risking their lives only part of the job
Helen E. McKinney,
(July, 2002) In the wake of 9-11, Project Guild of Oldham
county members have decided to honor the entire staffs of the countys
volunteer Fire-Rescue squads as the grand marshals of this years
Oldham County Day.
Although fitting considering recent events of terrorism initiated against
the country, it can be argued that these men and women are worthy of
praise any time. Few other professions involve such acts of courage
amid constant danger and all voluntarily.
Its what they do behind the scenes that people dont
know about, said Oldham County Day chairperson Beverly McCombs
of Oldham Countys volunteer fire departments.
The Project Guild, which sponsors the annual one-day festival,
select a person or group each year to honor. This year, fire-rescue
workers from all eight departments will be riding in the Oldham County
Day parade and honored at a special luncheon during the week preceding
the festival, which this year is set for July 20.
These departments are located in Ballardsville, La Grange, North Oldham,
Pewee Valley, South Oldham,Westport, Harrods Creek, and Worthington.
The latter two are based in Jefferson County but respond to calls in
This is an honor that La Grange Fire and Rescue Chief Col. Mike Heilman
said was well overdue. He said it took an event like Sept
11, 2001, to make the community see his departments importance.
Maj. Keith Smith said the La Grange department has decided to hold an
open house on July 20 to increase the communitys awareness of
just how a volunteer fire department operates.
The department will provide a fire-safety house to educate children
about fire prevention, Smith said. This house will even have simulated
smoke to make the experience more realistic. It will be set up in the
parking lot across the street from the firehouse at Second and Main
A survivor trailer will there, said Smith. This is a two-story structure
geared for firefighter survival, said volunteer Captain Jim Sitzler,
where trainees learn to do it or die.
Some of the other departments have held open houses in the past. The
public will be able to view first-hand just what it takes to become
a volunteer fire fighter.
Extensive training is required, covering all areas of firefighting.
Everything from administrative duties, such as how to answer emergency
calls, to how to handle hazardous materials and aircraft crash and rescue,
are learned in training sessions.
Heilman said 150 hours of training is needed to complete a state Level
I certification. An additional 20 hours must be completed before volunteers
can ride on a fire truck. Once certified, 25 hours of annual training
is also required of each individual in Heilmans department, he
The Lexington-based State Fire Commission sets the standard for certain
areas, in terms of how volunteers are to be trained, said South Oldham
Fire Department Chief Eddie Turner.
Volunteers in Turners department take a 16-week recruiting class
and build their way up to the 150 hours required by the state. Because
of the need for more room, the South Oldham Fire Department will soon
have a new firehouse located on Old La Grange Road in Crestwood.
Heilman said that all volunteers feel a certain amount of pride for
their particular department and its work. Long gone are any rivalries
among the eight departments because, Smith said, We work with
the other departments, all relying on each other for assistance.
It takes a team effort, said Heilman, with the entire team contributing
toward one goal when an emergency strikes. We share a common interest.
Every fire department is unique to themselves, Heilman continued.
The apparatus each department has depends upon its location. The La
Grange department answers calls to the railroad, correctional facilities
and I-71. Due to the districts proximity to the interstate, the
department is equipped with a set of Hurst Jaws of Life
rescue tools to aid in calls for auto accident response.
In addition to residential areas and horse farm calls, the North Oldham
Fire Department district responds to 12 miles of the Ohio River, where
boats are needed for river rescue efforts. While not all volunteers
are trained for water rescue, Chief Rick Albers said his department
has 10 swift water technicians and eight volunteers who work at the
The North Oldham Fire Department responds to calls in Prospect, Skylight
and Goshen, where a new station is being constructed across the street
from the present one.
We work closely with the Harrods Creek department,
said Albers, because they are the department closest to us.
The Harrods Creek department owns a custom-built $600,000 rescue
boat, plus other water rescue equipment that North Oldham is lacking.
Because North Oldhams proximity to the river, Albers said his
department once had a responsibility, but no capability
for water rescue. All that changed by teaming with Harrods Creek
when the necessity arises.
Albers said rescue is slower on the river than on land, but his department
is capable of handling rescue efforts due to three boats the department
owns: a 22-foot Fire-Rescue cruiser, a 14-foot jon boat and a three-person
With two stations, the North Oldham district serves 8,500 people in
47 square miles. It is a publicly funded fire district using paid and
volunteer fire fighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). Some
Oldham County districts are strictly volunteer, while others receive
a paid chief and paid daytime staff of volunteers.
The County has grown so fast, Im the first paid chief here,
Albers said. Due to this ever-growing population, the volunteer fire
departments are always seeking volunteers. We need people from
the community, said Albers.
To some, its addictive, said Heilman. It gives you a sense
of accomplishment. Its also a challenge because nothing is ever the
same; you can never learn everything.
La Grange Fire Department Training Coordinator, Maj. Adrian Doleman,
said that it is important for the volunteer fire fighters to be
a part of the community, and to be seen as such. Dolemans
job is to ensure that volunteers receive the most up to date training
so they can serve the community better.
Many volunteers stay on the job for years, such as Capt. Sitzler, who
was recognized for 25 years of service. When asked what brought him
to join the department in March 1976, he replied, I just saw a
fire truck going down the street one day, and told my wife that I thought
I would like to try out, and here I still am 25 years later.
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