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Injured York City assistant fire chief thanked for good deed

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

York City Assistant Fire Chief Greg Altland’s injury was especially hard to hear about for Richard Shindle, a homeless man helped by Altland last week.

Shindle recounted an interaction with Altland that happened Tuesday, March 20 — just a day before the Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building fire — that moved him.

He’d just left The York Emporium bookstore on West Market Street and was waiting at a bus stop on the opposite end of the street.

York City Assistant Fire Chief Greg Altland

“I was doing my routine, just trying to stay warm,” he said, getting ready for the evening and chatting with friends.

Before he knew it, a York City Fire Department SUV pulled over. Altland walked out, approached the men and engaged in small talk.

A few minutes later, Shindle said, Altland retrieved from the SUV winter caps, gloves and a packet of gift cards for local eateries including McDonald’s, the York City Pretzel Co. and Subway.

“I was totally dumbfounded,” Shindle said. “He just gave them to me. He didn’t even ask (for) my name,” he said.

Shindle thanked Altland for his generosity. He had been worried about how he'd make it through the end of the month and said the cards lifted a burden.

Then came the fire and collapse on Broad Street.

Two York City Firefighters, Ivan Flanscha, 50, and Zachary Anthony, 29,  lost their lives at York Hospital on Thursday, March 22, after a portion of the building collapsed at the North Broad Street fire scene. Crews were there dousing hot spots a day after the original fire, city officials have said.

York City Assistant Fire Chief Greg Altland, second from left, was praised for his compassion and generosity by a homeless man he reached out to in March 2018.

Altland and city firefighter Erik Swanson were injured and taken to York Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, York City Mayor Michael Helfrich has said.

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Shindle was out of town the day of the deadly collapse.

“I never thought that I would read two days later that he’d be involved in a disaster on Broad Street," he said. "It tore me in half.”

Shindle said he hopes Altland and Swanson recover quickly.

"I encourage them to pull up their bootstraps, fight the good fight (and) head back up to the fire department where they’re needed," he said. "They are some of the finest firefighters we have."