Thousands pay tribute to fallen York City firefighters
Thousands of people from all over York County and beyond filled the York Expo Center's Memorial Hall to honor two York City firefighters who died in the line of duty last week.
York City firefighters Ivan Flanscha, 50, and Zachary Anthony, 29, died after a wall collapsed while they were at the former Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building at 127 N. Broad St. on March 22.
Flanscha had been with the department since 1999, and Anthony had been there since 2010.
"Zach and Ivan are truly heroes," Gov. Tom Wolf told a crowd of more than 4,000 people Wednesday, March 28. He said there was no other way to describe them.
Firefighters from York County and nationwide — and even Canada — came out in droves to show their support for the two men. Fire officials from as far away as Toronto, Canada, Washington D.C, and Columbus, Ohio, were among those who came to show their respect.
Firefighters: Flanscha and Anthony were rushed to York Hospital after a wall collapsed while they were at the former Weaver Piano & Organ Co. building, where a fire had broken out nearly 24 hours earlier, and firefighters continued to put out hot spots. Both died at the hospital.
Assistant Chief Greg Altland and firefighter Erik Swanson also were injured at the scene. They attended Wednesday's service, as well.
Fire Chief David Michaels called the two "kick-ass" firefighters and said they were the two firefighters people would want in their truck heading to the scene of a fire.
"As a department, we will remember Ivan and Zach by continuing to answer the calls for help," he said. "We will all remember Ivan and Zach for their bravery and their dedication to the service."
The chief said Anthony was serious about being a firefighter, and he was "living his dream."
He also was a mentor to many kids in the community, the chief said.
"I loved that he took a personal interest in the children of York City," Michaels said, adding that the kids all loved to see "firefighter Zach," who talked fire safety with them.
"Zach's legacy will live on in the countless children he influenced through his eight years as a York City firefighter," Michaels said.
Flanscha loved going to fires, and doing "firemen stuff" Michaels said. Flanscha joined the department in 1999 with no firefighting experience. He was named firefighter of the year just five years later.
Michaels remembered a fire in the 200 block of South Queen Street in June 2000, where Flanscha spotted a man hanging out of the second-floor window.
"Without hesitation, Ivan reacted. He set up a ladder, reassured the victim with his calm demeanor, as only Ivan could, and pulled the man to safety," he said.
Flanscha's badge number, 46, and Anthony's badge, 47, will be retired.
The retirement, will "forever memorialize" their sacrifice, Michaels said.
"They were more than kick-ass firefighters, they were great people," he said. "It was my greatest honor to be their chief."
They were the 12th and 13th members of York City Fire Department to fall in the line of duty.
Flanscha: Casey Flanscha, Ivan Flanscha's wife, addressed the crowd and told of a time in 2012 when she had to go to the hospital for treatment for a kidney stone.
Ivan Flanscha came from work and stayed with her at the hospital. He only left for an hour to finish his work shift, and he then came back to her. She recalled being in and out of sleep, and Ivan Flanscha just kept holding her hand. She was afraid he would leave, but he never did.
"I know I love him this much, but I'm not sure it's even close to the compassion he has in him," she said.
Casey Flanscha called her husband kind, concerned, compassionate and unconditional.
"I thank God for Ivan," she said. "I think God threw him into my path because he was a reminder of what I should be striving for and what I sorely lack," she said.
Ivan Flanscha's older sister, Brenda Mooney, said her brother died "doing what he loved."
She said their father, a policeman in Waterloo, Iowa, was killed in an off-duty accident when Ivan Flanscha was 5. Both donated organs to those in need after they died, Mooney said.
Mooney also mentioned that Ivan Flanscha purchased rundown homes in York City, and he and his mother helped refinish them to rent to people.
"In this manner, he was able to help improve some of the blighted areas of the city," she said.
He also was a guitarist, and he played in multiple bands growing up, she said. He continued playing as an adult.
She called him a "complete ham," who loved being in the spotlight.
Anthony: Sam Anthony, Zachary Anthony's brother, called his brother his hero and a "crazy dreamer."
"He was smart enough and strong enough, to do whatever he dreamed up," he said. He excelled at making friends, according to his brother.
Sam Anthony said Zachary Anthony looked for good in people, and often found it. People often would say his brother was the kind of person to give people the shirt off of his back. But Sam Anthony said he was more than that.
"I would say he was the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back, and the skin off it, too," he said. "He would do anything for anyone."
He was a servant and gave freely, whether it was helping shovel his neighbors out of the snow, volunteering with the Special Olympics or donating blood.
Zachary Anthony would drop everything and drive hours to help his family. He grew up Kunkletown, Monroe County.
"Zach loved and lived to serve," he said. "And that's how he died — doing what he loved, and with his brothers."
Honors: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Scott Perry presented the families of both men with flags. The flags had been flown over the United States Capitol building the day the men died.
The families were presented with medals of honor from the International Association of Firefighters. York City Mayor Michael Helfrich gave keys to the city to each of the families.
The ceremony ended with a last alarm — the last time their names were read over York County 911.
Their names were read twice over the dispatch.
"Last alarm for Firefighter Flanscha and Firefighter Anthony, has now ended, they have gone home," the dispatcher said.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.