By Doug Waugh, Chief,
Marblehead Fire Department
The Marblehead Fire Department was founded in the year 1895. The Lakeside Volunteer Fire Department Association was founded in 1905. Both departments have provided continuous fire and EMS services for well over one hundred years. Both departments serve the Village of Marblehead, the community of Lakeside and the residents of Danbury Township. These two entities have been providing first class emergency response services to our area. We have been continuously researching ways in which to improve our service without having to constantly ask for increasing the taxes that fund our operations. These departments have been largely funded through existing fire and EMS levies. The levies are collected by the Ottawa County Auditor’s office, dispersed to Danbury Township Trustees, and the trustees then disperse the money to both the Marblehead and Lakeside departments. Both departments host fundraising events in order to assist in offsetting the costs of operation. Residents are familiar with these events including spaghetti dinners, reverse raffles, feather parties, and annual fund letters.
Both departments have made concerted efforts to purchase and maintain top notch equipment in order to suit our community needs. We also try to recruit and train new members in order to answer our calls whenever we are needed. The levels of fire and EMS service have been increased through dedicated personnel on the departments. Originally fire fighters were not required to complete certification classes in order to become firefighters. On the job training was the order of the day back in the days of our grandfathers. This has been updated to a minimum of 36 hours of classroom and hands-on training through an accredited state of Ohio training program in order to complete the Ohio Volunteer Firefighter curriculum. Once members passes the tests, they are responsible to maintain their certification by completing mandatory training throughout their careers. EMS certifications are also obtained and maintained in the same manner. Both departments have personnel that have decided to increase their certifications in both fire and EMS. Many members have become Level 1 and level 2 firefighters as well as becoming intermediate EMTs and paramedics. All of this takes an incredible amount of time and effort.
Our dedicated personnel have been very proactive in their approach to emergency care and response. Once trained, we sometimes find it difficult to retain our volunteers. Jobs and families understandably come first. Administrators may become frustrated in the fact that once we have people trained, we may not be able to keep them as they need to provide for themselves and their families. Our departments are not alone in these challenges. All departments in the country struggle in these issues. Our situation may be unique. We have had two departments in one township that have to recruit from the same pool and fund departments from the same tax base.
The Lakeside Fire Department approached the Marblehead village council about a year ago with an interesting concept. Lakeside Fire offered to merge both departments into the Lakeside Fire Department. The combining of the two departments was not a new idea. Research was conducted several times throughout the years with mixed results. Village council was interested but recommended that an exploratory committee be formed to provide more information and ideas for the merging of the departments.
A committee was formed with members of both departments, village council, and a Danbury Township trustee. A consulting firm was employed in order to provide a recommendation for the merger. Through many hours of research and data collection the consultants made the recommendation that the two departments be combined under a new Danbury Township fire and rescue department. The members of the exploratory committee agreed that this was a feasible plan and presented their findings to each department, village council and Danbury Township. A public informational meeting was held and the overall feedback from the community was favorable. The township trustees have presented the proposal to the Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney for his legal advice as well as to Village of Marblehead solicitor for his guidance. At this time all are awaiting the recommendations of the legal side of things in order to proceed with the hiring of a chief for the newly combined department.
As stated previously, attempts were researched in the past to combine the departments with mixed results. What allowed our departments to make it to our current state is the fact that times have changed. New administrations have put aside ego, pride and status quo in favor of the overall goal of the public needs. We feel very strongly that our two entities can combine into one more efficient entity that all of our residents can take pride in. Both of our departments feel that we can more efficiently plan for the future of our resident’s needs by forming one department. Please do not feel that we are discarding the past. The combined history of each department will be honored and never forgotten. We would not be where we are today if we forgot our past. But we feel that the actions we are undertaking will make history.
We would like to that all of our members, our village council, our mayor, our township trustees, and all of our residents for their support as we undertake this great endeavor.