Second try nets Mt. Etna grant for new fire station

A new fire station will become a reality in Mt. Etna, thanks to a $500,000 grant.

Mt. Etna Fire Chief Mark Sale learned Wednesday, May 13, that his department has been awarded a Community Focus Fund Grant, funded by the federal Community Development Bock Grant program and funneled through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

It's the second time the Mt. Etna Volunteer Fire Department has applied for the grant. The first application, Sale says, was turned down.

Construction could start as soon as the town receives the money, which may not be until fall, Sale says.

"We're ready," he says. "But the state moves slow."

The new station will be built on two-plus acres of ground at Ind.-5 and Ind.-124, which has been donated to the fire department by the Mt. Etna United Methodist Church. The current fire station - originally a storage building for agricultural fertilizer - is located on Ind.-124 in Mt. Etna, a little more than six miles away.

The new fire station, he says, will improve safety for firefighters and could even improve response times.

Currently, Sale says, firefighters must shut down a state highway (Ind.-124) to get trucks in and out of the station. And when the power goes out - which Sale says is not an infrequent occurrence - firefighters must haul out a portable generator and start it just to open the fire station doors.

The new station will be equipped with an automatic generator, Sale says. It will also have a meeting room, a training area, two offices, and enough room for six trucks - one more than the department currently has. Parking spaces will be provided for the 35 volunteer firefighters, who now must park their personal vehicles on the highway when responding to fire calls.

The current station had reached the end of its useful life, Sale says, and there's no room to expand on that site.

"We've grown out of it," he says. "It just doesn't fulfill our needs."

The total cost of the new station is expected to be between $650,000 and $700,000, Sale says, with $500,000 covered by the Community Focus Fund Grant. The remainder of the money will come from Huntington County, the four townships served by the Mt. Etna Fire Department (Lancaster, Jefferson, Polk and Wayne) and the fire department's own budget.

"We really didn't want to ask for new tax money to do this," Sale says.

The new building, he says, "gives us a better place to work out of. It could increase response time, because we'll be able to get in and out of the station faster.

"We're excited. It was a lot of hard work by everybody in the community," Sale says. "And we hope this brings some work to local contractors."