Although he’s retired as chief of the Woodville Township Volunteer Fire Department, Paul Heineman is still spending time at the fire station on E. Main Street – as a township trustee.
Heineman, who’d been chief of the department since 1991 and a member since 1963, won a seat on the Woodville Township board of trustees in the November election.
Although he didn’t see a problem with holding both the chief’s post and a trustee seat, the other trustees saw a possible conflict of interest. So Heineman agreed to relinquish the chief’s office, which is located across the hall from the room where the trustees hold their meetings.
“Time goes fast,” Heineman said of his years with the department. “When I first became captain of the rescue unit we were using basic American Red Cross first aid. Things have evolved over the years and now we’re emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Even the firefighter level training has expanded substantially over the years. We also have to have continuing education credits now in both the fire service and emergency medical service.
“It’s really hard to expect the volunteers to do all this because so many have families and have to have two incomes. But we have dedicated people. Our roster now is about 32 on average.”
William Andrews, the department’s assistant chief and a member of the department for more than 20 years, was named to replace Heineman.
“He’s relatively new to the book work. So I’m helping him out. I’m still on the department roster but more behind the scenes. The department is in a good position as far as equipment. We’ve been pro-active in that over the years and methodically replaced older equipment.”
Community support of the department’s pancake and sausage breakfast – a tradition in town since around 1980 – as well as other fundraisers has helped the department with many of the equipment purchases.
“The people have been very generous to us over the years,” Heineman said. “Several people routinely donate to the breakfast and farmers give us hogs for the sausage. The Fremont Federal Credit Union sponsors a breakfast for us every year and pays for all our supplies. That type of support is extremely gratifying.”
The department recently launched a new fire safety program that will include inspectors making visits to local businesses.
“That’s going to be a big, big plus,” Heineman said. “We’ve been building on it for quite some time. We had to lay the legal groundwork first and adopt the Ohio Building Code. After that our fire inspectors got their training and they’re still training. They’ve been going out and doing some public speaking at business association meetings and explaining what we’re going to be doing. We’re giving fire extinguisher training and it’s been very well received.”
As of last week, Heineman had about four meetings as a trustee under his belt. He reasoned his experience as a chief and a business owner – he operated a funeral home for more than 35 years - would be a good background for the office of trustee.
“I know something about budgets and financing,” he said. “I thought maybe I could do some good. I’m still feeling my way along and looking the township budget over.”
Even his early days as a funeral director gave him a vantage point into emergency medical service. That was a time when hearses doubled as ambulances by switching a few pins in the back so they could accommodate stretchers instead of coffins.
“For 28 years I ran an ambulance from the funeral service,” Heineman said. “Then the federal government started the Medicare program and they required a different type of vehicle and training.”
The department recently recognized him for his years of service with a tribute dinner.
“It was very humbling and very much appreciated,” he said. “They did some really nice things for me and my wife.
Matt Hasenfratz, a firefighter/paramedic with the department, called Heineman “a huge asset to our department, town/township and at the county level.”