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February 12, 2013

Dividing lines: Officials say fire jurisdiction lines cause problems

LOGANSPORT — City officials and fire chiefs say jurisdiction lines are causing problems within the county dispatch center and among the fire departments.

After the city stated they will no longer bill for the Logansport Fire Department to respond to calls outside of the township, Mayor Ted Franklin and Fire Chief Mark Strong say they would like the fire department to respond to more personal injury accidents, especially if they’re the closest department. At the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center, Director Dan McDonald said the large number of emergency service numbers are also causing problems for dispatchers.

After discussing the issue at the E911 Governing board meeting Monday, Franklin questioned the reasoning behind why the closest fire departments aren’t called to the scene of the incident.

“There have been some crashes since I’ve been the mayor where basically the fire departments have to drive past our fire station to respond to the call,” Franklin said. “It makes no sense.”

Logansport Fire Chief Mark Strong cited examples of crashes at U.S. 24 and Ind. 35, which lies close to their department and Burlington Avenue and Main Street, where they haven’t been called out to respond.

“If there’s a crash right there we don’t go to it,” Strong said.  

The reason, Franklin said, is due to lines drawn based on township boundaries, meaning that firefighters from the Cass County Fire District or the Logansport Fire Department are called to the scene based on what township has jurisdiction in the area.

The Logansport Fire Department used to have a larger jurisdiction, but the boundaries were redrawn with the formation of the Cass County Fire District, which covers Miami, Clay, Eel and Noble townships.

Franklin said he believes the Logansport Fire Department could be called to help in any situation in the county due to the fact that the city no longer bills that township for their services.

“It goes back to commonsense and who’s closest,” Franklin said during the meeting.

Strong said because his department has rescue and extradition equipment, he had asked to help the Cass County Fire District in personal injury accidents, but was turned down.

“We’ve got the best rescue truck in the county here in town,” Strong said.

New Waverly Fire Chief Kyle Anderson said he was asked about all accidents, not just personal injury.

“We were asked if we needed them to respond on every accident we had in the county,” Anderson said.  “And for our department and our territory we said no, if we needed them we would call them.”

Anderson added that they have called the LFD when they have needed help.

However, Franklin said he believes it’s an argument over territory.

“This territorial dispute has simply got to stop,” Franklin. “People’s lives are at stake. Their property is at stake.”

There are 30 ESNs, which identifies the emergency responders who will respond, across the county, according to McDonald. He said that’s a high number for a county of this size.

“We do have too many jurisdictions,” McDonald said.

He said because of the way the jurisdictions are drawn, houses across the street from each other could have different emergency personnel come to their location.

The number of jurisdictions makes it hard for the dispatchers to connect with right people with the location, especially when a call is made from a cell phone and the exact location can’t be immediately determined.

“It makes their job much more difficult,” McDonald said.

However, despite the difficulty, McDonald said emergency personnel are responding.

“The important thing is to get people responding,” McDonald said.

Franklin said he hopes the problem can be solved by combining the fire departments together again.

“We hope someday to be able to reunite these fire departments,” Franklin said. “The offer is still there.”

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.

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