BARRACKVILLE — In April, three volunteer firefighters fell through the roof of a home at a fire in which multiple local fire departments responded to in Boothsville.
When it happened, no one at the scene was sure who the three firefighters were or which department they came from, which itself are issues of safety, as well as accountability.
“Nobody knew who actually fell in, whether it was one guy, two guys, three guys,” said Jim Martin, chief of the Winfield Fire Department. “Some of the departments keep track, some of them didn’t.”
And while Martin’s crew was not one of the first on the scene, he became concerned that no accountability system was being used that day at the fire. So, he spearheaded a plan to put an accountability system in place for each of the 13 volunteer fire departments in Marion County. He contacted the Marion County Commission, which agreed to pitch in $6,800 for 450 accountability tags of different colors to go along with 13 accountability boards.
The tags are 2-inches by 3-inches and are three-sixteenths of an inch thick and are made of fire-resistant material.
“This system can save lives,” Martin said. “I just wanted to help take care of the volunteer fire departments.”
From now on, fire trucks from every local volunteer fire department will be outfitted with white boards on which chiefs can write down the names of all the volunteers at a scene, and what job they are assigned at a scene. The accountability tags will help make sure chiefs know where their volunteers are at all times, to help ensure safety.
“You can use these on car wrecks, you can use these on search and rescue,” Martin said. “You’ve got a fire suppression team, you’ve got traffic control; so there’s multiple things you can use these for.”
Thursday night, chiefs and department other representatives of all of the volunteers fire departments received their boards and tags at a brief ceremony at the Barrackville Volunteer Fire Department headquarters.
“They came up with this system for accountability, where everyone’s fire department is supplied with a tag,” said County Commissioner Randy Elliott. “It’s very important that we keep these volunteers safe.”
Martin said he wanted this to be implemented, because of the worry chiefs already face when their crews are thrown into dangerous situations.
“I don’t want anyone to have to go through what those guys went through in Boothsville,” Martin said. “It’s a big step for us, for the whole county.”
As for the firefighters at the Boothsville fire that day in April, one had a contusion, one had a sprained ankle and another one was snagged on something which prevented him from falling in like his crew members.
“It could have been much worse,” Martin said.