Last year, the College Township ran out of funding to operate the College Township Fire Department (CTFD), leading the department to merge with the Mount Vernon Fire Department (MVFD). Despite the merger, the MVFD has opted to maintain a student firefighter program, continuing a decades-long tradition of Kenyon student volunteers.
Since CTFD dissolved, the MVFD has worked to increase full- and part-time staffing at their main station in order to transfer crewmembers to the Gambier station. After signing a contract with the Township, MVFD started its first ever part-time (PT) firefighter program. According to Mount Vernon Fire Chief Chad Christopher, the first round of hiring brought in 14 new part-time employees. MVFD tentatively plans to staff the Gambier station in October, two months earlier than their contracted deadline of Dec. 1, 2021. As of this writing, all fire and emergency medical services are provided by crews based at the Mount Vernon station.
“The station will be staffed with three personnel (1 Lieutenant, 1 full time [firefighter]/medic, 1 PT employee) and with the assistance of the Student Firefighter Program,” Christopher wrote in an email to the Collegian.
Christopher is excited to incorporate the new program into the MVFD.
“We have already worked with a couple of the students during the summer and their drive to learn the profession of fire and [Emergency Medical Services] was excellent!” he said. “MVFD is looking forward to seeing how we can improve the program moving into the future.”
Before the merger, the CTFD student firefighter program required that students take both EMT classes and fire training courses at Knox Technical Center. After training, students worked 24-hour shifts on every third day, taking calls at any time except when in class. The dissolution of the CTFD also meant a dissolution of its volunteer program, but the MVFD has decided to continue hosting student volunteers in order to keep Kenyon, and the greater community, involved in its care.
The new MVFD program will operate in a similar manner, but will give students more control over how much training they receive. Students who do not wish to participate in fire calls, but want to volunteer as EMT specialists, can decide to only take EMT training. Those who want to join fire calls may take fire training as well, although that is not required for every volunteer.
Nixon also says that student working hours will now require two four-hour shifts per week, instead of the previous 24-hour shifts from the old program. These shifts will be scheduled by students at either the Gambier or Mount Vernon stations.
According to Nixon, the Township, Village and College followed a set of criteria when determining the future of fire coverage. One factor was affordability; fire service needed to be covered with combined funding from the Township, Village and College. Other factors included keeping response times quick and maintaining sufficient station staffing.
The Gambier Township received proposals from multiple parties, including the MVFD and the Eastern Knox County Joint Fire District (EKJFD). In the end, the Township awarded the contract to the MVFD. Fire coverage over the Township transferred to the MVFD in June, and the College Township Fire Department (CTFD) dissolved shortly after.
After CTFD merged with MVFD, Nixon felt concerned about the future of her fire colleagues. But she says that the MVFD crew have welcomed students with open arms, and she is optimistic about the future of fire coverage.
“As for the safety of Kenyon and the Village, I have no doubt that the new members who will staff the Gambier station will provide high quality care to the community,” Nixon said. “They’ve already been doing a fantastic job, just running out of a different station.”