Whether it be a fire, vehicle accident or some other unexpected emergency like the recent shooting at West Liberty-Salem Local Schools, the Urbana Fire Division (UFD) stands ready at all times to serve and protect the community. In some cases, these first responders need a little help of their own. That’s when volunteers from Box 13 Fire Associates rise to occasion.
Established in 1957 as a self-supporting, volunteer organization, Box 13 has been supporting the UFD for the past 60 years in one fashion or another.
“The overall mission of Box 13 has changed over the years to more of a supportive role,” said Fire Chief Mark Keller, who also serves as a Box 13 liaison. “Box 13 in the past was fighting fires and responding on EMS calls, but it’s more rehab work right now versus fire suppression.”
Either way, he added, the service the nonprofit provides the UFD during prolonged or taxing emergencies is invaluable.
“They help with rehydration and medical surveillance to make sure (first responders) aren’t having any problems,” Keller said. “They also fill our air tanks for our SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus), and they do our accountability on scene, meaning that at any given time, we try to know where every single person on the fire scene is. It’s been a very big help for us, because we don’t have the staffing to have someone do that.”
Along with providing refreshments (food and drinks), refilling air packs, and making sure everyone is accounted for on scene, Box 13 President Cheryl Wears said another important role of the organization is making sure first responders have a safe place to rest and escape Mother Nature’s wrath if need be.
“When we arrive at the scene, our squad helps provide shelter to get them out of the elements,” she added.
Since Box 13’s rehab vehicle (ambulance) is limited in the amount of shelter it can provide, the nonprofit has made it a mission to raise funds to purchase a large, enclosed tent.
Once a tent is secured, Box 13 plans to purchase heaters and fans for the tent along with a generator. To give firefighters a place to take a load off while under shelter, the nonprofit hopes to purchase additional specially-designed chairs that allow firefighters to sit down without taking off their equipment.
While coming up with the funds to purchase such equipment won’t be easy, it’s a challenge Box 13 is more than willing to tackle.
Fundraising efforts reignited
As a nonprofit organization, Box 13 relies solely on financial support from the community.
“We are strictly funded by donations,” Wears said. “That’s our only source of income.”
Hoping to drum up additional financial support and remind the public of the service it provides, Box 13 is getting back into the fundraising game by hosting a 9-Pin No Tap Bowling Fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 4 at Southwest Bowl in Urbana. The cost is $30 per couple. While walk-ins will be accepted based on availability, those planning to attend are asked to sign up by calling Wears (937-207-8362) or fellow Box 13 volunteer Steve King (937-484-3667).
“We have not done a fundraiser for many, many years,” Wears said. “We kind of regrouped a couple years ago and wanted to try to make Box 13 a bigger thing than it was again. We knew in order to do that, we had to do some sort of fundraiser to get some money coming in to allow us to purchase items like a tent for (first-responders) to get under.”
In addition to the items Box 13 would like to have at its disposal to help the UFD do its job, it must also have the necessary funding needed to maintain its headquarters at 123 E. Market St. and keep its rehab vehicle – a 1991 squad previously owned by the UFD – up and running.
Fortunately for Box 13, the UFD recently put into service a new squad and is in the process of converting its old 1997 International chassis/Horton ambulance into Box 13’s newest rehab vehicle.
“(The 1991 squad) is starting to fall apart,” Keller said. “We are working on getting the cascade system (used to refill air tanks) transferred over (from the 1991 squad to the 1997 model). We’ve also talked about potentially doing some renovations on the ‘97 to make it so we can fit more people in there if needed in order to get them out of the elements, and we’ve talked about putting refrigerators in there and coffee pots.”
By outfitting the squad with these items, Keller added, it would limit the amount of trips Box 13 has to make back and forth from the scene to its headquarters to restock on refreshments…etc.
As for refreshments, Box 13 accepts donations of bottled water and sports drinks like Gatorade, which can be dropped off at its East Market Street location.
Financial donations can be made out to Box 13 Associates and mailed to P.O. Box 266, Urbana, OH, 43078.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.