TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)—Two of the three paid firefighters for Wabash Township are speaking out. This, after Trustee Jennifer Teising announced last week the termination of full-time positions within the townships fire department. This decision would leave responding to emergency situations up to volunteer firefighters who have other full-time responsibilities.
The board held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to determine what the future of the township will look like.
Current full-time firefighter and paramedic Drew Hampton wrote in a statement:
"Up to this point, I have intentionally held out on giving a public statement for fear of some type of retaliation or my own termination,"
"With my termination being seemingly inevitable, I am coming forth now to provide my sincerest apologies to the township residents for my not being given more of an opportunity to provide you the service on both fire and medical emergency that you all deserve,"
"As of June 29th 2021 you are all in my thoughts as I wish you all safety," Hampton said in a statement. He went on to say.
"I have full confidence that the remaining volunteer staff are competent, well experienced, and well trained to take care of the township but the keyword is VOLUNTEER. These dedicated men and women have full-time jobs themselves, some are college students with a heavy academic commitment, and some have new families to care for. With the growing population, these men and women’s hands are tied and their time is already stretched to the limit responding to existing calls and meeting state/department training requirements. Without 24/7 coverage I fear for the lives and safety of all. I hope everyone can take the time to look at this closely and voice your concerns to the appropriate authority."
His co-worker Travis Merkel co-signs in a statement saying:
"I would like to apologize to all of our community members for not being able to provide you with the services you deserve. I was hired to do a job that for unknown reasons, I will no longer be allowed to do,"
"Setting all of the political games aside, myself and our WTFD family will keep conducting business as usual for as long as possible. If you need us, we will be there for you. Unfortunately for me, that will end on June 29th, 2021," said Merkel. He went on to say.
"I know we have a great group of committed and experienced volunteers that will respond, but again they are volunteers who are not at the firehouse and ready to go. It will take time for them to receive the call, get to the station, and be prepared to respond with the equipment needed. These extra minutes are typical and often expected in an all-volunteer department, but since adding paid staff in 2012, our community has grown accustomed to what they deserve (and pay for), a more rapid response. I have many friends and family living in Wabash Township and I worry for their safety not having paid staff on-duty around the clock and I ask you all to continue to make your voices heard about this situation as much as possible."
As News 18 Previously reported during a board meeting last week Teising secured a $400,000 emergency fire loan last year to offer benefits. Board member Angel Valentín said there's enough money budgeted in 2021 to keep the firefighters on the books this year.