To The Residents: We owe the residents of Penn Twp. the highest quality of service possible, characterized by responsiveness, integrity and professionalism. We will continually strive for quality improvement.
To The Fire Department: We owe the Penn Twp. Fire Department our full commitment and dedication. We will always look beyond the traditional scope of our individual positions to promote teamwork and organizational effectiveness.
To Each Other: We owe each other a working environment characterized by trust and respect for the individual, fostering open and honest communication at all levels.
To Ourselves: We owe ourselves personal and professional growth. We will seek new knowledge and greater challenges, and strive to remain at the leading edge of our profession.
The mission of the Fire Department is to protect the lives and property of the people of Penn Township from fires, natural disasters, and hazardous materials incidents; to save lives by providing emergency medical services; to prevent fires through prevention and education programs; and to provide a work environment that values health, wellness and cultural diversity and is free of harassment and discrimination.
You might say that the history of the Penn Township Fire Department would be best described as a Dickens title – A Tale of Two Cities. It was not so much a case of bureaucracy as it was natural barriers. In the early days Penn Township was largely farm country. Bridges, railroad underpasses and divided highways were not in demand. In fact the first bridge connecting the northern and southern parts of the township was not built until the late 1950’s, when Bittersweet Rd. was built to span the widest part of the St. Joseph River in the impoundment waters behind the Twin Branch Hydroelectric Dam. It was in preparation for the opening of the newly created high school in a startup school corporation(Penn-Harris-Madison). Back then the area was so rural that city residents often referred to Penn Schools as a “farmer” school.
Around the same time New York Central Railroad was building the largest automated rail-switching yard in the world. The bustling rail lines split the township into two parts for the entire width. The boundary that Mother Nature had set in place was compounded by man.
The stories differ about the critical mass that finally pushed rural Penn Township residents to band together to form their own fire department. One of the most commonly accepted stories is that the smoldering that continues long after the embers had cooled at the fire that brought down the old Willow Creek Church to the ground. The story goes, that long before the Capital Avenue bridge was even considered, where the new Willow Creek Church now stands at Capital and Jefferson, the church burned to the ground because there was no organized fire department, and that by the time a city fire truck arrived with a small amount of water on board, they could not make a dent in the fire. The resident’s tempers rose when the city firefighters sprayed what water they had on board and left the scene and returned to their station.
It then made sense to form two separate fire departments to serve St. Joseph County’s largest township (64 square miles).
The early station on the north side of the township was located at the old Kennedy School on U.S. 20. The former Fulmer School on SR 331 was the location for the station on the south side of the township.
The township later bought two parcels of land where they built fire stations, one on Jackson Road between Bremen Hwy and Elm Road and the other on U.S. 20, just west of Currant Road. The station on U.S. 20 is still in service and over the past 3 years has been remodeled to accommodate staffing as well as modern fire apparatus. These stations would serve as the homes of the former Penn South and North Penn fire departments for the next 50 years. These stations not only served as fire stations, but also as community centers hosting such events as ice cream socials, square dances and numerous fund raising events for the two departments.
In 1985, the township built an additional station on Ireland Road between Apple Road and Beech Road, to help provide better coverage in the southeastern part of the township. In 1998 the township built a fourth station on Apple Road just north of McKinley Avenue to help provide better coverage in the northeast area of the township, which is the most densely populated section of the township, with the highest call volume area. The two original stations were built in the western half of the township.
With the growth of the township has come a huge increase in calls for service. In the early 1980’s the two departments responded to a few hundred calls per year. In 2003 the now one department responded to over 1100 calls for service. The two departments operated totally separately as private corporations, operating under separate rules and regulations, but sharing the same budget. As budgets became tighter and the demand for services increased due to the growth of the township in population and businesses, the departments got together to find answers. The solution that they came up with was to join forces and form into one department. This was done through a lot of hard work and the dissolving of a lot of rich history of each department.
In 2003 the two departments became one, the Penn Township Fire Department. Also in 2003 the township hired its first fulltime fire chief to run the department, and in March of 2005 the township hired its first two fulltime firefighters to provide some daytime coverage due to the decline of volunteer firefighter availability.
In 2005 the township built a new fire department Headquarters and Station 1 facility on Jackson Road just east of Elm Road, to replace the old and worn out station west of the new facility. The station opened in September of 2005, and was dedicated on October 9th.
In 2011, the department started staffing both firehouses 24hrs a day through a modified part-time program that allowed some members to work 8.5 shifts per month. This program eventually led career staffing around the clock, the Ireland Road firehouse was closed, and the Apple Road firehouse was converted into a training facility.
In April of 2012 the department, through the support of the Penn Twp. Advisory Board obtained an Emergency Loan through the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance to hire 21 full-time members to provide full-time staffing at both firehouses 24 hours a day staffing 2 Rescue/Pumpers, a Battalion Chief and a Paramedic Ambulance. The career members started June 1st, 2012 and the department started transport EMS on October 1st, 2012. In 2013, the department will respond to over 1600 calls for service. The township continues to strive to improve its fire and rescue services to provide the best possible services with limited resources to its 65,000 residents as well as those who visit and travel through the Penn Twp. area on a daily basis.
When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war, it wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen’s weapon was, fire.
As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.
Thus, these men became our first firefighter and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each here a badge of honor – a cross similar to the one firefighter’s wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross.
The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage – a ladder rung away from death.
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