HOMER — Ohio State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers spent Thursday on the road, visiting several fire departments in central Ohio. One of his stops was at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department, where he presented $3,600 in training funds to Chief Randy King.
The funding came from the Department of Commerce to reimburse the all-volunteer Homer VFD for firefighter and EMT training. Flowers said the funds came out of a special annual allotment of $1.7 million set aside to assist local fire departments. Roughly half of the amount is used to reimburse training expenses, and the other half to help defray equipment costs. Homer VFD also has an active application for equipment funding and is awaiting a decision from the state.
Flowers, who was appointed to his position by Gov. Kasich last June, is a native of Licking County. He had a 30-year career in firefighting, primarily in Franklin County, where he was Madison Township’s Fire Chief from 1978-2000. He then served in the State House of Representatives from 2001-2008, and more recently was a township administrator.
Flowers said that fully 70 percent of Ohio’s fire departments are volunteer forces like the 34-member team in Homer, which serves Licking County’s Burlington Township and Miller Township in Knox County. He began his career as a volunteer fireman, and clearly enjoyed having an opportunity to rub elbows with fellow firefighters and kick a few safety vehicle tires.
Chief King has headed up the Homer VFD, which was formed in 1954, for three years. He said that having a coverage area that straddles a county line presents his department with some unique challenges.
Knox County’s emergency management system currently uses high-band radio equipment, while Licking County has low-band radios. That means King and his team of firefighters and EMTs have to carry radios on each hip. The department receives dispatches from Knox County’s two 9-1-1 call centers plus the one in Licking County, and coordinates its efforts with the sheriff’s offices of each county.
“We need two of everything, and it complicates things a bit, but it’s just something we have to work around,” King said.