The southern Ohio county of Vinton is served by entirely volunteer fire departments. These trained and dedicated firefighters undergo rigorous training, and time away from their families in order to serve their communities. Due to the heavily wooded areas in this Hocking Hills region, the firefighters are also trained in wildlife and forest fire courses. Firefighters are also trained in specialized heavy equipment extrications, due to the many farms and lumber companies also located in the region. Flood emergencies and vehicle accident training is also a part of the skill exhibited by the McArthur Volunteer Fire Department.
The McArthur Fire Department was formally organized in February 1951, with Lloyd Gill being named the first Fire Chief. Chief L. Gill retired in January of 1979, with his position being filled by his son; Dave Gill Sr. Chief Chuck Fri took over the leadership role in 2002, and has served the department for 18 years.
The McArthur Fire Department Station 2400 is comprised of 25 volunteer members with approximately 170 square miles Mutual aid agreements are in place with Dundas, Hamden, Wilkesville, Zaleski, Harrison Twp. Fire and EMS, and the Wellston Fire Departments.
McArthur Firefighters have called 303 West High Street home since moving from the original station located directly behind the Village Hall in downtown McArthur. Volunteer firefighters built the first station on South Sugar Street in the evenings and weekends after they completed their regular work day. Former Chief Lloyd Gill trained firefighters from around the state, including some who are still serving various Vinton County Volunteer Fire Departments today.
The current fire station also houses the bingo hall which is used by various community and civic groups during the year. Inside of the facility completed in 2000 are a meeting room, Chief’s office, and a social room upstairs complete with a pool table and work out equipment for members. McArthur Fire Department is funded with levy money from the Village of McArthur and the five townships which the firefighters serve. Weekly bingo games organized by the MFD Association also bring in operational funding.
Total service area includes: Village of McArthur, Jackson, Elk, Swan, Richland, and part of Brown Townships. Chief Fri has been working with the Richland Township Trustees for several months to institute a “satellite” station in the area. The outpost station would include a fire engine formerly used by the department to assist with calls in the outlying and more remote areas. McArthur firefighters would still respond to the calls, but would have the added assistance of trained Richland Township volunteers to arrive on scene even more quickly. Richland Township Trustees support the measure, and are working with Chief Fri to recruit volunteers in the area to begin the training process.
“The main challenge faced by the department is the large coverage area,” Chief Fri said. “The more remote areas of our service area, and the limited water supply due to lack of hydrants are also an issue when attempting to save a property.”
McArthur Firefighters are faced with the same issues as their counterparts in other areas of Vinton County when it comes to the need for water to fight a blaze. While the more expensive foam is used by several departments in particular situations, water is still the mainstay for squelching the flames. MFD has been known to utilize residential swimming pools, wells, and natural water sources when faced with large fires in areas where water isn’t readily available, or the return of a pumper truck is time prohibitive.
“I really want to commend the efforts of Chief Lloyd Gill and his firefighters for getting the department going,” Assistant Chief Larry Clary stated. Clary trained under Gill when he began his career as a volunteer firefighter. “The sacrifices made by those men, and their families helped to make the department what it is today.”
“Our departmental goals, both in the long and sort term are to provide the best coverage and service to the residents of the area,” Chief Fri stated.
The McArthur Fire Department participated in providing safety during all McArthur community events by blocking road intersections, and offering outreach education to area school children during fire prevention month in October. Firefighters spent a day at Swan, McArthur, and Swan Elementary Schools to educate the children on fire safety, and to also eliminate any fears they could experience when encountering a firefighter during an emergency situation. The department also participates in a kindergarten community workers program by giving the students a ride in the fire truck and sharing the bingo hall for their lunch time break. Fire engines also make appearances in community parades during the festival season.
“Due to the efforts of Chief Dave Gill Sr., weekly bingo games began as a way of raising additional funds for the department,” Assistant Chief Larry Clary remarked. “These funds have enabled the department to add to the exceptional engine fleet, and provide additional equipment for the department which allows us to provide greater service to the residents we serve.”
Grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security has enabled the department to purchase a new pumper-tanker engine. Department and MFD Association funds also recently allowed the purchase a new rescue truck. The complete MFD fleet includes: ENGINE 2401 1991 Pierce Custom Dash 1250 GPM Pump with a 1250 Gallon Tank, Six Man Custom Crew Cab, Honda Generator, (2) and 1500W Quartz Flood Lights. ENGINE 2402 2001 Ford 550 4X4 Pierce Mini Pumper 750 GMP Pump, a 328 Gallon Tank ,20 Gallon Foam Tank, Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS), Foam Pro System, Honda Generator, (2) 500W Quartz Flood Lights, and Thermal Imaging Camera, ENGINE 2403 1995 Freightliner Pierce Responder Body, 1250 GMP Pump, 1250 Gallon Tank, Honda Generator, (2) 1500W Quartz Flood Lights, and (1) 500W Quartz Flood Light, ENGINE 2404 1979 Ford 1000 GPM Pump, 750 Gallon Tank, Electric Generator, (2) 500W Quartz Flood Lights, and Genesis Rescue Tools, ENGINE 2405 1987 Chevrolet C30 4X4 500 GPM Pump, 330 Gallon Tank, (2) 500W Quartz Flood Lights, Originally Designed and Built by the Members of the McArthur Fire Department, RESCUE 2406 2007 Chevrolet CC5500 4X4 Summit Fire Apparatus, DURAMAX 6600 Diesel, 5 Man Crew Cab, QM 9000 Quick Mount Ramsey Winch, (2) 500W Extend-A-Lite Removable Tripod Lights, (2) 500W Quartz Flood Lights, Pre-connect Genesis Rescue Tools, Whelen LED Emergency Lighting Package, LED Compartment Lighting and a 2006 state of the art rescue truck which was approved during a recent special fire meeting.
“I think the community members; everywhere should take the time to thank their volunteers for the work which they do. We have an amazing department, but I don’t want to just blow McArthur’s horn,” Clary stated. “With paid firefighters, they go to work and put out a fire and do a great job. But with volunteers, we leave work and our families to go into our own communities amongst neighbors, friends, and extended family during a time of emergency. The volunteer has a more personal stake and emotion when so closely connected to those which we serve. Service is done from the heart, not for a paycheck.”
“The Association is working really hard to come up with some exciting events during the weekly bingo games. The funds which are generated really make a difference for the department,” Association President, Rick Reynolds stated
According to Assistant Chief Clary, a thermal imaging camera was one of the many pieces of equipment purchased through the money gained during the weekly games. “The camera is one of few in Vinton County, and it allows us better visibility and increases the chances in finding victims while decreasing the amount of search time.”
MFD Volunteer Firefighters include: Chief Chuck Fri serving since May-88, Assistant Chief Larry Clary serving since Apr-71,Todd Mundy Captain Jan-81, Tim Ward Captain Aug-92, Bobby Dodrill Lieutenant Apr-98, Doug Lash Firefighter Jan-80, Scott Ward Firefighter Oct-85, John Snider Firefighter Mar-86, Davey Booth Firefighter Dec-92, Curt Russ Firefighter Dec-92, Rick Reynolds Firefighter Mar-95, Brian Bledsoe Firefighter Oct-99, Garth Fri Firefighter Mar-00, Bill Beckley Firefighter Aug-01, Dennis Bishop Firefighter Mar-02, Corey West Firefighter Apr-02, Travis Clary Firefighter, Greg Montgomery Firefighter, Lin Dodrill, Jason Kempton, Heath McDowell, Barry Crabtree, Arnie Rodriguez, and Philip Lash Firefighters.
“The financial burden placed on volunteer departments keeps increasing with the state training requirements which are costly and time consuming,” Clary remarked. “The state should take into consideration the number of volunteer firefighters who serve and work with departments on the cost for the requirements and make the planned times better so firefighters don’t have to take time off from their paid jobs to attend.”
MFD hosted a structural collapse training for area and regional departments early last fall at the Fri farm. The men who attended were trained by state certified instructors on ways to search and rescue victims in a building collapse or similar situation. The training was held over the course of two weekends, and the firefighters were put through the paces even before the actual rescue work began. Firefighters grabbed hammer and saws to build and concrete simulated structures, and then tear them down in a manner to ensure their safety and that of any potential victims. While some gear and tools were provided through grants funding and the EMA office, all the necessary gear was not on hand for all participants. The ability to roll with the punches and scrapes of the Vinton County firefighters who attended impressed the multi-state trainers who facilitated the event.