WINDFALL, Ind. - As budgets get tighter and tighter, it can often be difficult for cities and towns to fully fund everything, including public safety. For smaller communities, the financial limitation can be even bigger burden. However, fire officials with the Wildcat Township Volunteer Fire Department won't let a limited budget limit protection to their community.
For the Tipton County town of Windfall, with a population of less than 1,000 people, funding equipment and other gear has come from community support. Just because the department serves a smaller population doesn't mean they deserve less protection.
Last year, the department purchased a used ladder truck from a Pennsylvania fire department. The price was roughly $70,000, but other than the hoses the department handed over to the volunteer department, there was no other equipment that came west with the red truck.
"Our old truck was deemed unsafe," said Lynn Edens, the public information officer for the fire department. "It didn't pass testing and the brakes were not up to par."
The ladder truck is the second one in all of Tipton County.
To fund the equipment the department wanted, firefighters threw a chili supper fundraiser. It was a huge success.
"We were able to make around $4,000 from this," said Edens. It might not sound like a lot, but the money went a long way. "Everything went to equipment for the truck."
The biggest tools were a ventilation saw, which has a blade designed for cutting through shingles and other roof materials, and a thermal image camera. The camera allows crews to see through dense smoke to find people and their pets in a fire. It can also find hot spots that firefighters need to focus on.
It was used this week for the first time. No people were hurt in the fire but three dogs could not be rescued. A fourth dog was saved and fire officials are crediting the camera for saving the life.
"Without that equipment that's on the truck, it would have been a much more difficult fire to fight," said Edens.
The dog would also be put on a pet oxygen mask, one of three that has been donated to the department through the Project Breathe Program, funded by Invisible Fence.
Determining if a fire is easy or difficult shouldn't be based on the tools firefighters have at their disposal, but with a supportive community backing the 24 volunteers at Wildcat Township, the department will have more opportunities to improve how it can protect residents.
"It's the community, the county, and the state," said the department's chief, Andy Wesner. "We've had people from all over take care of things for us and we couldn't ask for anything more."
Next up for the department is replacing the aging turnout gear. Each set, from helmet to boots, costs approximately $2,000. The department hopes to fund the next round of gear during a public safety day on August 12. It will have agencies from all of Tipton County, along with agencies from bordering counties.