DARKE COUNTY - State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers visited Darke County on Friday to present checks for $10,000 to Rossburg and Arcanum fire departments to help in purchasing new small equipment, and to hold listening sessions to learn the concerns of local firefighters.
Representative Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) attended one the listening session in Rossburg, for which Flowers commended him.
“I can only think of one other listening tour we’ve been on in the last two years that we’ve had a member of the legislature join us, so thank you for that,” Flowers said. “The programs that we’re able to offer start in Governor Kasich’s budget, and the House and Senate have to vote on those. It takes legislative support to make things happen, and we appreciate that support.”
The $10,000 grants were a part of the governor’s Mid-Biennium Review, Flowers shared. Rossburg Fire Department was able to purchase two newer, higher-capacity air packs, as well as voice amplifiers for better communication in emergency situations, said Doug Cothran, fire chief. Arcanum Fire Department chose to purchase an extraction tool for use during car accidents, said Chief Kurt Troutwine.
Marshal Flowers said that the State Fire Marshal’s office has been making efforts to push out of Columbus and into the local fire departments who are the first responders, taking care of Ohio’s citizens.
“Thanks for what you do - because of the effort you have made, the training that you do, the fire prevention programs, the smoke alarm programs, around the state and in your community, we had 103 fire deaths last year, which is 103 too many, but it’s the lowest it’s been in 27 years, so we’re going the right way,” Flowers stated. “We’re glad to be a part of helping you be successful. $10,000 isn’t a lot of money to some people, but to some, we know it is. And we know it’s only a couple air packs, but it’s two more that you can provide to your firefighters for their safety. Why we do what we do – 70 percent of Ohio is protected by volunteer fire departments, and I think some of us forgot that in Columbus.”
The State Fire Marshal’s office also offers many other programs to assist local fire departments in their mission to serve and protect, Flowers said.
Last year, they reimbursed approximately $700,000 to local fire departments for training, he said; they have $500,000 set aside to help provide better training to volunteer firefighters, helping to keep them safe and do their jobs more effectively, he said. Along with that, they’re getting support from the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, he said, though that hasn’t been fully formed yet.
“We’re committed to getting people better training, and the State Fire Marshal’s fund is paying for it,” Flowers added. “The BWC is about to announce their support for that, but we don’t know what that means yet. We’re going to partner to make that program even more successful.”
The State Fire Marshal’s office also offers small equipment grants, such as the ones received by Arcanum and Rossburg’s fire departments, Flowers added.
“The average budget of the fire departments getting these grants is about $40,000,” Flowers said. “So these are small, rural departments that make up most of Ohio. It’s organizations like this that are protecting our citizens.”
Along with small equipment grants, they offer assistance in upgrading communication systems. They’re also focusing on a more regional or county-wide effort, stating that “we’re going to fund those counties that come together,” while they may not fund the “onesies and twosies” that come forth for that funding.
Along with funding, they’re encouraging departments to train together, offering free training for three or more departments if it’s done at the same time, Flowers said. And the support will hopefully continue, Flowers added.
“I believe this is only the beginning. I really believe our next budget cycle, for 2016-2017, that you’re going to see additional support from the administration,” Flowers said. “We’re excited about that…We continue, with the feedback we’re getting, to tweak our machine to make these things happen…We’re doing more off campus, we’re pushing it out. We’re pushing our money out, we’re pushing our programs out.”
Flowers stated that through their seven bureaus, the State Fire Marshal’s office is “committed to provide services to local fire departments.”