“And That’s the Way It Was”
The Early Years of the Bath Twp. Fire Department
(A historical timeline by retired Chief Dean Nichols)
February 4, 1957: Concerned citizens of Bath Township met to discuss the response of Lima Fire Department to Bath Township fires (one pumper with two firefighters). The meeting was held in the Bath Elementary School Cafeteria. Citizens selected Virgil Shaw to serve as the first president of the Bath Township Fireman’s Association. His duties were to conduct future meetings. Approximately 200 citizens signed up to volunteer.
March 3, 1957: Two Fire Pumpers were purchased from Sutphen Fire Apparatus Company in Columbus, Ohio. They were to be 750 gpm midship pumpers with a 700 gallon tank capacity. One pumper was kept in the maintenance garage by the elementary school and the other was kept at the original fire station (across from current station), which also housed the Ohio State Highway Patrol Post #2.
May 28, 1957: The Volunteer roster is comprised of more than 400 citizens who volunteered many hours of their time to get a fire station ready. All materials were donated by citizens and various Bath Township businesses. No funding was available as a fire tax levy didn’t exist. Citizens appointed Gaylord Faze to serve as the first Bath Township Volunteer Fire Chief.
July 1, 1957: Bath Township Fire Department was officially declared a fire department by the State of Ohio and issued a charter document. The following were the first official fire department officers: Fire Chief: Gaylord Faze, Fire Captains: Harold Kiracofe and Bob Jewel, Fire Lieutenants: Joe McIndoo, Bob Offenbacher, Clarence Kersker, Les Oatman, George Byerly, Bob Kohli, Howard Lackey and Paul Sirks.
July 8, 1957: It was discussed that there was a need for someone to be available during the daytime hours to act on behalf of the fire chief. Clarence Kersker was appointed as the Assistant Chief. Kersker had served as a Lieutenant prior to this appointment. His vacancy was filled by Carl Holt.
July 26, 1957: Bath Twp. Fire Department responded to its first fire call – a structure fire on North Grant Avenue. The fire was located in the kitchen area and the response was good. This incident was classified as a SAVE!
August 11, 1957: Two-way radio equipment was purchased and installed in both fire pumpers. A base radio was also installed. Firefighters could now talk to both pumpers and the base station. Before radio communications, fire pumpers had no idea where the other truck was or if it was en route.
Sirens were placed at both stations to alert firefighters. Dispatchers would call three firefighters to alert them to the location of the fire. The wives of those three firefighters would call three more firefighters until enough help was received.
Two additional two-way radios were ordered and placed in the vehicles of the Chief and Assistant Chief. The Chief and Assistant Chief would respond directly to the scene for size-up and plan the fire tactics.
OLD METHODS AND SOME PROBLEMS
All of the fire equipment was carried on the pumpers. Upon arrival, firefighters would grab whatever was handy. Firefighters might get a coat ten times too large or a helmet five times too small. Sometimes it was hard to see as the helmet would slip down over your eyes.
Turnout coats were the rubber slicker type and the helmets had no ear or face shields. None of this mattered, as they were a proud group. Pride in the department and serving the township were the main concerns.
May 25, 1960: Construction began on a new fire station. When the fire station was complete, all fire apparatus was to be placed in this central site. The new fire station site was assigned the mailing address of 1787 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio 45801.
June 10, 1960: A dedication ceremony was held and a large number of citizens attended this event. Mr. Robert Thompson, former superintendent of Bath Local Schools, was the keynote speaker.
July 2, 1961: Joe Cleaves and myself (Dean Nichols) felt that first-aid supplies and equipment that could be carried on a used ambulance would benefit the citizens and fellow firefighters. We approached Chief Faze and he agreed to pursue our thoughts.
Many of the firefighters had mixed emotions about this idea and most thought that we should leave this activity to the funeral services. However, funeral services were trying to get out of emergency responses, and no one knew who was going to take over this activity.
I found an old ambulance from Superior Coach that was stored at the Allen County Fairgrounds. I told Chief Faze and Joe Cleaves about it and we made plans to go over and look at it.
July 11, 1961: Joe Cleaves, Chief Faze and I met Superior Coach representative Bob Fairburn at the fairgrounds and looked over the vehicle. We decided to call the Bath Township Trustees to come over and we discussed the possible purchase. They were not impressed, however they finally said “whatever we wanted.” We told Superior Coach we would take it and drive it to the fire station, where we parked it in the apparatus room. The next morning some of the firefighters saw the vehicle and were against the idea and some thought it wasn’t such a bad idea.
BIRTH OF THE BATH FIRE DEPARTMENT RESCUE SQUAD
August 12, 1961: Nine firefighters went to Reynoldsburg, Ohio to take the First-Aid Instructor Course. We taught basic first-aid to interested firefighters and became the first and only Rescue Squad in Allen County.
We took care of all emergency rescue calls in the entire county. First-Aid supplies were carried in a brown paper sack as we could not afford a medical bag. The first-aid responders wore old meat cutter’s long white coats, and World War II yellow helmets.
August 31, 1961: Responded to a call for a laceration of the second finger of the left hand. Jack Derringer was the first patient.
Water Ball team members were: Dean Nichols (Nozzle), Joe Cleaves (1st Hose Back-up), Ray McDonald (2nd Hose Back-up), George Nichols (Coach).
Bath Fire Department’s Water Ball Team was Northwestern Ohio Water Ball Champions three years running. We were the only department to hold that honor, and the record still stands today.
August 11, 1973: Bath Twp. Fire Department’s worst fire involving loss of life. Five lives were lost at a fire in the Fultz Lumber Yard (building occupants). Area citizens, Lima Police Department, Allen County Sheriff’s Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and three additional departments provided assistance.
Note: This is only a brief summary of events and only a sampling of many other facts, interesting stories, and personnel too numerous to mention.
Have a fire safe day,
Bath Twp. Fire Chief (Retired)
Bath Township Fire Chiefs
Chief Gaylord Faze
1957 – 1966
Chief Charles Kissel
1967 – 1974
Chief Dean Nichols
1975 – 1985 & 1987
Chief Bruce Franklin
Chief Ray Hurst
1988 – 1993
Chief Mike Knotts
1994 – 2002
Chief Joseph Kitchen
2002 – Present