(BEDFORD) – On October 17th the Williams Volunteer Fire Department signed over all assets to the Indian Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
This comes after the Secretary of State of Indiana ordered their assets dissolved earlier this year after failing to file the necessary paperwork with the state.
The department was reinstated in June, however, the department was facing staffing issues that they could not overcome.
In an official press release from the Indian Creek Fire Department, Indian Creek will provide fire protection to Spice Valley Township North.
On August 3rd, a public meeting was held by the Williams Volunteer Fire Department and Spice Valley Township Michelle Cornett to address concerns of the residents.
During the public meeting, attendees were made aware that they were only two active members of the fire department to be able to respond to emergencies. The Indian Creek Fire Department was covering the area during this period of time in addition to Mitchelltree Township in Martin County.
A temporary contract was signed between the Spice Valley Township Trustee and Trustee Board with the Indian Creek Fire Department. The Indian Creek Fire Department has been providing fire protection and emergency medical responses to the Williams area since the beginning of the year under the county’s mutual aid agreement.
On October 17th, a contract was signed between the Williams and Indian Creek Fire Department transferring all the assets over to the Indian Creek Fire Department.
A formal contract between the Spice Valley Township Trustee and Board was signed and for Indian Creek Fire Department to provide long term fire protection forthcoming.
The Williams Volunteer Fire Department also provided fire protection to Mitchltree Township in Martin County and Mitcheltree Township has not provided any details on what department will be providing fire protection in their township.
In 2018, the Indian Creek Fire Department was given $1,500 for fire protection along with the Williams Fire Department who was primarily contracted to provide fire protection. Spice Valley Township provided $15,500 to Williams Volunteer Fire Department for fire services and Mitchelltree provided $9,500 to the department in 2019.
The Williams Fire Department was formed in 1961 and was one of Lawrence County’s oldest fire departments. All across the United States volunteer fire departments are having trouble finding volunteers as training requirements have increased, as well as run volumes and the demands of emergency services.
The Huron Fire Department will continue to provide fire protection in Spice Valley Township South and have a roster of 24 members to provide fire protection
The Williams Fire Department is the second fire department to disband since 2017, due to lack of manpower. Former Guthrie Township Trustee Bob Awbrey signing a contract with Shawswick Township to take over fire protection, leaving Guthrie Township Fire Department without the funding to continue to operate.
More than 70 percent of America’s firefighters are volunteers. The smallest communities of 10,000 residents are almost always served by volunteer fire departments, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Across the country, small, rural fire departments are struggling to recruit and retain firefighters. But, even when the number of volunteers firefighters are holding steady, the number of calls is exploding.
The national average of calls departments respond to has tripled over in the last 30 years, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“There is no force at the state level or a federal level, except the National Guard, that can provide a community with the rescue, mitigation, and recovery services like the fire and emergency services community,” says Dennis Onieal, acting U.S. Fire Administrator in an article published on June 29, 2017.
Volunteer fire departments once depended on local employers who offered full-time jobs with benefits to fire volunteers and were willing to have employees leave work to fight fires. Today, typical jobs have per-hour workers with unpredictable shifts for national or international companies that have no ties to the community.
The number of volunteer firefighters has declined 15 percent between its all-time high in 1984 and an all-time low in 2011. Over that same period, the number of calls has increased to more than 300 percent. Existing firefighters are suffering burnout and volunteers have the same training requirements as a paid career firefighter.
The initial training requires a significant time investment. As people have less time to volunteer, the training required has become more intensive. Once the initial training is complete, there are continuous training sessions needed, and this does not include emergency medical training should one decide to be an Emergency Medical Responder, which now requires 80-hours of training.
Volunteers must schedule their training around home life and work which is not an easy task.
In Monroe County beginning January 1, 2020, Van Buren Township and Bloomington Township Fire Departments will merge with the Monroe Fire Protection District. There are only two remaining all-volunteer fire departments in Monroe County. The remaining departments are combination or career departments.