Liberty Twp.’s growth means the fire department needs to expand. Here’s what it’s doing.

New Liberty Twp. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman

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New Liberty Twp. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman

New Liberty Twp. Fire Chief Ethan Klussman has been on board for about six months, and he is poised to make some significant changes he says will enhance safety for residents and fire crews alike.

Klussman told this news organization on Monday that he will be creating three battalion chief positions which will necessitate hiring two additional full-time people. Klussman said he noticed the need for a beefed-up command structure when he was going through the application process to replace long-time chief Paul Stumpf.

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“I noticed it was just Paul at the top,” he said. “As complex as the calls can be here and as much as we’re growing, having that 24-hour supervision and not relying on the fire chief — regardless of where he lives — is important. It provides some stability as well as some consistency for the fire department.”

Stumpf used to have two assistant fire chiefs but lost them through attrition, hence he was responding to nearly every call. With battalion commanders on every shift, Klussman said firefighting in the township will be much safer for all concerned.

“Right now our officers that run the fire apparatus, they are that command structure but they are working command,” he said. “So they could be in the house fighting the fire and trying to organize what everybody outside is doing, even though they don’t get to see that. This battalion chief stays outside, they run the operation and direct people where to go, kind of like an orchestra director.”

Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said the township has known for two years the command staff needed bolstering but it didn’t make sense to change the structure until a new person was at the helm to make the decision.

“When I asked Chief Stumpf almost two years ago what is the number one thing you need to help you do your job and better serve the residents, what would that be, and he said our command staff,” Farrell said. “Our command staff is at an all time low, it was due to illnesses and retirement. But it just didn’t make sense to any of our minds to have that done by anybody but the new chief.”

Klussman said another key in this plan is to provide the township a line of succession and it frees him up to focus on the bigger picture. Trustee Christine Matacic said that is exactly what they want their chief doing.

“We told him we understand there are going to be changes, you give us the justification and he has and I think it’s going to be a very positive thing as we continue to grow,” she said. “He’s taking a look at it not just for today but down the road and how our department will need to evolve to meet all the needs we’re going to have.”

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The township is one of the fastest growing places in Ohio, quadrupling in size over the past two decades to around 40,000 people. They have also seen some major new developments open and there are more on the horizon.

Klussman said fire fighting and emergency medical runs in the township have gotten more complicated with the addition Liberty Center, The Christ Hospital and eventually when a new interchange is put in at Interstate 75 and Millikin Road. The battallion chiefs will be instrumental in managing their emergency responses.

“As we continue to grow, the materials they put in these buildings, the fire suppression will become more complicated,” he said. “Right now we require our firefighters to be a jack of all trades, master of none. The battalion chief will be much more of a master… they learn more of the integral stuff. They’re not necessarily always in there fighting the fire but they are always thinking ahead and pre-planning.”

Klussman, a former battalion chief with the Kettering Fire Department, is only the second full time fire chief to serve the township. Klussman was a firefighter/paramedic for 16 years when he made captain in the Kettering Fire Department in 2012. He was named the department’s battalion chief in July.

It took the trustees two tries to fill the position, first with the aid of the Ohio Fire Chief’s Association and the second through their own search process.

All of the trustees say even after just a few months Klussman has proven to be a great find.

“I’m very excited about his professionalism, his planning, about his methodology for everything he does. When we sit down with him we’re given charts and graphs and historical back-up,” Trustee Steve Schramm said.

“There isn’t a decision he makes that doesn’t have a whole lot of data backing it up and our input as well. He doesn’t come in and demand, he comes in with an idea and we can certainly modify. it. I’m confident he has the pedigree to take us where we need to go.”

The department’s full-time complement will go from 36 to 38 staff with the new additions. Klussman said they already have an EMS captain position that will convert to one of the three battalion chief slots. With benefits the two positions will cost a total of $270,000.

Klussman said they have already budgeted for the additions. He has posted the job openings but is also welcoming their existing staff to apply. The deadline for applications is March 23. Interested parties can go to this link: http://www.liberty-township.com/Jobs.aspx?UniqueId=100&From=All&CommunityJobs=False&JobID=Battalion-Chief-Fire-Department-16 to find more information about the jobs.

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