Follow The Republic:
HOPE — A veteran firefighter is chief of the Hope Volunteer Fire Department Again.
Bruce Neal, 64, who once served as fire chief for a brief period in the late 1980s, has been elected to the top job by his 24 fellow firefighters.
It’s a job that Neal now feels he has the time to assume.
“I’ve got more seniority than the other fellas. And since I’m retired, I can put in the time,” Neal said. “I’ve also got lots of training and can share my experiences with the younger members.”
Neal, who retired in 2001 after working 32 years as a machinist and parts distributor for Cummins, succeeds Jon Ross, who moved to Adams County in northeast Indiana to accept a new job.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Neal said in reference to both Ross and Randy Wood, who alternated as chief for more than 10 years.
Wood feels the department is in capable hands.
“(Neal has) got the years and the experience,” Wood said.
“He’s pretty knowledgeable about everything on the fire
A volunteer firefighter since 1974, Neal also served as a member of the Cummins Emergency Response Team for more than 20 years. The avid auto racing fan, who describes the late pioneer driver Wilbur Shaw as his hero, also applied his firefighting skills for a quarter-century at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
While Neal is probably best known in Hope as an avid collector of Indy racing memorabilia, he also collects firefighting antiques that include two vintage fire engines: a 1947 La France and a 1954 Ahrens-Fox.
As the new head of the Hope Volunteer Fire Department, Neal said his top priorities are ensuring that morale, training and equipment are all kept to the highest possible standards.
Both Neal and Wood are hopeful that firefighter morale will improve when the department moves out of its cramped, dilapidated fire station on Harrison Street into a new, two-story fire station being built at the corner of South and Aiken streets.
While the $700,000 facility originally was expected to be finished late this summer, Neal said the completion date has now been pushed back to the end of the year.
The delay is the result of an agreement that allows the builder to fulfill other long-term contracts first in exchange for a less-expensive rate, Neal said.
Once completed, the new fire station will provide adequate space for training, sufficient height to house an aerial truck and a kitchen that will serve the department’s needs and that of the community, Neal said.
Construction of the new building was part of controversy in the spring about the department’s operations and finances. During meetings in April, Hope Town Council member Tim Shoaf claimed fire officials were being too
In response, fire department treasurer Edwin Stone pointed out that his organization is an independent, not-for profit corporation that is not required to release the same information that government entities must make public.
Shoaf also criticized the awarding of a contract to construct a new fire station to Ross’ brother without publicly revealing the amounts of two other bids.
However, both the current and former fire chiefs maintain Tim Ross was the lowest bidder. Jon Ross’ brother also was chosen for the high quality of work he provided in constructing the Westport fire station, and for long-needed roof repairs he made at the current Hope fire station on Harrison Street, Neal said.
In Neal’s opinion, last spring’s controversy was generated by “small town politics” that often materialize after people with different agendas disagree.
“I really don’t think the community is really up in arms about this,” Neal said. “We’re still very blessed with donations. Seems whenever we put out the word that we’re needing something, the money somehow rolls in.”
One of Neal’s goals as fire chief is to create at least one more popular annual fundraiser that will give Hope residents an enjoyable and memorable experience.
“About all we’ve ever done is a fish fry once a year during the Heritage Days,” Neal said. “I’d like to perhaps do another one every year. We might also do family photos. We also had a haunted house once.”
But fundraising likely will be handled by the department’s Women’s Auxiliary, which includes Neal’s wife, Nancy. Department members already have their hands full with training and other responsibilities, Neal said.
If the department is able to raise enough funds, Neal said he would like to purchase a new fire engine. But that would take a minimum investment of $300,000, the new chief said.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.