LOWER MILFORD FIRE DEPARTMENT
Kenny Knapp, of Lower Milford Township, knows what it means to serve in the community where you live.
At a time when community organizations have a hard time finding volunteers, that was not the case for Knapp.
Knapp, born in Silverdale, was never a kid who loved to hang around the firehouse but got interested through his father, George, who had an auto repair shop and worked on the fire equipment for 20 years.
When the Silverdale Fire Company purchased a 1947 Maxim truck, Knapp and his father went to Massachusetts to pick it up.
Knapp said at that time, a volunteer had to be 18 to join the fire department as a firefighter. He said there were no junior firefighters.
Knapp was voted in as a fireman at the Silverdale Fire Company in December 1952.
He married his wife, Elizabeth in 1992. The couple moved to Lower Milford where he joined the Lower Milford Fire Department.
Knapp worked his way up as a fireman and became the engineer, the person who cares for the equipment and then became assistant chief, appointed by Chief Harry Rosenberger.
In the 1980s, he switched to fire policeman and became a lieutenant.
He said he always used his own vehicle with lights and a siren. Knapp would often be at the scene of a fire or accident before the ambulances arrived.
The job of a fire policeman is a 24-hour-a-day job and he was out many nights in snow and ice. Knapp said often they would not have time to set up a detour and when a road was temporarily closed, people had to find their own way around.
“There is so much to learn today,” Knapp said. “There is special clothing, air tanks, chemicals and more.”
He said the firemen hung on the back of the trucks when going to a fire but he did not know of anyone who ever got hurt because of it.
The regular police handled traffic and security, the two things in which fire police are now involved.
Knapp said he has many interesting stories to tell of his experiences with the fire department.
In 1980, he went to Appleton, Wis., to bring home a Pierce truck. The company from which they bought the truck wined and dined them and sent them on their way.
His family, friends and firemen were at a picnic in the late 1980s in Lower Milford when a call came for a terrific fire in Perkasie. One man went down to see what was going on and called to tell everyone to get down there. “The whole town is on fire.”
Knapp said that was somewhat of an exaggeration, but about three or four buildings were damaged in the fire.
Knapp said there were a lot of wrecks on Kings Highway with its hills and curves he remembers.
On one particularly cold night, a fire call came in. The homeowners were outside in night clothes. Knapp sent them to his van until an ambulance got there to help them.
One of Coopersburg’s ladders froze with the cold water running down it. He said they had a tough time getting it down. Hoses have also been frozen creating another challenge. At White Wing Egg Farm, there were inches of frozen water on the parking lot before the fire companies left.
Then there was a tire fire on Old Route 309. The foam truck from the Lehigh Valley International Airport had to be called. He said foam trucks are usually used at airports because they smother a fire to put it out faster than water.
Knapp retired from the fire department in 2014.
The Dan Schantz landscape nursery fire was one of the biggest for the Lower Milford Fire Department but by then Knapp was retired.
He recalls a story from before his time when a school burned and the firehouse was used as a temporary school.
He is a life member of both the Silverdale and Lower Milford fire companies.
Capt. John Fritzell, Lower Milford Fire Department, gave Knapp a plaque for his service with the company.
Since retiring, Knapp and his wife have traveled to Alaska and Europe.
He has ridden in small and large airplanes, balloons and other exotic means of transportation, but a blimp ride is still on his bucket list.
Another item on his list was to drive race cars at Pocono Raceway. He said a driver had to be 5-feet tall to drive. He needed help getting in through the window because there are no doors and he needed three pillows behind him to reach the pedals. His speed went up to 135 mph.
Two years ago he had his first ever party at the firehouse to celebrate his 80th birthday. Knapp is the last living member of the fire company who was born in Silverdale.
“It takes a certain kind of guy to get up in all kinds of weather or time of day,” Elizabeth Knapp said.
“She [Elizabeth] had no idea what this was all about ‘till we got married,” Knapp said. “Then she got involved with the auxiliary.”