Replacing Fire Apparatus will be Costly for Liberty (IN)

Replacing the fire truck destroyed last week during a field fire will be costly, Liberty Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim Barnhizer told county and town officials Monday.

The department’s only “grass rig,” a 1995 a pickup equipped with a water tank, was burned beyond repair in an April 1 field fire. No firefighters were injured.

Fire Chief Jim Barnhizer said a new truck, one that’s made for fighting grass fires, would cost $80,000 to $100,000.

Barnhizer said he’s also looking for a good, used custom grass truck, but they are expensive and in short supply.

Liberty’s old grass rig was mounted on a regular pickup, which didn’t afford the same protections a custom-made truck does, Barnhizer said.

Barnhizer asked county commissioners to impose a county-wide burning ban because the department is without a proper vehicle to fight grass fires.

“We need a ban when it dries up again,” Barnhizer said. “I’m not putting a pumper truck out here.”

Barnhizer also asked commissioners to approve an ordinance on open burning. Barnhizer presented a proposed list of regulations, but the commissioners didn’t act on either of Barnhizer’s requests Monday.

The commissioners agreed to give the fire department a $10,000 donation towards the cost of the replacement truck, which will be paid from the county’s Economic Development Income Tax Fund.

Commissioners in 2013 gave the College Corner Volunteer Fire Department $10,000 to help with the cost of the new firehouse it’s preparing to build, so it was appropriate to help the Liberty department, commissioners said.

Insurance on the old truck could cover as much as $35,000 of the truck’s replacement cost, Barnhizer said. An insurance claim may be filed against homeowner Brian Bias, who authorities said was responsible for the fire that destroyed the truck.

Some area volunteer departments, including College Corner, Everton and Boston, already have trucks custom-made for field fires, Liberty Town Council President Ross Keasling said.

The Liberty Volunteer Fire Department is supported financially by five townships. The money provided for the fire department by township trustees is based on the assessed property values in each township and is adjusted by population, Liberty Clerk-Treasurer Cheryl Begley said.

Two of the townships also support fire departments in Everton and Abington because parts of the townships are closer to those departments than to Liberty.

Even though some townships have a lot of money in their accounts, trustees aren’t allowed to pay more than the state formula allows, Begley said.

The Liberty department bought a new fire truck last year, and Begly said she just made the first $20,000 payment on the new truck.

“We can’t take out another loan,” Begley said.

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