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Harrison Twp. FD increases number of paid firefighters

Harrison Twp. FD increases number of paid firefighters
Harrison Twp. FD increases number of paid firefighters
Joshua Bottorff, left, Chris Schneider, Josh Ruckle, Derek Wood, Jeremy Willis and Jon Saulman prepare new air packs for placing on trucks at the Harrison Township Fire House in Corydon. These six men, along with Mark Smythe, are the department's paid firefighters. Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

It’s been nearly a year since Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. had its first paid firefighter.
Now, Jon Saulman, the department’s chief, is joined by six other paid firefighters who comprise two crews working 24-hour shifts Monday through Friday. Assisting with each crew is one of the department’s 30 volunteers. On weekends, volunteers respond to calls for service.
‘The goal was to have three crews,’ Saulman said, adding that he hopes the additional crew will be hired by the end of 2020. ‘We made a promise to the public when we gathered the necessary signatures to become a fire district.’
Following Saulman’s status change from volunteer to paid, four additional firefighters, Joshua Bottorff, Josh Ruckle, Mark Smythe and Jeremy Willis, were hired. Then, about three weeks ago, Chris Schneider and Derek Wood became paid firefighters with the department.
‘The volunteers really have been integral in making this happen,’ Saulman said. ‘They’re still the largest part of this organization and will continue to be.’
Response times have been cut in half, going from 12 to 14 minutes to four to six minutes.
‘It’s made a dramatic difference having paid firefighters,’ Saulman said.
The number of runs the department makes has increased by 20% from 2017 to 2018.
‘This year, we’ve made 42 fire-related runs to date,’ Saulman said Friday morning. ‘That doesn’t count false alarms.’
Harrison Township FD provides mutual aid to the county’s other eight fire departments. On average, it responds to two structure fires a month during assistance.
With the paid crews, the fire department has started helping businesses in the township with pre-fire planning and is looking to begin offering the ‘Knox box’ program for commercial buildings.
Saulman said that program entails a business owner installing a box on the outside of their building that contains a key firefighters can access.
‘It allows us quicker access to a building if there’s a problem,’ Saulman said. ‘It can prevent us from tearing down a door, which can be several hundred dollars to replace.’
The firefighters also will install smoke alarms for residents (the department can often provide alarms free of charge to those who need them) and conduct free inspections.
‘I think it’s great what we’re doing,’ Saulman said.
Saulman said the department and the fire district board has a working agreement with the Harrison Township trustee, Jim Mayfield, that includes leasing the two firehouses ‘ the main one located along Old S.R. 135 near downtown Corydon and the second one south of Corydon just off of S.R. 135 ‘ from the trustee.
Saulman pointed out that the fire department really belongs to the community.
Last week, the paid crews were unpacking and assembling 27 new air packs the department was able to purchase, thanks to the gentlemen’s agreement between the Harrison County Fire Chiefs Association and county government.
‘The guys we’ve hired work pretty hard,’ Saulman said. ‘I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.’
However, he said the department will continue to work to achieve its goal of having three paid crews.
‘It does have an impact on insurance costs,’ Saulman said, adding that the department has a goal of having its ISO (insurance service office) rating lowered from 6/6X to 4. (On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 is the worst.)
‘Once we reach 24/7 staffing, that should happen,’ he said.
Other factors that go into determining an ISO rating, which impacts insurance rates, includes a department’s response time, training, equipment and equipment training and available water supply.
‘We hope to get involved with the water companies here soon,’ Saulman said.
Like most fire departments that rely on volunteers, Saulman said they are always needing people to serve in that capacity. Applications are available at the firehouse.
For more information about any of the services offered by the Harrison Township Fire Dept. or how to become a volunteer firefighter, stop by the station or call 812-738-3221.