The house is on fire, there is an accident, a medical emergency…who responds? If you are in the Barton Township Fire Territory, farmers, coal miners, mechanics, nurses, and factory workers, among others, respond. They lay down their tools, push back from the table, get out of bed, and go to any emergency when a call for help goes out.
The Barton Township Fire Territory consists of 2 fire departments that combined to form the Fire Territory. They currently have fire stations at Somerville, under Fire Chief Kevin Kruse, and at Buckskin, under Fire Chief Dennis Tepe. Barton Township is in southeast Gibson County and covers 50 square miles, which include 1,700 residences. The department averages 125 runs a year total, including 12-15 runs along 8 miles of I69.
There are currently 27 fire fighters in the Barton Township Fire Territory, a 100% volunteer unit. Each volunteer undergoes 40-60 hours of initial training and then a minimum of 20 hours a year of additional training. Specialty training is given in grain bin rescue, as well. When the 2 departments combined in 2015, however, communication became a huge issue due to the distance from the main dispatch in Princeton.
The department needed a Fire Text Response system allowing pages to go to cell phones, which could be received in all parts of the county. With help from a grant from the Gibson County Community Foundation, the Fire Territory was able to purchase this system, which has increased by 50% the number of fire fighters able to respond to a call. The system also shows who is responding directly to a fire and who is going to the stations to pick up the trucks, so the efficiency is greatly improved.
This past year, the Fire Territory asked for a thermal imaging device to detect hot spots in fires and for search and rescue. Again, this has been utilized repeatedly to find the source of a fire when smoke and debris block visuals. The Foundation is excited to be able to grant these funds to improve the safety of these communities.
In asking Fire Chief Kevin Kruse what he would like the public to know about the Fire Territory and its volunteers, he stated, “Barton Township Fire Territory is stepping up its program through training and equipment to better serve and protect the people of our township and county. We are here to help all who need us”.
Donations to the Barton Township Fire Territory can be made to PO Box 2, Steve Doerner, treasurer, Mackey, 47654. For more information call Kevin Kruse at 812 457-8117. For more information on the Gibson County Community Foundation, call 812 386-8082 or like Gibson County Community Foundation on Facebook.