UNIOPOLIS — The small village of Otway in southwestern Ohio was fortunate to not have any deaths in its community during the March 2 tornado outbreak that ravaged the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys as well as much of the south. However, fate wasn’t as kind to much of the equipment at the volunteer Otway Fire Department.
An EF-0 tornado was confirmed in the Otway area, with a department that serves the small community and the other residents of Brush Creek Township totaling approximately 90 residents. Among the damage, the building used to house the fire department was destroyed, causing damage to its already outdated equipment.
In one a twist of fate, an otherwise ominous event bore some fruit. The Uniopolis Fire Department, which had been trying to sell its 1981 Chevrolet fire truck in anticipation of the arrival of a new truck in a month, heard about the need of the Otway Fire Department from Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Troy Anderson. Uniopolis Fire Chief Kelly Knutzen was quickly put in touch with Otway Fire Chief Rich Gambill. A deal was struck to donate the truck to the city of Otway for their fire department.
The donation was a Godsend to Otway, whose entire fire department had been pushed out of service due to the storm.
“This will really help us a lot,” Otway volunteer foreman Brandon Shirey said. “It is really appreciated by our department.”
Shirey said while no one lost their lives in their area, the storm did cause a lot of damage that has put the community into a rebuilding mode.
“There are two homes right across from the department that had their roofs tore off,” Shirey said. “The roof on the former Otway School, which is now a community center, was tore off.”
The donation not only provided the Otway with a truck, it provided them with a substantial improvement. The Otway Fire Department had currently been using a 1987 converted milk truck that pumped 1,500 gallons but had a damaged pump. The truck donated by the village of Uniopolis provides them with the ability to pump 2,000 gallons and move the truck with a fire as opposed to having to sit in one place.
“This is really appreciated,” Shirey said. “We can’t thank these guys enough.”
Shirey and Gambill traveled to Uniopolis Wednesday morning to pick up the truck in Uniopolis.
Knutzen said it was great to help a small community that was truly thankful.
“They have been truly grateful,” Knutzen said.
The truck had been put up for sale on Craig’s List and in several fire trader magazines, but they had not received any offers for more than a month. While the donation leaves the department without a truck until the new one arrives, Knutzen said the residents should not see any reduction in services.
“We have good communication in Auglaize County and mutual aid is close,” Knutzen said. “There will not be a problem with fire protection.”