Excerpted from the Wayne County Press
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Image_00107 The Fairfield Rural Fire Department made their first official run on April 7, 1984, to a field fire in Brach Oaks, south of Fairfield. Since then, the department has continued to battle field fires, residential fires, business fires, vehicle accidents and numerous other types of emergency situations.

The department was officially created in the 1982 November general election when voters in the county overwhelmingly passed a referendum to fund a fire district protection department. Prior to the passing of the fire protection referendum, residents outside the city limits had to pay a fee of $15 to be part of the fire protection area.

By 1984 the rural fire department had a new building on Fairfield’s east side, where it remains today. Housed in the building was a 1970 pumper truck, donated by the Fairfield Fire Department, and one field fire truck that was purchased from the Sugar Grove Fire Department.

Roger Mann was the first fire chief and James New was the assistant chief. Along with Chief Mann and Asst. Chief New, there were 20 volunteers from the area, four of which, David Vaughan (current chief), Estell Stewart, Steve Marsh and Jeff Wise, are still with the department today.

The department coverage area in 1984 was around 60 square miles and roughly covered the area outside the city limits east to west from the landfill on Route 15 to the Wabash River and the area north to south from Andrew's Acres to the White County line.

IMAGE_00106 Current fire chief David Vaughan and board president Jim Rush recently talked about the previous years of the department.

“When we first started, there were no hydrants out in the county like there are today. We pumped out of ponds, ditches, and any other water source we could find,” Chief Vaughan said.

“From the beginning, we had the support of the communities and can’t say enough about what that means to us and the great volunteers we have had and continue to have,” Rush added.

Both Rush and Chief Vaughan agree that the volunteers the department has had over the years are the heart of the department and are a big reason it has become what it is today.

Pork burger sale Currently the department has 27 volunteers on call and has remained in the 20 to 30 area of volunteers over the years. Twice a month, the volunteers get together for classes and training and each volunteer puts in an average of 10-12 hours a week of service to the department.

Not only do the volunteers work for no pay, they are the department’s biggest source of income outside of taxes. The volunteer firemen annually hold their fish fry fundraiser that brings in roughly $2,500-$3,000 which all goes directly to the department for equipment. Many believe that the volunteer fire department was the first organization in the area to take advantage of the popular pork burger sale.

“We were the first ones in the area that I can remember doing the pork burger sales,” Rush said. “Once everyone else started doing it, we decided to start doing a fish fry.”

Volunteer fundraising has helped the Fairfield Rural Fire Department maintain high quality equipment with one of the finest rural fire-houses around. The department has been able to maintain their quality of equipment and service over the years without raising taxes, a fact largely due to the efforts of the volunteer firemen.

“It costs roughly $2,000 to equip each firefighter with protective gear and that doesn’t include a breathing tank,” Chief Vaughan said.

Fish fry The volunteer firefighters also purchased a new squad truck for the department and have helped rebuild department vehicles over the years to fit their needs.

“These guys are ready to go 24/7, any time they are called out,” Rush said when speaking about the readiness and sacrifices made by the volunteer firefighters.

“You can’t really measure the time and effort each one of them puts in, it is just a great bunch of guys.”

Within the last seven to eight years, the department has added a station in Mill Shoals that houses an engine truck, a pump truck and field fire vehicle and also expanded the fire protection area to 145 square miles including 27 square miles in White County. Also during that time, the department started responding to auto accidents on a 13-mile stretch of I-64 in Wayne County that runs from mile marker 105 to 118.

“We really felt like it was our duty to start doing the auto rescues on the interstate,” Rush said.

Over the years the department has responded to numerous auto emergencies in all types of situations.

Highway With the coverage of I-64, the department has rushed to the aid of countless numbers of people over the years that may not even be from the area. The rural location of the 13-mile stretch of I-64 covered by the department means that travelers year ‘round count on the rural fire department to help them in an emergency.

In 2009, the department received a $175,000 revolving load from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. The money was used to purchase a new tanker truck. The purchase of the tanker truck was the third new truck bought by the department in 25 years and it replaced a 1975 tanker truck already in use for 30 years.

The new tanker has a 2,000 gallon tank with pump and has a life expectancy of 30 years.

For 25 years, the Fairfield Rural Fire Department has provided fire protection and emergency response to the residents of the area.

Constant training and equipment upgrades along with the number of volunteers who sacrifice their time and safety are factors that show the department has no signs of slowing down. The residents of the area are very fortunate to have the peace of mind that comes with the protection provided by the Fairfield Rural Fire Department and all the volunteers.