REELSVILLE -- Every month, the Reelsville Volunteer Fire Department hosts a community breakfast and fundraiser. This Saturday, while that meal was being eaten, firefighters were being trained on the other side of the building.
The dining area in the fire department wasn't packed around 9:40 a.m., but over 20 people braved the frigid weather to come to the breakfast. Although no indications for what an acceptable donation were visible, the bills being slid into the donation box seemed to be of the $10 and $20 variety.
Reelsville fire chief Jon McPherson said that fundraising events are one of the three main ways the department brings in money.
"We do fundraisers and we get some money from property tax, but the state is cutting into that every year," McPherson said. "I also write a lot of grants. That's how we got most of our gear, through grants."
McPherson said that on a good day, the breakfasts can bring in $700 to $800. McPherson said that that was unlikely today; most of the good fundraising days happen during nicer weather.
While the breakfast was going on Cloverdale's fire chief Kerry Sheperd, along with help from Jeff Mace of the Greencastle Fire Department were doing training for District Seven, which Putnam County is a part of. The training first involved a presentation and then a hands-on demonstration.
McPherson explained that Indiana has divided the state into districts to manage funding and training better.
"The state funds through those districts," McPherson said. "The state has 10 districts so they break it down some, so the funding comes through the districts and not just through the counties."
The training in the back was focusing a variety of techniques for getting people out of cars. Sheperd explained different ways of dealing with the glass in an automobile, and the different ways the glass was designed to work. Windshield glass is designed to remain in long pieces that remain attached to each other, while window glass is designed to fall into smaller pieces.
They also discussed different ways of dealing with batteries in cars. Sheperd said that even when a battery is cut, there still might be power going to a car for up to 30 minutes.
"I was on one accident where the horn was stuck on," Sheperd joked. "We got that battery cut pretty fast."
Mace and Sheperd both talked about the need for caution around more modern vehicles. Side airbags, seat sensors and hybrid vehicles can all present unique challenges when someone wants to quickly extract a person from a vehicle.
After the presentation, everyone at the class drove to Seniour's Auto Salvage, where some vehicles waited to be used for practice. The initial plan was to try hydraulic rescue tools on the cars, forcing a way into already wrecked vehicles, to give hands-on experience.
The cold weather put a kink in the plan though. The motor to run the device wouldn't start right away. So people took turns cutting through the glass of the windshield while the wind howled and everyone waited for that engine to warm up.
The dedication to learn the craft of firefighting, which is needed to stand around in the low teens waiting for machinery to warm up, is also reflected in Reelsville's current firefighters, who have to plan their fundraising attempts around their other jobs.
"We all work full time jobs on top of this. We all have (families). We don't get much sleep, but we love it," McPherson said.