Huntington Township Fire Dept. may ‘go live’ in November, says chief

Huntington Township Fire Chief Paul Von Bank stands next to the department’s new tanker and the fire engine. The new fire department will be fully operational by next year.
Huntington Township Fire Chief Paul Von Bank stands next to the department’s new tanker and the fire engine. The new fire department will be fully operational by next year. Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Oct. 22, 2015.

The Huntington Township Fire Department is on track to be fully operational before next year, Fire Chief Paul Von Bank says.

“We have 24 members that are trained in fire response,” Von Bank says. “Our next phase is EMS training.

“Truck-wise, we’re up to two vehicles — a tanker and an engine — so we’re hoping to go live in November.”

The budget for next year is about  $71,000, the chief says.

Von Bank says the current priority is purchasing radios for the department and getting them approved by the state.

“We’re on a little bit of a delay due to communications issues — it just takes time, because the state never gets in a hurry to issue IDs,” he says.

Another challenge for Von Bank is finishing up EMS training. He says 11 members are already trained in EMS, while the remaining 13 still need to be trained. He plans to have that training finished up by the end of December.

“They’ve already been CPR and first-aid trained. We just got to take them up to the next level,” Von Bank says. ‘The first-responder level allows them to put airways in, administer oxygen — a lot of us are EMTs, so we’re allowed to put more advanced airways in. We’re allowed to administer baby aspirin, assist with nitro. We can do EpiPens.”

Von Bank also wants to purchase a grass rig to take care of wildfires, but he says the high demand for the vehicles is making it hard to find one in working condition.

“Unfortunately the wild-land fire season out west has been rough this year,” Von Bank explains, “so it’s been hard to find any decent used vehicles because everybody’s been buying them up.”

Buying a new grass rig would cost the department about $100,000, Von Bank says. Ideally, he would like to keep the cost under $50,000, but he says used vehicles are usually so beat up that the chassis needs to be replaced.

"There’s lots out there,” Von Bank clarifies. “You can find a lot of them built on the Hummer chassis, like for the military. But they’re expensive to maintain that chassis because there’s no more parts.”

Von Bank says other fire departments will opt to buy a standard pickup truck with a water tank, which he thinks is fine so long as the chassis and the brakes are rated to carry the same weight.

“If you’re involved in a crash and that stuff is thought through, you can be held liable,” Von Bank says.
Von Bank adds that the Department of Natural Resources does offer free equipment, but approval has to go through the federal government to state governments.

“The state has to look at what they can use,” Von Bank says, “and then whatever’s left over they can loan out to the fire departments as needed.”
Von Bank is also currently working with firefighters in Angola to start a township fire department in their area.

Huntington Township officials began the process of establishing a township fire department after ending a longstanding fire protection contract with the City of Huntington effective April 15, 2014.

Since then, Huntington Township has contracted with Mt. Etna, Bippus, Andrews and Markle fire departments to cover properties in Huntington Township but outside the city.

The new Huntington Township fire station went up over the summer at Lake Clare on Broadway, adjacent to the Huntington Township trustee’s office. The township plans to eventually build a second station.