The facts and figures contained in this narrative are taken directly from the minutes of the meetings concerning our fire department. The original minute books are currently located in the Fire Chief's office.
On Jan 21, 1942 there was a meeting called to organize the citizens of Suffield Township for the purpose of Civilian Defense. The Township Trustees appointed heads of the different departments and Mr. Russel Denny was appointed and approved to organize the Fire Department. Mr. Denny called a meeting of all who would volunteer as firefighters to meet at the town hall on Jan. 27, 1942.
Russel Denny called the meeting to order at 8 p.m. The first question was the election of a Fire Chief. The trustees are required by law to appoint the fire chief, however, they were willing to accept the recommendation of the group. The following were elected as the officers of the newly formed Suffield Fire Department.
Chief William Thomas
1st Asst. Russel Denny
2nd Asst. Joe Wohlwend
Secretary J. H. Hutson
Mr. William Thomas the newly elected Chief was asked to take the floor. Mr. Thomas brought up the fact that the new volunteer fire department should set itself up as a permanent organization, and to do all we can to secure adequate equipment and to use it to the best of our ability for the protection of persons and property, against fire and bombings or such emergencies as may arise. Seventy-seven men signed up that night to be the first firefighters for Suffield Township. The list was given to Township Clerk Wilson Weary, to be submitted to the County Civilian Defense Committee.
A meeting with the trustees was held on Feb. 16, 1942 to discuss financing and probable costs of needed equipment based upon what some neighboring communities had incurred in their start up. The $4,075 figure presented was for necessities, not including the building.
Twp. Trustee, Hiram Shanafelt, gave a report of a meeting with the County Prosecuting Attorney about the laws concerning the fire department organizing and the equipment. A meeting with the county auditor showed that there was no money available for this year to help get the department started.
The township trustees agreed to appropriate $4000 toward buying equipment and housing. The members voted to canvass the township and ask residents to pay for the balance of the needed funds via subscription.
The March 4, 1942 meeting was opened and a resolution was presented to the members to be voted on. The resolution read as follows: "We the volunteer Firemen of Suffield Township, Portage county, Ohio do hereby set ourselves up as a permanent organization and do all we can to secure adequate equipment, and to use it to the best of our ability for the protection of persons and property, against damage by fire, bombings or such emergencies as may arise." The resolution was passed unanimously. Discussion then turned to a building to house the fire equipment.
Commander Know of the U.S. Navy was in attendance at the March 25th 1942 meeting. He stated that the Navy was very interested in the work that was being done in view of the fact that the U.S. Navy had a very large investment in the township at Wingfoot Lake. On April 28, 1942 at the regular trustee meeting, the trustees signed a contract with the Buffalo Fire Appliance for a Buffalo Fire truck for an International K-7 chassis in the amount of $6701.00. As of 1944, the roster showed 24 men involved with the fire department. For fundraising the firemen hauled water where it was needed due to dry spells. The cost for the water was $3.00 per 800-gallon load for a township resident and $5.00 for out of the township. The firemen had a carnival in August of 1946. They raised $825 for their efforts. If this amount were translated to 2005 dollars, that amount is equivalent to $8,471.
On January 5, 1950 an addition to the fire station was discussed. The suggested plan was to remove the grader shed and dig down to the firehouse level and build a larger section for the grader. A portion between the grader garage and the tank truck section could then be added. It was also suggested that the old grader shed would just about fit on the top of our fire house to be used as a club room with inside toilets. The fire station addition was underway in May of 1951.
In March of 1954 it was decided to burn off grass for residents for a donation to the fire department. Paying the firemen for their time attending fires was discussed with the trustees at the September 5, 1957 meeting.
In June it was decided to have a fire phone installed in the Suffield Inn at the S.E corner of Waterloo and SR 43. The Township Trustees authorized the department to go on the countywide radio frequency for a cost of up to $1500. In April of 1962, bids were received for a new pumper at a cost of $18,500.
In January 1969 there was talk about a fire levy to build a new fire station. The 1.5 mill fire levy for the building passed on November 6, 1969. The trucks were moved into the new fire station on Dec 29, 1971. Goodyear donated the floor tile for the kitchen and classroom as well as the single inlet deck gun for the 1962 Ford pumper.
Pay increases were announced in April of 1975. The rate of $2.75 per hour for all calls went into effect, as well as the dispatchers making $35.00 per month and the fire chief's salary was increased to $50 per month. In June of 1975, Bill Stephens coordinated the hose tower project. He estimated that it would take $941 for materials to construct the fire hose-drying tower. The Suffield Lions club donated $700 toward this project and the Suffield VFW gave $100. The firefighter's social fund also donated $150 toward the tower project. The new hose tower was completed in November of 1975 at a total cost of $1102.64.
In September of 1976 John Wohlwend made a motion to hire additional squad personnel (women) for squad runs. The squad members we added for squad work only and to run only during the day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. August 20, 1977 was the day Robinson Memorial Hospital moved to their new facility. The Suffield Fire Department sent an ambulance to assist with this move. The Memorial Day Parade of May 1981 had 27 fire trucks participate in it. Our first heart monitor was purchased in January of 1984 at a cost of $2960.00.
Recognizing the need for a larger staff response for fires, Brimfield Fire Chief Lloyd Grund and Suffield Fire Chief Robert Rasnick coordinated an automatic response agreement in February of 1985. If either community had a reported structure fire, the dispatcher would alert both departments simultaneously, and then give the address of the alarm. It proved very effective and was the first such agreement in Portage County.
In a one-year period from September 1986 to September 1987 four dry hydrants were install in the township. This gave the fire department the ability to reduce the travel distance to refill tankers during fire operations. The cost of the hydrants was paid for by donations and the labor to install them was donated by the firefighters.
In September of 1989 we started to perform emergency dispatching services for Randolph Township. This continued until November of 1997. Our first cellular phones for the ambulances were purchased by a donation from the Mogadore VFW in May of 1991. The trustees from Brimfield and Suffield entered into a joint needs assessment to research the feasibility of merging the fire departments. After the extensive research project performed by an outside source, it was decided best not to merge at that time, but to work toward merging at a future date.
In 1992 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the fire department by inviting all former members back for festivities held on Memorial Day. Letters of congratulations for the 50 years of service from President Bush, Governor Voinovich, the County Commissioners, and the State Fire Marshal were on display. Those former members that were able to attend signed a banner, celebrated with birthday cake, received commemorative hats and shirts, and observed the current members fighting the first ever million-dollar fire loss in the history of our township. This fire occurred right on the parade route, but we were able to open up one lane of traffic in order for the parade to proceed.
Due to a decrease in a sufficient number of volunteers available to answer calls during the day, the fire station was staffed with two personnel from noon to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday starting June of 1994. In July that time was stretched to 6:00 p.m. In March of 1995 the part time shift started at 6:00 a.m. and ran until 6:00 p.m. In June of 1999 the hours that the fire station was staffed were once again increased until 9:00 p.m. On January 10, 2000 we started our rapid responder program. This program had one medically trained firefighter on duty at the fire station over night to rapidly respond in the event of any emergency. This program proved to be very successful. Several lives have been saved as a result of a trained medical person arriving on scene up to 7 minutes before the ambulance could. This program also gave department personnel a set of eyes on the scene of fires and motor vehicle crashes in a respectable time frame that could call for additional resources as needed. Due to the safety concerns for our personnel the rapid responder program gave way to two medically trained firefighters on duty at the fire station at all times 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with the exception of Christmas Day.
In 2000, a thermal imager was purchased via private donations from township businesses and organizations. They committed 83% of the needed $15,000 for this purchase. We started our resident quality assurance call back program in the summer of 2000. The residents of Suffield Township have historically and continue to be served by very dedicated and loyal personnel. Throughout our 64-year history there have been approximately 250 people that felt a calling to serve our township in an attempt to make a difference and to help people when in need. We are proud of our accomplishments and look forward to our future as we do our best to plan for and provide these essential services.
Listed below are the men and women that have served our township in the capacity of a fire department officer:
William Thomas January 21, 1942 to August 31, 1965
Ed McCabe September 1, 1965 to December 15, 1972
Eugene Mettle January 1, 1973 to February 28, 1977
William Stephens March 1, 1977 to April 30, 1978
John Wohlwend May 1, 1978 to April 30, 1984
Robert Rasnick May 1, 1984 to present
John Wohlwend, George Stout, Harold Cromis, Robert Longbottom, Walter Abood, Robert Dudley, Gordon Miller.
Eugene Mettle, Bob Hoskins, Dick Sammy, Robert Feigert, Bill Stephens, Baskel Klepper, Terry Sells, Charles Pierce, Ernie Bianchi, J. Edwin Fites, Richard Smith, Walter Abood Robert Rasnick, Gordon Miller 2, Vernon Holmes, Dave Seese, Lee Ja