volunteers who helped.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.