Board approves mutual aid agreement

Columbus Board of Public Works members have approved an agreement that would allow the Columbus Fire Department and several nearby fire departments to help each other across jurisdictional boundaries in the event of an emergency.

The agreement would make it easier for fire departments in the Columbus area to provide equipment and personnel to respond to an emergency that exceeds local resources, including tornadoes and floods, said Columbus Fire Chief Andy Lay.

The agreement, which would be in effect until Jan. 1, 2025, is with the fire departments of Edinburgh, Franklin, Seymour, Greensburg, North Vernon, Greenwood, Bloomington, Shelbyville and White River Township, according to a copy of the agreement.

The Columbus Fire Department already has mutual aid agreements in place with every volunteer fire department in Bartholomew County, Lay said.

The agreement states that fire departments that provide equipment to help with an emergency outside of their jurisdiction would remain financially responsible for their equipment should it be lost, stolen or damaged. They also would be liable for the conduct of their employees.

Fire departments also would not charge each other to provide assistance, though departments could charge for reimbursements for hazardous materials cleanups and incidents lasting more than 24 hours, according to the agreement.

Lay said the Columbus Fire Department having an agreement like this in place with out-of-county fire departments would have been helpful when Columbus firefighters were responding to help with a fire that destroyed a building of historical importance on the 400 block of Fifth Street in December.

Columbus firefighters requested to use a ladder truck from the Seymour Fire Department to help with the Irwin Block fire.

“There was a little difficulty because we didn’t have a mutual aid agreement in place,” Lay said. “…This (agreement) is going to help streamline that process.”