BY SHERI TRUSTY
The Catawba Island Volunteer Fire Department (CIVFD) operates a little differently than it did a few years ago. The department, which has been serving the island since 1949, faced a dramatic change when Catawba trustees contracted with Port Clinton EMS for transport services. Although service on the island doesn’t look the same, the first person on the scene of an emergency will still be a neighbor.
“A couple years ago, the trustees signed an agreement with Port Clinton EMS to have them transport the patients,” said CIVFD Lt. Brian Washburn. “Port Clinton transports, but we do respond. All of our personnel are at least somewhat trained in emergency medical service.”
If an ambulance is needed, Port Clinton EMS responds, but CIVFD personnel support the patient on the scene.
“We’re serving in a different capacity, but we still impact the community,” Washburn said.
In return, CIVFD is ready to assist Port Clinton, thanks to a mutual aid agreement.
“Whether its fire or EMS, we work through a mutual aid agreement. You absolutely need that. Nobody can do it alone. They lean on us, and we lean on them,” Washburn said.
In a symbolic sense, CIVFD has a mutual aid agreement with the community, too. The fire department supports the township with emergency response service, and the islanders support the department during its fundraising efforts. The department’s primary fundraiser is the annual CIVFD Chicken BBQ held each year on the Saturday after the Fourth of July. Washburn serves as the event chair.
“It’s very steeped in tradition, both inside the department and out. I think there would be a public outcry if we stopped it,” Washburn said. “It’s evolved from a fundraising event to a community event. It’s become personal for us.”
Nurturing community on Catawba is important to the fire department.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve been looking to expand community interaction,” Washburn said.
Each year, the department organizes Halloween and Easter events, and, in December, it hosts the CIVFD Santa Tour. Santa, who looks suspiciously like Fire Chief Kevin Gibbons, visits local businesses and greets kids at the station. Kids can have their photo taken with Santa and a fire truck.
“We’re finding these types of events are really good for getting the community connected,” Washburn said.
The events are just as important for the firefighters, who have a few hours of interaction with local residents in an uplifting atmosphere.
“As a firefighter, there are traumatic situations that don’t ever leave you,” Washburn said. “We like to see people when they’re not having a really bad day.”