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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Public Hearings to begin on Lawrence County's next proposed Fire Territory on next Wednesday

MITCHELL - FEBRUARY 16, 2024 - The first of three public hearings is set to begin next Wednesday February 21, 2024 at 6:00 pm at the Mitchell Community Center on Lawrence County's next proposed fire territory.

Photo: Mitchell City Council members are considering joining a fire territory with Marion Township and Spice Valley Township. All fire equipment City of Mitchell owns will be assigned to the fire territory

The other dates and times include:

  • February 28th at 6:00 pm

  • March 6th at 6:00 pm

The vote on the fire territory has to be completed before April.

Spice Valley Township( South) has now contacted service with Marion Township to provide fire protection which began in January. Bono Township, which is Lawrence County's smallest township already has a signed contract to provide fire protection. Bono Township will contract fire protection with the fire territory and not become a part of the fire territory.

MITCHELL - FEBRUARY 6, 2024 - The Mitchell City Council moved the proposed fire territory on to a public hearing following their 4-0 vote Monday night.

Photo: Marion Township uses their Ladder truck to fight an apartment fire in the City of Mitchell

By Indiana statue the three public hearings must be conducted by April 1st or the fire territory would have to wait until next year.

The three meetings will take place at the Mitchell Community Center with dates and times to be announced later.

Photo: Mitchell Volunteer Fire Department fights a garage fire on Doc Hamilton Blvd

" Tonight we would like to limit public comment on this at our meeting and allow you to listen to the information from the Reedy Group and give you the opportunity to comment following their presentation. I myself I am not an expert on this and can only provide limited information on the subject," said Mitchell Mayor Don Caudell.

" You can speak your peace on the matter at the public hearing," added Mayor Caudell.

Marion Township and Spice Valley Township have already voted to form a fire territory.

Across Indiana the number of volunteer fire departments are falling. Several Indiana Volunteer fire departments are consolidating into fire districts and fire territories.

The biggest reason to form the fire territory is to provide ambulance coverage, and the large amount of wait time for an ambulance.

" One thing that needs to be known, is because we join we do not have to stay. We have the option that if it is not working for the City of Mitchell we can pull back out. Our equipment will go back to the city, " said Mitchell City Council member George James.

" You can look at this as a trial run. I think we need to at least have the public meetings so we can all concerns heard and the positive input," James added.

Photo: IU Health Ambulance responds to an emergency on Main Street in Mitchell

" The ambulance service we do not have here. I had a heart attack recently, and Thank God for the EMT's we have here in Mitchell. I do not know how long it took for ambulance to get to my house. But then I was taken to IU Health Bedford Hospital and because there was no ambulance available; it took over three hours to get transported to IU Health Bloomington. And then was transported by helicopter to Indianapolis," added James.

According to Mitchell City officials the ambulance will remain south of the White River.

The City of Mitchell has not had a dedicated ambulance station there for at least three years. The response time is over ten minutes if there is an available ambulance in Lawrence County.

Photo: Huron Volunteer Fire Department battles a mobile home fire

Lawrence County Zephyr talked with Marion Township Fire Chief Paul Gillespie about the proposed fire territory. Below is a Q and A about why a fire Territory is needed in southern Lawrence County.

Why is the Territory needed?

The territory is needed for many reasons. The amount of calls that volunteers used to have, that were manageable by 100% volunteers, have increased substantially. To the point that it can not be sustained by volunteers alone.

 Back in the 90’s these Volunteers were running Fires, and sometimes EMS and Car accidents. Usually around 100 to 200 times a year for the busier departments.

Now we are seeing Volunteer Fire Departments making 600, 700, 800 - 1000 calls a year.

The amount of volunteers has been on a steady decline as well, not just here, but nationwide. So much so that some states are calling it a National Crisis.  Less and less Firefighters to answer more calls each year is a recipe for a disaster. Not just for us as Firefighters, but for you as citizens alike.

In the 90’s a member could spend 24 hours in training and be certified as a Firefighter in Indiana and could do all the things a Firefighter does. That has also increased.

Before being allowed into a burning building a firefighter must take Hazardous Materials Awareness course, Hazardous Materials Operations course, Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2. Indianapolis Fire academy takes about 29 weeks of 8 hour days to complete these courses (or around 1000 hours of training). Just to be allowed to do the things a Firefighter does.

 Now if that Firefighter also wants to respond to medical calls add around another 200 hours of medical training. Around 1000 hours + total, just to start with to be a basic firefighter. These are not even the advanced courses.

Medical Transport?

The highest demand calls for any Lawrence County Fire Departments are for Emergency Medical Calls. All the Fire Departments total amount of calls around 60 to 70% of those calls are for EMS calls. In the past there were 2 ambulance services in Lawrence county. BRMC and Dunn. Then Dunn went to Rural Metro, then Seals, then AMR, then Seals again and now just IU Lifeline and 1 ambulance at the other Territory. None of which is on this side of White River. An Ambulance has a simple purpose, to sustain life till they get the patient to definitive care. Getting the patient suffering a medical emergency to a hospital where the life can be saved. Not having an ambulance down here is an unneeded danger to our citizens due to a corporation that is more interested in profit than our people. Our main concern is our people

Missed calls?

There is nothing more bothersome than a call going out and there is nobody available to answer it. But that is the reality of the volunteer service. All of the emergency calls are answered by chance, the off chance that there is somebody is home and able to take calls. 

In 2023 Marion Twp Fire Dept responded to 726 calls and missed 63 calls all year. Of those 25 of the calls were in Mitchell City limits when Marion was called due to no response from Mitchell per the dispatch protocol. 29 of the 63 calls Mitchell Fire was toned as 2nd department due to no response from Marion per the dispatch protocol, and those 29 went unanswered. All 63 calls were for Medical calls. 

In 2023 Marion responded to 127 Fires, 479 Medical calls, 62 Motor Vehicle accidents, 5 Technical Rescues, 8 Hazardous conditions, 15 non-emergent service calls, and performed 30 Fire prevention programs at the schools, pre-schools and daycares. 

Huron responded to 139 calls in 2023 and there were 3 missed calls, again, all EMS. Huron responded to 19 Fires, 93 Medical, 9 Motor vehicle accidents, 6 Hazardous conditions, 10 non-emergent service calls and were cancelled on 2 calls. 

This is a lot to ask of 30 or 40 people that are volunteering their time to train, attend classes for 1000's of hours to get certified to respond on this type of call volume.

I tell a lot of people that as volunteers we offer 3 types of service; Good, Fast and Cheap...but you're only allowed to pick 2 of them. 

  • Good and Cheap, won't be Fast

  • Fast and Cheap, won't be Good

  • Good and Fast, won't be Cheap

We are looking at the territory to make sure these services keep going so it is there when you call for it.

Not only make sure it's there, but improve upon what already exists. Having firefighters at the fire station ready to respond at a moment's notice to your emergency, augmenting them with the volunteers as well, in a combination Paid/Volunteer Fire department is the way to do that.

 It's not just here, it's everywhere that there are volunteer fire departments. There are more demands on people's time now, not everybody has time to volunteer to help their community.

 It's gotten to a point where some states that rely heavily on volunteer fire departments, like Indiana, are calling it a national crisis. Less and less volunteers answering more and more calls every year is not a sustainable function. Something has to be done to ensure that these services are there to protect life and property.

 A Fire Territory is the best way to do that. 

The proposed budget for the fire territory is $900,000

Here is information provided by the Reedy Group:

The proposed fire territory would be the second fire territory in Lawrence County. The Lawrence County Fire Territory serves Shawswick and Guthrie Townships providing fire and ambulance coverage. The ambulance responds outside of the fire territory if needed.

The Lawrence County Zephyr will provide dates and times of the public hearings when notified.

For breaking news and information go to or like/follow the Lawrence County Zephyr Facebook page.


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