Saturday, April 20th, 2013
By Margie Wuebker
Moving toward danger
Area first responders risk lives for others
  In an emergency such as an explosion, a fire or a crime, most people move to safer places. Firefighters, emergency medical personnel and law enforcement officers rush forward to help, oftentimes putting themselves in harm's way.
Capt. Mark Heinl, a former road deputy with the Mercer County Sheriff's Office who serves as Mercer County Detention Facility administrator, said recent events such as the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line and the explosion at a Texas fertilizer factory underscore the importance of having highly trained first responders readily available.
Five years ago Heinl was en route to an anhydrous ammonia facility near Burkettsville after a truck driver reported smoke and a possible fire. Heinl arrived to discover there was no fire just toxic fumes leaking from the tanks. Burkettsville firefighters approached the scene as the wind suddenly changed and blew fumes at them.
Thirteen people, including Heinl, were taken to Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater. The majority were treated then released while some remained hospitalized for days.
"The events in Texas brought all that back," Heinl said. "Like this area, many of those first responders were volunteers simply trying to help others."
Chickasaw Fire Chief Mark Seitz was getting ready for work Thursday morning when his wife Lisa asked him to watch television coverage and remember what he saw when the next emergency occurs.
Could a similar explosion occur here in Mercer County? Seitz quickly responded, "Yes." Although there are no fertilizer factories that hold the potential for such massive destruction, the county is home to 10 registered fertilizer distribution facilities.
Training has become a way of life for firefighters - in fact, one involving hazardous materials is taking place this morning at Marion Local Schools in Maria Stein. Responders from several area departments will participate in the mock event that includes a detailed evaluation at the conclusion.
"We train every week," Seitz said in regard to his department. "The requirements are more and more demanding ... we have to be prepared."
A situation involving a fire or some other emergency can change in an instant requiring immediate reaction.
"No two incidents are ever alike," the fire chief said. "The goal is saving lives and property and making sure everybody makes it back to the station."
Seitz believes many people do not understand the roles and responsibilities of first responders or the dangers they face. The last fatality involving area emergency personnel was Oct. 1, 2003, when an explosion in a silo at a New Knoxville lumber company claimed the lives of two volunteer firefighters from the New Bremen-German Township Fire Department and seriously injured another.
Linda Emmons, New Bremen Emergency Squad administrator and EMS coordinator for Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys, believes it takes special people to fill the roles of first responders.
"People in civil service go into a situation believing they can help, they can make things better," Emmons said. "They have the necessary self confidence and training and the ability to put others first."
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Clubs encourage good health, future runners
• Poll workers reviewing policies for May election
• Celina blanks Defiance 5-0
• Tigers pick up MAC win over Indians
a_d
Friday Night
50°
Mostly Cloudy
13%
Saturday
67°
Partly Sunny
14%
Saturday Night
43°
Mostly Clear
Sunday
63°
Mostly Sunny
Sunday Night
48°
Mostly Clear
6%
Monday
76°
Partly Sunny
14%
Monday Night
61°
Partly Cloudy
13%
Tuesday
72°
Mostly Cloudy
69%
Tuesday Night
44°
Rain Showers
75%
Wednesday
56°
Mostly Cloudy
10%
Wednesday Night
39°
Partly Cloudy
6%
3 Day
Extended
a_da_d
camera_logo Photo Albums
Thursday, October 23
index pict
Thursday, October 23
index pict
video_logoOnline Video
Thursday, October 2
index pict
Accident at 127 and 119
Monday, September 29
index pict
Grand Lake Marathon