GREENFIELD — Buck Creek firefighters are hitting the road with a new truck equipped to fight blazes in tall industrial businesses moving to the county’s west side, thanks to a partnership between the department and the county’s redevelopment commission.
Buck Creek Township leaders and members of the Hancock County Redevelopment Commission recently split the cost of a $250,000 new aerial ladder truck — a fire engine featuring a more than 100-foot ladder that can extend over the tops of tall buildings — that will be used to service the whole township, particularly the businesses located along the Mt. Comfort corridor.
The truck is an essential piece of equipment for a fire department, particularly one tasked with serving companies in a growing industrial area, said Buck Creek Fire Department Chief Dave Sutherlin. The department found itself in a pinch earlier this year when its 8-year-old ladder truck fell into disrepair, he said.
Township officials approached the redevelopment commission for help, and the board eventually agreed to contribute $100,000 to the truck’s $250,000 cost, noting that a well-equipped fire service is part of what the county can offer industries considering Hancock County.
The redevelopment commission oversees use of tax dollars collected from businesses in the Mt. Comfort tax increment finance, or TIF, district. Taxes collected from businesses that fall in the TIF district can be used for certain commercial and industrial improvements. Funds collected in the district must be reinvested in the area.
The district encompasses some of the county’s largest industrial parks and commercial properties, including Indianapolis Regional Airport, Mt. Comfort Air Park and Alliance Interstate Park. The new $30 million, three-structure world headquarters of trucking company Celadon also will fall within the township’s boundaries and is set to open its doors later this year.
Quick growth in the district had the fire department feeling a bit strapped, said Jim Cherry, a member of the redevelopment commission.
So, commission members agreed to use a portion of the nearly $2 million in annual TIF district revenues to invest in the township’s new firetruck, ensuring residents and businesses alike are protected by firefighters with up-to-date equipment, Cherry said.
Buck Creek’s first aerial ladder truck was given to the department in 2009 by the Indianapolis Regional Airport, said township trustee Melvin Branson. Earlier this year, it suffered irreparable damage, and township leaders started shopping around for a replacements.
Eventually, they purchased a truck from a fire department in northeast New York, Branson said. The truck is in great used condition and has been driven fewer than 15,000 miles, and it cost $700,000 less than a new firetruck, he said.
Fire departments that sit near industrial areas need trucks with tall ladders to ensure they can get onto the tops of tall commercial buildings, said Sutherlin, who is a member of the redevelopment commission. Often, fires start in the heating-and-cooling systems that sit on the roofs of these structures, and the department will need the aerial ladder to combat such a blaze, he said.
Ensuring new businesses have access to good fire protection is an important aspect of economic development, Cherry said. Just like good roads and proper workforce, businesses seek out areas that offer a well-equipped fire service, he said.
“I see it as part of the infrastructure,” he said.