York Fair rededicates fire station in nod to 'Emergency'
Among the many things to do at the York Fair Sunday was attending the rededication of the nearly 70-year-old York Fair Fire Department, which now boasts the nostalgic number 51.
The rededication of the fire department — now the York Fair Fire Department Station 51 — was largely for the number designation, which belonged to the fictional fire station that served as the setting for the 1970s NBC program “Emergency!”, according to West Manchester Township Police Sgt. Rick Trout.
The show followed emergency services personnel doing their jobs in both the EMS and fire department of a station in Los Angeles.
Present on Sunday, Sept. 10, at both the dedication ceremony and the Heroes’ Salute Parade was actor and emergency services personnel advocate Randolph Mantooth, who played paramedic and firefighter Johnny Gage on the series, which ran from 1972 until 1979.
Mantooth was present to reference the fire station’s number as well as speak for service members — something he has done for decades, according to York Fair firefighter official Ken Hudson.
“When 'Emergency' came on, that was our show,” the Lancaster County Hazmat assistant chief said. “It put us on television in a way it didn’t before.”
Former Goodwill Fire Co. firefighter Beth Henshaw attended the rededication and said the show helped her become part of the largely male-dominated “brotherhood” along with her brother Joe Hildebrand, who is fire chief of Goodwill Fire Co. in Jacobus.
“I know it was just a ‘show,’” Henshaw said with her hands signaling air quotes, “but it inspired me.”
She said she was one of the “original girl firefighters” at Jacobus and was among the very first to go into burning structures in Jacobus, adament that she didn't want to become just an assistant for the male firefighters.
Henshaw said one of the only characters that resembled her on “Emergency!” was Dixie, the nurse at the local hospital, but she said she wanted to be more like her brother.
"When you have a brother that's 10 years older than you, you want to do everything he does," the Red Lion resident said, laughing.
John Michaels, father of York City Fire Chief David Michaels, said he waited three hours to meet and get an autograph from Mantooth.
He praised the actor for his service to emergency service personnel by becoming an unlikely spokesman for the close-knit community.
“He does a lot more than people realize,” Michaels said, noting Mantooth's title as spokesman for the International Association of Firefighters, among other accolades.
The dedication was brief, lasting a little over five minutes, but York Fair General Manager Michael Froehlich told those attending the station has been a bedrock of the fair since its creation in the 1940s.
“We look forward to it serving us well in the future,” he said to the crowd of about 70.