In this photo, taken in December, Bob Boeckel is holding his newborn great-nephew, Brayden Shellenberger, son of Brianne Haugh.
In this photo, taken in December, Bob Boeckel is holding his newborn great-nephew, Brayden Shellenberger, son of Brianne Haugh. (Submitted)

Like his brother, Bob Boeckel followed their father's footsteps into the fire service.

After starting out as a junior firefighter in the 1970s, Boeckel rose to the ranks to earn the rank of assistant chief with the volunteer Strinestown Community Fire Co. and chief of the York County Hazardous Materials Team.

During his nearly 40-year career, he became known as the guy who knew a lot about firefighting, and he shared that information with younger firefighters that were just getting their start.

"He was very professional in (his haz-mat) position. He was always striving to learn more about the job, to do a better job," said Jim Welty, deputy chief of the haz-mat team and a close friend of Boeckel.

Boeckel died Wednesday after battling an illness. He was 54.

Family affair: Boeckel's father, James Boeckel, started the family's affiliation with firefighting, serving with Strinestown.

When Bob Boeckel turned 16 in 1975, he joined the department, becoming the fourth Boeckel firefighter in the department. His brother, Jim Boeckel, had joined three years earlier, and their uncle also served with the department.

"It was a family thing," Jim Boeckel said. "It was interesting at times."

Jim and Bob Boeckel's mother, Jean Boeckel, and their sister, Lynn Haugh, also served in the department's ladies auxiliary.

Like most firefighters, the Boeckels were called out at all hours and usually at the most inopportune time.

Jim Boeckel, who is a fire marshal in Telluride, Colo., recalled one dinner years ago that nearly didn't happen.

As the family was sitting down to eat, the fire pager sounded and James, Jim and Bob Boeckel ran out the door. Not long after they returned, the pager sounded again.

"After the fourth time, my mom said, 'If you guys leave, I'm clearing the table,'" Jim Boeckel said.

So the guys grabbed some of the food and ate on the go as they rushed to the fire station, he said.

Jim Boeckel said the death of his brother is "going to leave a void."

"He put a lot of effort into firefighting."

Tough day: Bob Boeckel's death has hit the firefighters at Strinestown and around the county pretty hard.

"It's been a tough day," said Scott Vogelsong, Strinestown's chief. "We're working through it. We're standing by each other."

When Vogelson started with the department as a teen, Bob Boeckel was there to help guide him in becoming a firefighter. He did that with a lot of the younger guys, working to help them learn the ins and outs of the job.

"He had a vast amount of knowledge and skill," the chief said.

The family's involvement with the fire department doesn't end with Bob Boeckel's death. His nephew, Jeremy Haugh, is a lieutenant. Another of Boeckel's nephews, Jamey Haugh, also took up the family trade and is an EMT with Fairview Township EMS, Jim Boeckel said.

Haz-mat: Bob Boeckel joined the county's haz-mat team in 1993. It was with the team that he and Welty, who joined the year before, developed a friendship and rose through the ranks together.

"If Bob was your friend, he'd give you the shirt off his back," Welty said.

Joe Stevens, chief of Union Fire Co. in Manchester, said he, too, got to know Bob Boeckel through the fire service.

He said Union and Strinestown worked and trained together and jointly held chicken barbecue fundraisers that Bob Boeckel helped make a success.

"We went to many, many classes together and spent far too many days and nights at barn fires and brush fires and crashes," Stevens said.

— Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo contributed to this report.

— Reach Greg Gross at