Giving Back to Those who Volunteer – the Edon, Ohio Firefighters
Day in and day out, firefighters, police officers and other first responders risk their lives for their community. Some make this their lifelong profession, others voluntarily run toward fires, accidents and other emergency situations. All do this to protect their family, friends and community members – us.
What happens when the tables are turned and the brave men and women who protect are the ones in danger? What happens when a fire station goes up in flames and destroys the very engines and gear that have saved hundreds of lives and homes?
The Florence Township Fire Department firefighters found themselves in this very situation last week.
Nestled in North West Ohio, the Florence Township Fire Department (located in Edon, Ohio) is a volunteer-based fire department comprised of 32 firefighters that serve 49 square miles. It’s a small village of 825 community members (2013). The fire station is a large community contributor. The annual Firefighter’s Breakfast brings crowds of people, both young and old, to eat a hand-crafted breakfast made and served by the firefighters. The main gathering space entertains bingo night for citizens. Countless graduation and first communion parties have been held in that same space. Needless to say, memories are made every week in the town’s fire station.
How do I know this? My dad has voluntarily served the department for more than 25 years. My brother joined after serving four years in the United States Navy. The first communion and graduation parties, those are memories my family has shared for years, in addition to many other families in the area.
The late night fire-runs that caused my dad to doze off a few times in church or the runs that gave me and my siblings an afternoon at grandma’s; those are a few memories of my childhood.
On May 3, 2015 at 6:52 p.m., the first flames sparked. An electrical short in the wiring from a shoreline charging system on a rescue truck is believed to have caused the fire. The fire burned at a scorching 1200+ degrees, enough to melt aluminum. A fire line can be seen stretching the length of the concrete wall of the truck bay.
The fire destroyed anything above the fire line (as depicted by the telephone in the photo), and anything below (the outlet), was left almost unscathed. The fire spread from the roof of the rescue truck to the other four engines that were also stored in the bay area.
I remember as a child I would ask my dad “What happens if the fire station would catch on fire?” Fast forward 15 years, I never thought my questions as a young girl would become reality.
To answer my question, my dad would respond “Other fire departments will come and put out the fire.” That is precisely what happened.
Two Florence Township Fire Department members were first on scene after arriving at the station for a scheduled meeting. Soon after, three area departments (Edgerton, Montpelier and Northwest Township) were called to extinguish the fire. The fire was under control in approximately 40 minutes, while an investigation lasted until midnight.
To date, the damages of the fire are estimated to be around $1.2 million. The fire destroyed five trucks:
- Two engines
- A Tanker
- A Rescue Truck
- Grass Truck
The department members’ gear was stored in the lockers inside the truck bay area. My dad, brother and other firefighters had to stand and watch as surrounding departments put out the flames because they could not access their gear.
“We just, we couldn’t do anything but sit there and watch it burn,” stated Jay Klinger, Florence Township Fire Chief, to WTOL News. “It’s hard to be on the other side, not being able to help, when you’re used to doing that for people.”
While visiting home this past weekend, my dad showed me the station. The smell of fire still lingered nearly a week later. Remnants of fire boots and other equipment lay scattered across the truck bay. The once family and community gathering space is now filled with ash and unrecognizable debris. Behind the station sit the five trucks that burned. As my dad called it, the “truck graveyard.”
As chilling and eerie as the fire scene was, positivity emanated from the station. Soon after the fire, the sign hung at the station’s entrance read: Thanks for the support. We are still here.
After losing all their trucks and half their station (the truck bay area), the department members are striving to stay positive and gain a positive outlook on the situation.
“I want people to know, our community to know, thank you for helping, for any donations. We’re still here for you, we’re going to be here for you,” stated Klinger to WTOL.
Quickly after news spread about the fire, Florence Township began receiving donations and offers for help. Neighboring stations gave the department gear (including helmets and SCBA’s) to replace what was burned.
Five days after the fire, the department was up and running again with the help of the Wauseon Fire Department. The neighboring town offered Florence Township an engine to use until they get back on their feet.
Two additional departments are loaning trucks (an engine and rescue).
Although the department has received donations since the fire, in addition to insurance, the damages will not be covered without the department taking a financial hit. The damages are upward of $1.5 million and the rebuilding process will not start for another six months.
This greatly affects not only the department, but for the community. As stated previously, the station serves as a backbone to the small, close-knit community. Due to the fire and damages, the response time to emergencies is now limited and there is an additional response time for added resources lost. The financial and emotional burdens can be felt throughout the town.
According to Fire Chief, Jay Klinger, the department did not have a crisis plan. “We tend to believe [a crisis] is not going to happen [to us]. We plan for the citizens we cover first.” The community and its members are the primary focus and responsibility for the volunteer department.
I am proud of my family, and proud to work for a company like Firestorm that works closely with countless first responders. We deeply respect the jobs they perform day in and day out. With Firestorm’s permission, and to help in any way possible, I have created a gofundme account to raise funds for the department. Any and all donations will be extremely beneficial. Please Visit the gofundme page here and thank you.