In the late ‘70s until the ‘90s I was a member of a volunteer fire and ambulance service in Milroy. We had four trucks, started off with two and about 25 active members of the department. It was township owned and contracted out the man power to the volunteers. Our department and Rushville Township and Posey Township were the only government owned and operated fire departments in the county. We were dedicated, and many of the local businesses would allow their workers who were members of the department to leave work if needed. We had a lot of farmers on the department and they would leave their farming if a call came in.
Volunteers have, over time, saved the taxpayers of the county hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars by their unswerving dedication to their friends and neighbors. That is true today, but with a lot of differences. There are fewer farmers around so fewer people available during the day. There are fewer business establishments around the county and even in Rushville itself. Money is scarce and many departments, township and not for profit, are struggling to have the man power available to fulfill their obligations. And that is a problem throughout the entire county. There are those departments that seem to have things under control and others that are struggling. And I am afraid I see the struggling continuing and getting worse as we progress on.
Many businesses in the area are running as shorthanded as they possibly can if they are still in operation and hesitate or forbid their people to leave during business hours. I know from my experience it is, at minimum, around 3 hours for each call after you get the dispatch to the time you get home or back to work. I had a plant in Rushville but was available most of the time and would make runs from Rushville to Milroy frequently. We had a list made up of who was available and when and when they could and would be on call if needed. I spent two Christmas Eves away from my family because of ambulance calls. Neither I nor any of the others involved complained; our spouses may have, but I don’t remember any member not doing their best to make the call.
We went from equipment that was refurbished farm and business equipment to actually made for fire equipment trucks. We went from Citizens Band radios to walkie-talkies and monitors that would tell us when there was a call and where. Even to the point that many if not all members had radios themselves, not just monitors. Our trucks had true radios dedicated only to the fire service. The city and county got the ability to dispatch fire and ambulance for their respective areas and either of them if needed. The state required extensive training, something that once again detracted some who might have volunteered. They just could not take the time from work or family to get trained. Certain requirements were put in place that one had to meet to be a volunteer. A lot really has changed from the time I was on the department.
We still have those who are willing to volunteer and work on fire and ambulance departments, but far fewer than in the past. Some departments have acclimated well, others not so well. We have rural and city fire departments we can all be proud of, but ones who need our help. As business owners, farmers, retired individuals and others we need to work with our local departments to grow, remain viable and do our jobs as well. We need to realize the things that those volunteers do for us, the money they save us, the ability to get to and help rapidly. In other words, we all need to work with and for our local departments. And those departments need to do their best to do the job they are expected to do no matter the difficulty.
The townships, departments, citizens, farmers, taxpayers, county officials and city officials all need to work together to have a viable countywide fire and ambulance service. I agree that since my time I have seen a lot of changes, many for the better, some not quite so. I have seen the ability of those departments diminish with the loss of population, business and farms during the years. I also have seen the desire of many to volunteer because of the demands on their time and efforts. Society has changed drastically over the years. We face new and more complicated problems today than in my time. But we all still need to work together and for the continuation of our existing fire and ambulance departments.