fire division

BG council member questions Columbia Gas protocols

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   At least one Bowling Green City Council member is not ready to give Columbia Gas a pat on the back for agreeing to notify the city more promptly in case of an emergency. On Monday evening, Council member Greg Robinette complimented the local response by firefighters to a serious gas leak last month. But he referred to Columbia Gas’ response protocol as “negligent and reckless.” Gas company officials met with city officials and agreed to not wait so long to call the fire division in the case of another leak. But that gave Robinette little comfort. “I’m still quite concerned about Columbia Gas and their internal policies,” Robinette said. “Despite their assurances to do better, I don’t think we should give them a pass.” He referred to comments made by a Columbia Gas official after a leak that allowed natural gas levels to reach explosive levels in downtown Bowling Green. After the leak, Columbia Gas defended its response. Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved. “We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.” Robinette called that statement an “outrageous admission” by Columbia Gas. He cited what he called a “disregard to the safety of residents.” City Council member John Zanfardino asked about the seriousness of the gas leak. “We were like a cigarette lighting away from blowing up a building,” he asked. Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said the gas is “highly explosive” and had reached explosive levels. Moorman reported to City Council the results of a meeting that he and Public Works Director Brian Craft had with Columbia Gas officials days after the downtown leak. Moorman said he and Craft had a very frank conversation with them. “It was made very clear that would never happen again here in Bowling Green,” Moorman said. Columbia Gas officials agreed go beyond their policies and immediately notify Bowling Green Fire Division if gas leaks in the downtown construction area get close to dangerous levels again. On Sept. 13, a leak occurred in the downtown area of South Main Street, where Columbia Gas is replacing old natural gas lines. By the time the fire division was notified, the leaking gas had reached explosive levels, Moorman said. “They did not call us soon enough,” the fire chief said. Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural…

Read More

Fire damages BG home; neighbors try to help with garden hoses

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Lara Martin-Lengel watched as firefighters gathered in the front yard of her home after putting out the fire inside at 1110 Blue Jay this afternoon. “I never thought anything like this could ever possibly happen,” she said as she stood across the street. The house suffered serious damage, but most importantly, Martin-Lengel’s daughter who lived in the house was not home at the time. “Thank God she wasn’t home,” Lengel said of Daniella Fedek-Lengel. The fire call came in around 2 p.m., when neighbors noticed the smoke. Some neighbors attempted to put out the blaze with a garden hose. “When we got here, they were using garden hoses, but the fire was too advanced for them to do anything,” Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. Kyle Hammersmith was passing by the Wood County Fairgrounds when he saw smoke billowing from the scene. He followed the smoke and saw neighbors trying to help. “People were trying to go at the deck, and it was majorly involved in flames,” Hammersmith said. When fire and police arrived on the scene, another neighbor Doug Krieger notified them that a dog also lived in the house. It was later determined the dog was safe with Fedek-Lengel. As she watched from across the street, Martin-Lengel agonized over how the fire might have started. She and her husband, Scott, had been very safety conscious and had a fire safety inspection conducted on the house last December. Though it was too soon to determine the cause of the blaze, Moorman said the fire started in the back of the house, with the attic suffering the most damage. Once the fire was extinguished, crews continued to make sure there were no other hot spots in the house. Once outside, the firefighters shed some of their heavier gear. The chief said the temperatures in the upper 80s take a toll on firefighters. “No day’s a good day to be fighting fire, but when it’s in the 80s, it really taxes the guys,” Moorman said. In addition to Bowling Green Fire Division, Middleton Township Fire Department and Medic 120 also responded to the blaze.  

Pemberville woman driving by alerts family to house fire

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Darla Baker’s desire to take the leisurely drive home Monday evening was fortuitous for a family unaware that their house was on fire. “I don’t have to hurry home,” she remembered thinking as she drove from Perrysburg to her home outside Pemberville. “I’ll take these country roads.” As she drove down Garling Road in Troy Township, she noticed some smoke from behind a house. “I thought they were cooking outside,” Baker said this morning. “But then I thought – that looks a little bit more than a smoking grill.” She took a closer look, and saw the siding on the house was melting. She hadn’t been paying attention to the road signs, so she had to drive to the end of the road to see that it was Garling Road. She called 911 and drove back to the house. Baker, who recently had foot surgery, parked in a neighbor’s driveway and went to rouse the residents where the fire was growing. “I can’t run, so I was hobbling over,” she said. “I beat on the front door and rang the doorbell.” The owner, Steven Kern came to the door, and started trying to put out to fire with a garden hose. That was a futile effort. By that time the neighbors came over and together they got Kern’s wife, Jennifer out of the house in her motorized wheelchair. “You could hear sizzling,” Baker said of the expanding fire. “Then stuff started exploding.” Initially, she thought it might have been a gas grill tank exploding, but it turned out to be multiple oxygen tanks in the home. “It was crazy,” she said. Baker said she asked Kern if they had been grilling out, thinking it possibly caught the house on fire. Kern said they hadn’t been, but that they had been having electrical issues with an addition put onto the home. Both Steven and Jennifer have physical disabilities. “They put the addition on so it was handicapped accessible,” Baker said. One dog was rescued from the home, but two dogs and three cats were lost in the fire. Baker said Jennifer Kern passed out in the neighbor’s driveway, and was transported to a Toledo area hospital. “The fire department got there lickety split,” Baker said of the response by Troy Township Fire Department, which quickly set up a water relay. Neighboring departments joined in the effort to put out the blaze. “The trucks were five deep.” “It was so hot and so windy,” she said. “The house was just melting.” A woodpile at the neighbor’s house caught fire, but was extinguished by firefighters. The Kerns were left with nothing, Baker said, noting the husband had no shoes and neither had their cell phones. Baker, who owns and insurance company in Pemberville, called the Kerns’ insurance to help them find a place to stay. “I stayed with the homeowner until it was out,” shortly after 9 p.m., Baker said. “I felt so bad for him.” “I just keep thinking about it in my head. If I hadn’t stopped, no one else was around,” she said. The oxygen tank explosions roused some neighbors. “But by that time, it was too late.” A neighbor thanked Baker for not just driving by. “He said, ‘Thank God you…

First responders honored for giving opiate addicts second, third and more chances

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Those being honored Monday in the war against opiate abuse weren’t front and center. As usual, they were gathered far from the podium. “The first responders are all in the back of the room,” Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson said. “Frankly that’s where they would prefer to be. They would much rather be out doing their jobs.” Those are the jobs they were being honored for on Monday – saving people from opiate overdoses. “They step into circumstances that we can’t imagine,” Dobson said. “They stand between us and danger in a very real sense on a daily basis.” EMS and law enforcement are being recognized across Ohio this week for saving people who overdose on opiates. In the Wood County Courthouse Atrium, the first responders were thanked by the second and third responders in the opiate crisis. To show appreciation in Wood County, that meant lunches will be delivered to fire and police stations throughout the week by Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “This is basically to say ‘thank you.’ We know it’s difficult work,” said Milan Karna, with the Wood County Prevention Coalition. A video was played, showing people who had been saved by first responders using narcan to revive them after overdoses. The faces thanked the first responders for not giving up on them – even if they had to respond to the same person for multiple overdoses. Tom Clemons, WCADAMHS director, used Dobson’s terminology of this war on opiates creating “refugees” in need of care. “It takes all of us working together on this,” Clemons said. On the front lines of this war are EMS, law enforcement, children’s services, and hospitals. “It is a widely recognized fact that a lot of first responders are putting themselves at risk,” with fentanyl being very dangerous to those treating overdose victims. But the use of narcan is giving opiate addicts another chance at life, Clemons said. “We’re seeing more and more people’s lives saved,” he said. “That’s where recovery begins. Treatment does work and people recover.” Evidence of that is seen with the county’s new Addiction Response Collaboration program through Dobson’s office. Since its inception about four months ago, the program has worked with 35 opiate addicts in Wood County. Of those, seven people have been sober for three months, and three have been sober for four months. That is a good retention rate, according to ARC’s Belinda Brooks. “I don’t think there’s an EMS or law enforcement in the county that hasn’t seen something” of the opiate epidemic, Brooks said. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said his deputies had another save from an overdose this past weekend. He also said it’s not uncommon for the county jail’s holding cells to be doubled up with people detoxing. “I never would have thought I would be carrying narcan in my pocket,” he said, showing the small nasal injector. Wasylyshyn acknowledged that some people are critical of first responders making multiple rescues of the same addicts. “Why do you want to save them,” they ask. Simply because all of them are someone’s son, sister, mother, grandson, the sheriff said. “Gee, maybe you should only save them so many times,” some people…

BG firefighter and wife recognized for saving man’s life

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An off-duty Bowling Green firefighter and his wife were given standing ovations in the City Council chambers Monday evening, for saving a man’s life. Steve and Dawn Tyda stopped a man from jumping off the East Wooster overpass at Interstate 75 last month. The Tydas were on their way home from Columbus, when they pulled off I-75 around 11 p.m. They saw a man standing on the overpass, facing the highway. Steve Tyda turned the vehicle around and went back to the overpass and pulled up next to the man. Dawn Tyda asked the man if he was OK. The man reportedly said, “I’ll be OK in about four seconds when I jump.” “Tyda’s years of service as a firefighter and a paramedic told him he needed to act quickly,” Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said as he retold the story during the council meeting. So Dawn Tyda offered to talk or pray with the man, who turned back to the highway below and leaned over the side. Meanwhile Steve Tyda came up behind the man and tackled him to keep him from going over onto I-75 below. Tyda held him down until police arrived. The man, a 49-year-old Bowling Green resident, was taken to Wood County Hospital where he was checked out by Behavioral Connections. He was transported to Flower Hospital in Sylvania for evaluation. Fawcett commended Steve Tyda for his “selfless and valorous act.” He presented the firefighter with a distinguished service award, for taking a substantial risk to himself to save another person despite the fact Tyda was off-duty at the time. Mayor Dick Edwards also presented a commendation to Dawn Tyda for her efforts in saving the man’s life. “She distinguished herself from the average citizen,” Edwards said. Dawn Tyda put herself at great risk, “buying valuable time,” the mayor said. “Her actions resulted in saving a life.” After the commendations were presented, the mayor noted the number of city firefighters in the council chambers and overflowing into the hallway Monday evening. “Something like this speaks volumes,” Edwards said, pointing out the value of co-workers wanting to be present for the awards. “I was really pleased to see so many of them here.” Also at Monday’s meeting, Edwards announced that the city made it through the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations relatively unscathed. Police Chief Tony Hetrick had reported that “things went rather smoothly.” The mayor received a letter from Bowling Green businessman Bob Maurer complimenting the quick and effective responses by the police division during such occasions, to protect citizens and property. In other business, council learned: The city has hired Amanda Gamby as its new sustainability coordinator. The next food truck meeting will be Monday, March 26, at 4 p.m. Wednesday is “March for Meals,” when officials like the mayor help deliver meals for the Wood County Committee on Aging. A groundbreaking will be held at Betco, at the corner of Fairview and Van Camp roads, on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. The Community Interfaith Breakfast will be on April 3, from 7:15 to 9 a.m., in the junior fair building. The annual adult egg scramble will be held April 6, starting around 8:30 p.m.

Moorman takes roundabout walkabout to get to BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A few words out of Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman, and even his newest “mates” realize he was not born and bred in Northwest Ohio. But few probably know the long winding route that Moorman took from his homeland in Australia to the flatlands of Ohio. Moorman stretched the traditional Australian “walkabout” across several continents and years before ending up in Bowling Green. “It’s almost like a rite of passage for an Australian. You put a backpack on and travel,” he said. For most, though, the trek lasts six months or so. “For me, it’s been 30 years,” the fire chief said. At age 25, Moorman and his brother decided they needed to see the world beyond the borders of their homeland. “Let’s put a backpack on and travel the world,” Moorman said. “So we did that for a couple years.” The brothers wandered their way through Malaysia, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, England, Greece and several other European nations. They stayed at youth hostels or camped along the side of roads. They worked odd jobs along the way, like toiling at a banana plantation in Israel. “You can get work – though it might not be glamorous,” he said. As they drifted, Moorman said they would encounter other travelers who would have suggestions for the next leg of their journey. In Egypt, the pair rented bicycles and peddled on pathways out to the Valley of the Kings. “Going through the Egypt desert on bicycles was interesting,” he said. They sailed up the Nile, climbed Mount Sinai and camped there for a night. The brothers explored the Greek Islands, and spent a month touring Turkey, traveling as far as the Russian border. At some point, Moorman and his brother split ways, with his brother heading to England and Moorman staying to work on a tour yacht and as a scuba guide. Eventually, Moorman found himself in Germany during Oktoberfest. “You have no idea what Oktoberfest is until you go to one in Germany,” he said. It was there that he met an American girl, which led to the next leg of his travels to the U.S. Moorman had grown up at the base of the second highest mountain in Australia, so when he found out that the American girl lived in Walnut Hills in Walbridge, he envisioned rolling hills covered with walnut trees. His expectation was a little off. “The biggest hill was a landfill,” he said, smiling. Moorman, who previously fought “bush fires” in Australia and helped rescue skiers and mountain climbers in his homeland, now fights house fires and rescues people in car accidents. As the new chief of the Bowling Green Fire Division, he is focusing on the constant training of the firefighters. “We train, we train and we train,” he said. But he will never forget the lessons he learned on his elongated walkabout. “It makes you more open and receptive to other people,” Moorman said. “You become a different person. It makes you more tolerant.” “It’s the best education I’ve had,” he said.

BG police & fire train on new strategy for school shootings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Last week while Bowling Green schools were closed for spring break, teams of police officers clad in protective vests and carrying AR-15 air soft training rifles trained in their hallways. By this week, all of the city’s police officers will have gone through rescue task force training. The point of the practice is to prepare police and EMS to work together to get medical help to victims of mass shootings as quickly as possible. “Time is so critical,” Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said. On Friday afternoon, another team of police officers wrapped up their active shooter drill at Crim Elementary School. While they train annually for active shooters, this was the first time that police and firefighters/paramedics trained together. Police trained to go into the “hot zone,” to confront the shooters, and create an area in the nearby “warm zone” for EMS to take care of those injured. “Our entire role in all of this is to train the police officers to make a safe area,” so medical treatment doesn’t have to wait until the entire scene is cleared of risks, Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “Our paramedics are escorted in to treat in the building, and not wait for patients to be brought out to us,” Moorman said. “It’s getting our people into the building faster than normal.” The rescue task force responses to mass shootings do not require EMS personnel to carry firearms. “We are the firefighters’ protection for tactical emergency medical services,” explained Bowling Green Police Deputy Chief Justin White as he stood outside Crim Elementary. The rescue task force training included every police officer and firefighter. “All our officers are getting trained this week,” Hetrick said. “Every single one will go through it,” Moorman said. Each of the training sessions was held in Crim Elementary, though Hetrick said his officers are familiar with every school building in the city. The rescue task force training had been months in the making – long before the shooting in Parkland, Florida. But the timing proved perfect with concerns heightened after 17 students and teachers were killed by the Parkland shooter. “Anxiety is through the roof,” Hetrick said in the days following the Florida school shooting. Immediately after the Parkland school shooting, Bowling Green Police Division increased its foot patrols near local schools and drive-throughs of school parking lots. “We have stepped that up,” Hetrick said during the recent school safety forum held by the school district at the county library. Though the police division does not have enough officers to station them at the schools, Hetrick said the response time averages one to two minutes. The officers are well-equipped, train for active shooter responses, and are familiar with all the school buildings, Hetrick said. Prior to the Columbine school shooting, many police departments waited outside schools during active shooting incidents. Bowling Green police have a policy of “solo engagement,” meaning the first officer on the scene goes in immediately, by himself if necessary. “This is on our minds all the time – what we train for and what we’re equipped for,” Hetrick said. Every officer is equipped with an AR-15 rifle, assault vests and medical kids. “You enter, you find the threat, you neutralize the threat,” the…