East Holmes Fire provides a fish tale worth retelling

East Holmes Fire provides a fish tale worth retelling
Dave Mast

Under the expert leadership of Ben Miller, right, a team of East Holmes Fire & EMS volunteers prepare to simultaneously get their fish frying. The team fried 1,700 pounds of fish in the community celebratory fundraising event on May 17.


Anglers are renowned for telling fish tales that somewhat exaggerate their stories of lore.

This is one fish story that can’t be overstated.

The annual East Holmes Fire & EMS fish fry took place Friday, May 17, and the long line of diners waiting to get their fill of the fish dinners was in place more than 30 minutes prior to when the fry even opened, indicative of the connection between the fire and EMS and the local community.

According to East Holmes Fire Chief John Schlabach, this event serves the purpose of connecting the department with the community for an evening of food and fellowship. He said that is important because the two entities work hand-in-hand, the community benefiting from the selfless service of the department’s volunteer fire and EMS personnel and the department relying on the support of the community.

“We started this 15 years ago, and it stuck because of the relationship of everyone involved,” Schlabach said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our community members, and we play a vital role in serving those same people when a disaster arises. It all goes together, which is why this evening’s celebration is so important and so much fun.”

The setup takes the work of every single individual in the department, and with Troyer’s Market being next door, getting the fish to the fryers is made quite easier. Schlabach said Troyer’s has been wonderful to work with on many occasions.

In the fryer area, two crews of fire and EMS members were humming along — one crew frying fish for the diners and the other focusing on the carryout crew.

They have it down to a science, even timing the process, with Ben Miller yielding two stop watches that have the fryer personnel turning their fish into the boiling oil and pulling them out in unison.

“These guys have done this many times before, and they’ve perfected it,” Schlabach said of his crew frying up 1,700 pounds of fish.

“I’ve got to keep these guys on point,” Miller said. “We try to get fresh fish out every minute. It’s important to keep everyone happy and well fed.”

Less than 20 minutes into the evening, the firehouse was packed with diners, with a carryout line out to the road, and Schlabach said not only was it locals stopping in, but also there were many people from out of town.

Life Flight also provided a pair of helicopter visits, and they also provided an opportunity for people to purchase raffle tickets for their upcoming gun raffle.

While the fundraiser will help create opportunity for the department to help itself, it also is designed to help the community.

According to Schlabach, 50% of all the net profit from the fish fry will go toward helping community members with a community charity hardship fund to help families facing financial needs.

“We have a criteria we follow, based on need. If they live in the community, if they’ve been a past patient of ours and other factors play into how we select the people we donate to,” Schlabach said. “It’s a joy for us to turn these proceeds around and donate back to the community.”

He said the department members are tuned in to community needs and continue to bring in familial needs to be discussed.

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