GREENVILLE TWP — On August 27, Greenville Township Trustees unanimously approved the merger of Greenville Township’s Fire Department and Rescue services.
As well, the township announced it will hire three additional full-time personnel, cross trained as both firefighters and paramedics.
These are moves Greenville Township Rescue Chief Steve Wenning hopes will improve the quality of service and quicken response times for area residents.
“With this configuration, it allows us to be able to answer those calls and then also provide an immediate response with the fire service, by adding a few, taking the volunteers that are already there, and some of them do have EMS training already, and it allows us to recall those people in, and then we’re able to handle those calls,” he said.
Wenning, one of the longest-serving employees of Greenville Township Rescue — having joined the agency in 1989 — attributes the increase in EMS call volumes, estimated at nearly 3,400 calls per year, as the primary reason the trustees have made the decision to combine services.
“Basically, our EMS call volume was going up and up and up, to where we were having so many third calls, fourth calls, mutual aid calls,” he said. “The problem with mutual aid is that, it’s great, it’s fine, everyone does it, but ultimately, you’re taking resources away from someone else to come and do your work.”
“On the fire side, they were looking at a way to improve their response times, to get a truck, a vehicle, out the door, to a fire, all while the volunteers were coming to the station,” he added.
Founded on Jan. 1, 1975, Greenville Township Rescue was originally called Greenville Area Emergency Rescue Services. The name changed when the township took over the department in 1997; with the merger, expected to be finalized in January 2017, the name will revert to a similar form: Greenville Township Emergency Services.
Greenville Township Fire Department was founded Jan. 1, 2008. Ken Stiefel is that department’s chief. The fire service responds to well over 100 calls per year. Both the fire and EMS are funded through two township levies.
With the fire and rescue services merging, the new, combined agency will become the largest department in Darke County, with approximately 65 people available to roll into emergency situations.
Wenning says cross-training firefighters and paramedics will play a key role in the success of the merger.
“We will have nine, full-time cross trained, nine firefighter-paramedics, and then we’ll have about 13 part-timers that are cross trained. We have a few volunteers that are cross trained, but most are just firefighters. But as we go, as they get trained, there’s more we can pull in,” he explained.
“The resources are there,” he said. “We have 65 members, half of them are volunteers, we’ll have nine full-timers — 12 total if you count the administrative staff.”
The fire and rescue services are not only merging and growing, but expanding — geographically speaking. The agency’s current station at 1401 Sater Street, on the south side of Greenville, will be joined in the future by an additional station north of the city, as the township has agreed to purchase the Woodland Heights Primary property from Greenville City Schools after the district’s students move to the new K-8 building.
When completed, the expansion will give Greenville Township residents greater coverage and faster response. There is no set date for construction.
While not claiming the merger is “new” or “revolutionary” among fire and rescue services in the state, or even the country, Wenning said it is “unique.”
“I can’t say that this is new,” he said. “I can’t recall anyone that’s ever taken and formed it in this direction, in this fashion. I think most of the time you’ll see where the life squad or the rescue squad fails for one reason or another, whether it’s lack of personnel, lack of funding, or some other reason, then the fire department just absorbs it, whereas we’re trying to incorporate the best of all delivery models. I think that’s unique in our fashion.”
“Obviously our EMS is our primary concern, because that’s what we do 3,400 calls on. That is always the first concern,” Wenning explained. “But we’re also concerned about fire calls. That something we address and something that we have contingencies for. So if we end up sending all of our personnel out on calls, we still have 30-some volunteers that we can recall and bring them in. It’s a ‘win-win’ for fire and a ‘win-win’ for EMS. It gives us such good resources to draw from.”
“We’re taking the best aspects of all the different delivery models and we’re combining it and moving forward from there,” Wenning said.
For more information on Greenville Township Emergency Services, visit the township’s website at www.townshipofgreenville.org.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4314. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com