(Posted May 12, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Central Townships Joint Fire District hit a major milestone this year—50 years in operation.
To celebrate, the fire district is hosting an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. May 21 at the Madison County Fairgrounds, London. The state fire marshal and other local dignitaries will be on hand. Past chiefs, including Charlie Peters, Joe Roberts and Bill Conway, will be honored. The public is invited to attend. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.
“We’ll have our first fire truck and our newest truck on display,” said John Hopkins, assistant chief. “The London Fire Department and Madison County EMS are coming out, too, with equipment, so there should be a lot to look at and a lot of people to talk to.”
The fire district got its start in 1966 when the trustees of six townships—Deercreek, Monroe, Paint, Oak Run, Somerford and Union—decided it would be more economical to provide their own fire protection than to contract it out. Until that time, they paid the London Fire Department to handle their runs and supplied them with two trucks.
During the transition, the new department housed their two trucks in a garage in Lafayette.
“The garage belonged to Raymond Peters, a Deercreek Township trustee. It was heated, so you could keep the water in the trucks and not worry about it freezing,” Hopkins said.
Twenty-two men, many of them farmers, completed a 36-hour training through the state fire academy to become volunteer fire fighters. They and other members of the community built the department’s first station, still in use today, at 75 Middle St. Lafayette, near the Red Brick Tavern.
A year later, the department added a second station in Newport. Twenty-five volunteers staffed a temporary facility until a new one was built in 1971 at 6770 State Rte. 38 SW.
The department has since evolved with changes in state mandated training and community needs. Several years ago, paid staffing replaced the volunteer structure, taking the operation from a department to a district. Somerford Township now contracts with London for fire protection; the other original five townships remain part of the district.
“Now we have 50 part-time fire fighters who work 12-hour shifts. We man two stations in the daytime and one station at night,” Hopkins said.
Chief Brian Bennington is the district’s one full-time employee. Hopkins is part-time. Last year, the crew went on 600 runs. They have seven pieces of modern fire equipment at the ready, plus two cars.
For more information about the Central Townships Joint Fire District, call Station 291 in Lafayette at (740) 852-3393 or Station 292 in Newport at (740) 852-0767.