The Liberty Township Fire Department History
In the late 1940's the Trustees of Liberty Township, namely Edwin Jackson, Henry Schmehl, and C.B. "Hank" Marquette entered into a pact with trustees of Delaware, Berlin, Troy, Brown, and the north half of Liberty Township known as Liberty B for fire protection to form the Stratford Fire Department or Five Township Fire Department. This left the southern half or Liberty A isolated with a need and a desire for a fire department. In the meantime the people of Liberty A continued to fight their fires with a bucket brigade with help from the Dublin Fire Department if you could guarantee a $50.00 charge for the run. There was a lot of grass and brush fires because of the C & O trains and no restrictions on burning trash at home.
So in 1948 with only half a township, a bond issue was passed for $20,000.00 to purchase the first fire truck and a building to house it. The trustees ordered the fire truck from the John Bean Company of Lansing, Michigan at a cost of $8500.00 and another $1500.00 was spent for coats, boots, and helmets. Fred M. Reeves was named Chief, not because he had any qualifications for such, but the trustees said he was a good organizer. The old filling station and garage on North Liberty Street was purchased from George Sharp for $5000.00 and another $5000.00 was spent to tear down the station and remodel the garage with a new oil furnace, toilet, shower, and stalls for two trucks. This work was done by A.P. Askins knows as The Powell Coal Company.
Due to an oversight in this new endeavor, when the bond issue was passed, no money was allotted to maintain the department. So the Liberty Township Firefighters Association was formed and the volunteer fireman and other interested community members gave dances, euchre parties, spaghetti suppers, etc. to raise money to pay bills like gasoline, electricity, heating, and telephone. In the early days being a volunteer fireman was not a very lucrative job receiving the magnificent sum of $1.00 per year salary. This $1.00 put them on the payroll of the township so they could receive Ohio Industrial Compensation if injured in the line of duty.
While the fire truck was being built and the fire house being readied, the new Chief was busy "organizing" his department with 35 men signing up as charter members of the new Liberty A Fire Department. While preparations were going on, the Volunteer Firemen were taking a 36 hour training course sponsored by the State Board of Vocational Education through Kent State University. Our instructor was a retired Fire Chief from Portsmouth, Ohio, Walter Lauter, a very capable instructor to start a new department. Classes were upstairs over Reeves Red & White Store.
When the fire truck was ready for delivery Chief Reeves, Don Holly, Buddy Lazelle, and Mac Reeves went to Lansing, Michigan to take a training course and instructions on the equipment for two full days.
Periodically the State of Ohio audits the township books and the auditors found there was not a levy to finance the fire department. When they questioned and were told how the bills were being paid, they ruled that the township had to pass a levy for operating costs and also refund to the firemen and the fire association all amounts that had been paid up to this time and in the future the volunteers had to be paid an hourly wage when fighting fires.
The money received by the fire association was enough to finance a piece of emergency equipment that the firemen were wanting so they could have an emergency squad. A used Buick ambulance was purchased from the DeVore Funeral Home in Sunbury, Ohio and outfitted with red lights, siren, radio, and first-aid equipment. The firemen took the prescribed Red Cross First Aid courses and the first emergency squad in Delaware County was in service. Mr. W. C. Dennison of Dennison Engineering Company and a resident of Liberty Township donated to the department an Emerson Inhalator-Resuscitator for use on heart cased and drowning victims.
About 1952 a used Ford tank truck holding 500 gallons of water was purchased for fighting grass fires for a price of $900.00
In March of 1952 Liberty Township firemen again were the leaders in the county by contacting other fire departments in an effort to organize a county fire association. Original meeting was held in Powell at the fire house and the Delaware County Firefighters Association was born. O.H. Gibson was elected the first president. A lot of good things have come from this organization.
In 1953 after 5 years of successful operation, the Five Township Fire Department was having growing pains. So Liberty B and Berlin Township dropped out and Delaware, Troy, and Brown Townships built a firehouse on 36-37 east of Delaware and became Tri-Township Fire Department. Berlin Township established its own department in Cheshire and Liberty B combined with Liberty A for a full township department. With the money the trustees received as a result of this division of Five Township, the firehouse in Powell was enlarged to accommodate more equipment making a bigger and better department.
About 1957 a second used ambulance was purchased along with updated equipment. By now standard first-aid training was not enough so the firemen to 90 hour squad training courses with in-hospital training as well. At the present time (1980) the department has one trained paramedic and seven squadmen trained in IV procedures. In 1964 a new International Carry-All was purchased by the trustees and the firemen outfitted the inside completely for an up-to-date emergency squad. In 1975 a Dodge van was purchased for about $5600.00 and again the firemen rallied and built up the inside into an even better and more updated squad. The men have always been alert to new changes and incorporated them in the department.
In 1964 the trustees purchased a new Ford fire truck, much larger and with more equipment like high pressure and volume pumps and a tank holding 1000 gallons of water at a cost of approximately $39,000.00.
In 1976 the "big yellow machine" a FMC build by the John Bean Company was added to the fleet at a cost of approximately $65,000.00.
Over the years there have been many changes in personnel from job changes, moving away, and some just losing interest. By the same toke new people were always joining the department and were taking the prescribed training courses. The Liberty Township Firemen have always kept up-to-date with their training courses to make a good department well trained for their job.
In 1973 after 24 years as Fire Chief, Fred M. Reeves retired and Assistant Chief Melvin Morgan was named Chief. Officers serving under Chief Reeves were Mel Morgan - Assistant Chief for 24 years, Paul Perry - Assistant Chief for 5 years, E. Anderson - Captain for 24 years, and Paul Smith - Captain for 10 years. Officers serving with Chief Morgan were E. Anderson - Assistant Chief and John Wright - Captain. In May 1978 due to ill health, Melvin Morgan retired as Fire Chief and E. "Andy" Anderson was named Chief with John Wright as Assistant Chief. Louis Huffman and Tom Brown served as Lieutenants.
The years have been good to this department, always progressing to a bigger and better organization with never a blemish of any kind in the 31 years of existence. Always the equipment and the training have been kept up-to-date and of the highest grade with the best in personnel and leadership.
Fred M. Reeves