Fire funding nearly complete

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, August 13, 2014
The West Liberty Fire and Ambulance Department is nearing a $300,000 goal to build a new addition to its existing building.

The new wing will house an office area, medical supply room, conference area, computer stations, class room and plenty of other needed amenities.

However, its primary purpose will be the inclusion of an ambulance bay, so that the ambulances and fire trucks can be separated.

"We need more room," said Fire Captain Ken Morrison. "We went from having 25-30 calls 30 years ago to almost 400 this year alone. We've just outgrown the station with our medical needs, if we can move the two ambulances it will make a huge difference."

For the 2013 year the fire department received 101 fire calls, 11 mutual aid calls given to surrounding departments, 5 Hazmat incidents, 32 traffic accidents, and 2 search and rescue events. On the EMS side there were 537 calls with 311 patients transported to ERs and Medical Centers.

If everything continues at its current rate, the department may break its record for calls once again by the end of the 2014 year. Quite simply, it needs more room.

The fire department built and moved to its current location on Second Street in 1996 which was funded entirely by private donations. It was a successful $395,000 project that didn't take any tax dollars.

Years later the need for more room has led to an expansion, one Morrison hopes to fund entirely through private donations once again.

"The community has helped very much, we're probably at about $240,000 now," added Morrison. "We're close, but we’re not quite there yet."

The West Liberty Fire Department handles emergencies in West Liberty, Atalissa, Nichols and many other surrounding communities. It's made up of around 30 volunteers, with the exception of full-time employee EMS Joan Betthauser.

Like any other emergency department, it's on call 24/7, and like any other department, an increase in population has caused an increase in its services.

That's why the department hopes to begin construction this fall and finish it within six months, depending on the winter weather. Morrison added that many construction companies will be donating labor on top of that.

Of course, he welcomes any help from the community, and stated all of the firemen will be helping as well.

"We hope to have the community involved as much as we did when we built the station," said Morrison. "But our people are going to be there everyday."

The fire department has a rich history in West Liberty that dates back to 1875. Currently the Fire Chief is Robbie Rock.

There have been many company and private donations. While Morrison plans to release a complete list later on, he mentioned the Ryan Trust and the Melick Trust.

The WL Community Bridge and the WL Lions Clubs have also been active participants in giving money towards the addition.

At the same time, West Liberty is always looking for volunteers to help the department.

"We're always looking for people, if anyone is interested all they need to do is contact a current fire person or emergency person and they'll get them in touch with the right people to go through the steps," said Captain Morrison.
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