Madison Township was once home to fire stations operated by three separate entities-Groveport and the township, Canal Winchester and Edgewater Park.
In 1934, following the installation of a water system in Groveport, the village and the township organized a fire department-the Groveport and Madison Township Fire Department. In 1947, the name was changed consolidating the two identities into the Madison Township Fire Department.
However, the forerunner of the modern day department began in 1942 when articles of incorporation were formed and a core group of volunteers entered into an agreement pledging their service.
The volunteers not only fought fires, they also pooled their own money to buy fire equipment including a Seagraves fire engine on an International chassis.
According to the book, "Canal Winchester: The Second Ninety Years," by Frances Steube and Lillian Carroll, a contract for fire protection was signed between Canal Winchester and Madison Township. The village paid the township $200 per year and $30 per run.
As a result of the contract, volunteers were compensated $1.25 per month, but the money was returned to the volunteer company. In 1948, the first salaried firefighters-Kenneth Shumaker and Paul Raver-were paid $2,000 and stationed at a firehouse in Groveport. They were designated assistant fire chiefs and Joseph Root was appointed chief of the Madison Township Volunteer Firemen at an annual salary of $200.
"All the volunteers from Canal Winchester, Groveport and Edgewater Park helped each other when needed," wrote Steube and Carroll in their book. "There was a good relationship among the three groups."
In 1966, the first emergency vehicle was stationed at Canal Winchester at Fire Company two. Six years later, a new fire levy was approved and two full time firefighters were hired to staff the Canal Winchester station.
However, an outcry over double direction from the village and township and a desire to return to a separate village department found the pair of paid firefighters moved to the Edgewater park station. The village was left with an all-volunteer staff until 1980, when an agreement was reached disbanding the Canal Winchester volunteer fire department and merging services with the township.
In 1978, township voters passed a fire levy to provide and maintain apparatus, buildings, communication lines, and personnel. Chief Paul Raver, Sr. retired and Larry Flowers was hired to replace him. Seven years later, there were 20 full-time employees and a new station constructed on Firehouse Lane.
By 1996, the department doubled its full time personnel and employed 15 part time firefighters. That same year, Station 182 opened on Gender Road.
"I think the biggest change has been in communication technology," said Flowers, who now serves as state fire marshal. "The old system didn’t work the way the system works today. The range was bad and there was a lot of interference. And the improvement in quality has not only been in voice communication, but data communication as well, especially in the trucks. We would rely on paper maps and draw them ourselves. Now it’s all computerized. It’s all made for better response times, safer conditions for our people and for the public."
Retired firefighter and current Madison Township trustee Ed Dildine spent nearly four decades in the fire service and recalled a chance animal sighting while on his way to a training fire a few years ago.
"We were in an engine coming down Rager Road on our way to Sims Road when I saw a lion going across the road and into the corn field," said Dildine, who said there were similar sightings across central Ohio during that time.
Flowers remembered the time when a citizen phoned Madison Township and asked if the department had gone into the furniture delivery business.
"Twenty years ago, a lady called and said a fire truck was delivering furniture," said Flowers. "She saw the fire truck with sofas and chairs on top of it. I told her we were collecting the furniture for a training fire, which is what we used to do. Now we have multi-million dollar facilities at the state fire marshal’s office and mobile units where we can set up burns. Equipment and training has changed over the years, but the firefighters themselves haven’t changed that much."
About the celebration
The Madison Township Fire Department (MTFD) will celebrates 70 years of service with an open house and reunion of past and present members during Fire Prevention Week Oct. 7-13.
The MTFD serves the cities of Canal Winchester and Groveport, parts of the village of Obetz and the unincorporated areas of Madison Township and Franklin County. The MTFD formed in 1942 and is celebrating 70 years of service in 2012.
To celebrate, the MTFD will host an open house on Oct. 7, from 1-4 p.m. at fire station 182 located at 6600 Gender Road, Canal Winchester. The open house is free to the public and will have attractions for the kids and adults, as well, including a fire department bounce house, live demonstrations, Med Flight helicopter, fire station/safety house tours, refreshments and more.
On Oct. 13 a reunion and cookout for past and present members of the fire department will be held at station 181 on Hamilton Road from 5-8 p.m. Reservations are due by Oct. 5 by calling 837-7883 (station 181) or 837-5149 (station 182).