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Pa. firefighter injured at scene of apartment fire

December 01, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A volunteer firefighter was flown to York (Pa.) Hospital following an apparent accident at the scene of a Tuesday morning apartment fire, according to Chambersburg Emergency Services Chief John Vanlandingham.

Jackson H. Gerhart, 65, of 232 Reading Road, Shippensburg, Pa., who was identified as the injured firefighter by a relative, was listed in serious condition Tuesday night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Vanlandingham said the firefighter was injured while getting a hose off one of the fire engines.

"We're not sure if he actually fell off the rear step, or had a medical emergency and collapsed in the street," he said.

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Gerhart was taken to Chambersburg Hospital by ambulance and then flown to York, Vanlandingham said.

Gerhart's brother, Charles Gerhart of Chambersburg, said his brother is a retired Washington, D.C., firefighter and was a Chambersburg Fire Department firefighter in the early 1960s. He also is a volunteer with the Junior Hose and Truck Co. based out of the fire department headquarters building on North Second Street and the West End Volunteer Fire Co. in Shippensburg.

Vanlandingham said Gerhart is well-known in the area and has helped a lot of young firefighters here and in the Washington area during his career.

"Over the years, he's really done a lot for the community," he said.

The fire at 541 E. Washington St. was called in at 10:08 a.m. The apparent cause was a clothes iron being left on in a bedroom by the occupant of the second-floor apartment, Vanlandingham said.

The resident left the apartment to go to work about an hour before the fire was called in, he said.

Firefighters had to force their way into the apartment and quickly put out the fire, but there was fire damage to the bedroom and smoke damage to the rest of the second floor, Vanlandingham said.

A Shippensburg firefighter died in the line of duty last year while responding to a fire in rural Huntingdon County, Pa. Keith Hess, 22, a volunteer with the West End Co., was killed when part of a building collapsed on him Jan. 20, 2003, in Blair Mills, Pa.

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