Homes of the Brave: Fishers Fire Fighters Station 92
Firefighters from three Geist area fire stations are among the first to respond to local emergency situations, as they routinely put their lives on the line to help make local residents safe. This is the first of a three-part series that will help you get to know them better.
Fire Station 92
It’s no accident that the local red bricked Fishers Fire Station 92, perched on the corner of 116th Street and Brooks School Road, resembles an old-fashioned schoolhouse. Not only does it serve as home away from home for its resident firefighters, but when it was built in 1992, its exterior features were specifically designed to blend in with the adjoining Fall Creek Township Offices, which are all built around a preserved one-room schoolhouse that once welcomed young students through its doors as far back as the late 1800s.
And while rich in history (there are even rumors of a resident ghost named Joe), the station is the hub for three crews of firefighters who spend their days training for and responding to emergency situations not only in the Geist area, but wherever duty calls.
Just as doctors or lawyers are known for their particular areas of expertise, so are fire stations. Station 92 is known as a water rescue house, which is vital for a community with such a large reservoir as one of its main attractions, not to mention all the retention ponds that dot the landscape.
Three separate shifts (A, B and C), consisting of six “spots” each, make up the dedicated and highly-trained companies that rotate in and out of the facility, each working 24-hour shifts every third day. Each shift is typically made up of a chauffeur (the driver of the fire engine), an officer and two back steps (firefighters that ride backwards in the engine). The other two spots are filled with an EMT and a paramedic. At least two on each shift are certified divers, ensuring that no matter when an emergency situation occurs, if it involves water in any way, the station is prepared to handle it.
“We pride ourselves on what we can offer the people of this area,” says Lt. Jay Manship, Shift B. “We have a diverse group of firefighters at our station with amazing talent. For example, some of our divers are also swift water instructed, which means they’re capable of river rescues, and dealing with flooding, particularly with heavy flows.”
Divers receive extensive training through the Fishers Fire Department, as well as through training programs like the Indiana River Rescue School in South Bend, Indiana, where they obtain additional certification and go through rigorous training from the banks of the St. Joseph River. The Geist Reservoir itself also serves as the perfect training location during the warmer months, where divers can practice techniques and hone water rescue skills.
“We probably receive about a half-dozen emergency dive calls a year,” says diver Neil Sullivan, Shift C, who is also trained as a paramedic. “In order to stay certified, we make at least eight dives per year, plus we perform regular specialty dives, like deep dives, dives to a submerged vehicle, or through ice.”
Fellow shift diver Chad Hiner has also added additional skills to his personal resume, and not only serves as a medic for the Tactical Rescue Team, but also for the Fishers Police Department SWAT team. Hiner is qualified to administer a multitude of functions, including advanced life support and medications while responding to emergency situations. And although he doesn’t respond to SWAT Team calls while on duty as a firefighter, he does participate with the specialized unit during his days off.
“The local police and fire departments have a great relationship in Fishers,” Hiner says. “I enjoy being a part of both departments, and I really appreciate how they both are so great with community involvement and public education.”
From a firefighter’s perspective, another defining feature of the Geist area is its residential diversity, with a significant increase over the past several years in the amount of senior living communities, as well as in townhome and apartment developments. But perhaps one of the most well known distinctions of the reservoir area is the massive homes that line its shores. This in itself presents unique challenges when it comes to fighting fires.
While an average home in another neighborhood might be a one- or two-story structure with three bedrooms, the Geist homes that directly surround the reservoir area are custom, multiple-level designs, often covering 6,000 square feet or more. This type of home calls for a different firefighting approach.
“When we get a call on such a large home, we treat it like a commercial building versus a residence,” says Manship. “With a smaller home, we can usually determine just by looking at the windows and the layout of the building where the bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas are,” he explains. But with larger homes, it’s difficult to anticipate where inhabitants might be located.
“You’re also looking at massive individual rooms, with some closet spaces measuring even larger than a standard bedroom,” Manship says. This means that when a crew is initially sent in to “do a sweep,” which means to thoroughly search rooms for victims, more firefighters and time are needed in order to make sure the rooms are clear. There are also usually more challenging areas to reach, like higher attic spaces, which can present ideal conditions for fire.
“We definitely have to approach larger homes a little differently,” says Manship. “But that’s one of the things that makes our job unique. It’s never boring.”
So what’s it like to be a firefighter at Station 92? To echo Manship’s words, it’s never boring. In fact, playing pranks on each other and ribbing fellow shift members is an everyday occurrence. Not to mention the occasional reference to Joe, the resident ghost. Although no current shift members would go on record as being “believers,” former shift members report unexplained lights being turned on and off, or doors opening and closing for no apparent reason. It all adds to the uniqueness and mystique of the station and its history.
“This station definitely represents a home away from home,” says Manship. “Sometimes it’s hard because when you’re away from your own home and immediate family for hours at a time, you miss special events and celebrations,” he says. “But when you spend so much time with the guys on your shift, you also get to know each other very well, and you learn to rely on them and trust them … it makes it easier to deal with.”
“As far as the residents in our community, I think we are definitely acknowledged here a little more than in other towns,” says Rob Demlow, Shift C diver. “We have lots of parents and family members that come to the firehouse to visit. We definitely feel respected and appreciated here.”
Demlow says that the crew members particularly enjoy the visits from families during the annual Fire Prevention Week. “Parents usually end up learning just as much as the kids do, and they definitely have a good time,” he says.
“The people in this area have been wonderful,” adds Hiner. “When kids come up to give us high-fives, or when the people that we’ve helped come up to say thank you, we love it. Our station gets so many deliveries of cookies and goodies, or cards and letters of appreciation … it feels like family here.”