Karl Blank Sr., firefighter, dies at 76

Karl Blank, Sr.
Karl Blank, Sr.
Posted: June 12, 2012

KARL BLANK SR. began his life amid the stark realities of Germany under Adolf Hitler, and wound up in Philadelphia as a firefighter and founder of the German American Firefighters Association.

He was born in Munich in 1936 as Hitler was preparing to wage war on Europe. Karl was the son of a firefighter and had naturally adopted that profession when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1957. He served in numerous fire companies, rose to the rank of lieutenant and became an instructor at the Fire Academy and a fire investigator as an assistant fire marshal.

In 1982, he gathered 91 of his fellow firefighters, men and women, and anyone involved in fire science of German heritage and founded the German American Firefighters Association. He served 10 terms as president, a term as vice president, and was serving his sixth term as secretary when he died.

Karl Blank Sr., who also served a hitch in the U.S. Army and became an American citizen in 1963, died May 27. He was 76 and lived in Holmesburg. He was born to Karl and Maria Blank.

"Karl survived World War II despite great hardship and the loss of his father," his family said.

He attended a business school in Germany for three years and received a diploma. He moved to the U.S. in 1957 and two years later, from Philadelphia, was drafted into the Army. He served as a Specialist E-4 in the 553rd Combat Engineers Battalion and was discharged in 1961.

While in the Army, he met and married Alice Dove, of Philadelphia. He joined the Fire Department in 1966, and after training, was assigned to Engine 14, Foulkrod and Darrah streets. In 1971, he was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to Engine 35, Ridge Aveneue at Midvale.

While there, Karl was detailed tthe Fire Academy, where he served as an instructor for several classes until his assignment to Engine 22, Comly Road near Woodhaven, in 1978. He attended night classes at Community College of , studying fire science for arson investigation, fire prevention, building systems and report writing. He was then assigned as a backup assistant fire marshal from 1978 to '88, while serving as an officer at Ladder 28, Cottman at Loretto avenues; Engine 62, on Bustleton Avenue; and Ladder 15, at Foulkrod and Darrah.

He finished his career at Engine 73, Ogontz Avenue at 75th Street, and retired in 1988.

Although he was retired from the department, Karl remained active with the German American Firefighters Association.

His motto was a German firefighter's prayer, "Gott zu ehr, dem nachsten zur wehr!" ("In God's honor, the next call to the defense!")

Karl was proud of the fact that his son, Karl Jr., is a Philadelphia firefighter assigned to Engine 24, 20th Street near Federal.

Besides his wife and son, he is survived by a daughter, Alice, and two grandchildren.

Services: Were June 2. Burial was in Lawnview Cemetery, Rockledge. n

Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or morrisj@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @johnfmorrison.

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