JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP — Like a Phoenix, Jefferson Township’s volunteer fire department grew from almost nothing to 22 within a year — a goal the new chief couldn’t have imagined achieving so quickly.
“We turned the corner faster than I could have hoped,” said Chief Luke Brubaker.
The former chief Linley Liming unexpectedly handed in his resignation in December 2012. When Brubaker was named chief in January, they were down to five members and almost a year later the department has made strides.
“It’s a big relief for me,” said Brubaker. “We have been covering our runs now.”
The department now has 11 trained in EMS and 15 fire-trained.
“It was pretty rough at first. It is challenging getting new people,” he added.
The department is made up of committed individuals. Brubaker explained that a volunteer department takes much out of one’s personal life as they give up evenings and weekends.
“It takes hard work and dedication to be a volunteer. It takes a special person to devote so much time to it. You have to be available to make the class, continue training and education. And it’s dangerous. Between the level-one fire and EMT classes those individual 300 hours class-time between the two,” said the chief.
One of the ways the chief was able to increase the number of volunteers was with the help of word of mouth within the community and other area departments. Some of the volunteers also run with nearby Silvercreek Township. Brubaker attributes their success to the fact that they work “really well” with other neighboring departments — even training together.
“I want to thank all the neighboring departments helping us get back on our feet,” he said. “I’ve received lots of help behind the scenes.”
Now with the improvements to staffing, the EMS truck is on schedule to be back in service Jan. 1. Previously the department was contracting with Silvercreek Township to handle its EMS runs since did not have the manpower to operate the truck and respond to EMS calls. Over the year, the department has been able to provide through Clark State Community College, a level-one fire class and an EMT basic class. They have plans to hold another level-one fire class soon.
Brubaker has hopes to continue to grow the department, which covers Bowersville and all of rural Jefferson Township. They also provide mutual aid when there is a fire in Xenia, Silvercreek, New Jasper townships and Port William.
“The morale of the whole department has really come up. We have all new people eager to serve the community,” he added.
The work to improve the department doesn’t end with staffing, it also takes funding, therefore the new chief is applying for as many grants as possible. They hope to hear about the two latest grants sometime early next year include, an AFA assistance grant and FEMA grant to replace an engine, which would be about $349,000 and fire turnout gear that needs replaced $17,000.
Brubaker was happy to get a small EMS grant to upgrade the EMS equipment in June. The grant was for $1,500.
“It all helps out a small volunteer department,” he added.
Brubaker has been a firefighter since 2003 and an EMT basic since 2009. He started in Pitchin then moved to Jamestown and Silvercreek in 2008. Last year someone approached him to ask if he’d like to run the department and he applied.
The new chief is happy that the department is on the upswing.
“It’s gotten better faster than I expected it to,” said Brubaker. “We are getting people involved and those individuals want to make it work. Most of them are residents of that area, and they understand that it’s a service that has to be there and someone has to do that.”