GFT runs show steady increase, 3rd fire station needed officials say


Jason Horning, Greenfield Fire Territory Chief

GREENFIELD — The annual 2022 report, a projected three-year plan for 2023 through 2025 and other important paperwork surrounding the department were sitting on the round desk in Greenfield Fire Territory Chief Jason Horning’s office.

The new chief, who started the job in late January, has been knee deep in paperwork, analyzing past runs and projecting the needs of Greenfield residents as he settles in to his first year leading the Greenfield Fire Territory.

Probably the biggest statistic Horning was looking forward to sharing was the fact that department runs have shown a steady increase from 3,830 runs in 2018 to 5,064 runs in 2022.

“We’ve had a 25% increase in our run volume in the past five years,” Horning said. “The guys are running a lot and we’re expecting at least a 3% increase this year.”

Greenfield station 421, located at 17 West South Street, had 2,980 runs in 2022 while Greenfield station 422, located 210 West New Road, just off of Ind. 9 and New Road had 2080 runs in 2022.

While an increase in the tax levy has helped the GFT be able to give firefighters a much-needed pay raise and has allowed for the hire of more employees, the work is really only beginning for Horning.

He noted the GFT is still in need of more firefighters along with a third ambulance and eventually the construction of a third fire station, just east of town.

“We really do need to increase our staffing over the next three years in order to handle the growth,” Horning said. “The end goal is to get that third fire station.”

Based on population and runs, Horning noted a third station is a must for the east side of the area, perhaps somewhere near McKenzie and Blue Roads.

“The city has land that was donated around there, but that is a little too far east and is too small, so we’re going to need to buy some land,” Horning said.

The chief noted when taking a deep dive into the run loads, a new station is easily justified. He mentioned there are numerous times they’re out on runs and will get another call and have to rely on help from nearby fire departments in the county.

“It’s becoming more than just mutual aid,” Horning said. “We’re coming to rely too much on outside help so it’s more of a reliant. We need to be able to care for our own residents in a timely manner.”

The GFT has 49 current firefighters with plans to hire four more this year, giving them 53, but they are still going to need additional firefighters to get a third ambulance in service, something Horning said is a must.

“That will be the stepping stone to the third station,” Horning said.

With more intense training, inspections on new/old structures and the breakdown in runs for accident and medical needs, GFT officials noted the department must continue to grow in order to serve the community properly.

“Fire departments now-days must be in position to respond to everything, so we have to be ready for everything,” public information officer Luke Eichholtz said.

Horning noted that their breakdown in runs is just like the national breakdown in runs with the majority being EMS related with fire runs coming after that.

“The other big part of what we must do is training,” Horning said. “We even have to train for everything, including active shooter runs, because it’s a reality.”

Horning’s biggest goal this year is to make sure the GFT has the proper staff and is able to respond to everyday runs for the community, which more often than not includes EMS runs. That illustrates the major need for a third ambulance as soon as possible.

A look at run numbers show Medic 421 and Medic 422 were the busiest of the GFT fleet, making over 2,000 total runs each in 2022.

Horning noted officials from the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department were dispatched into Greenfield 384 times in 2022 and had 212 patient transports. Buck Creek Township officials were dispatched to Greenfield 197 times and transported 79 patients. This happened, Horning said, because both of the GFT ambulances were already in service.

“It’s not uncommon for us to get three runs pretty quickly, but when another group ends up transporting one of our patients, they collect the ambulance fees,” Horning said.

Ambulance billing contributes a major part of the overall fire territory budget each year, Horning noted. The department invoiced $5.3 million in 2022, records show, but after writeoffs had an earning of $1.27 million.

“We figured, based on transports we didn’t do last year with our rate of return, we’re losing an estimate of about $110,000 in ambulance fees each year,” Horning said. “That’s a lot of money.”

Horning said they’ve had nothing but positive support on dealing with growth from Mayor Chuck Fewell and the other city officials when trying to bring GFT up to it’s highest functioning level. He expects city officials will continue that support when it comes to the need for another ambulance and sooner rather than later another fire station.

“We feel like phasing in the new needs with the ambulance first then building a new station is the best way to go about this,” Horning said. “For me and the people in this department, it’s about making sure we can provide top-notch community service for our citizens who dial 911.”

Horning noted funding for a down payment on land to get the process started for a new fire station could come out of the Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) fund, but that will be up to city officials. Preliminary estimates could be anywhere from $4 million to $7 million for everything surrounding a new station build.

“I know it’s expensive and it’s a substantial investment, but every vibrant community wants to and needs to grow,” Horning said. “But, we have to make sure the services keep up with the growth. … Unfortunately, sometimes cities have to play catch-up.”