By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
Fire Chief Aaron Greathouse assumed his new position and responsibilities for the Licking City/Rural Fire Department in April, after the retirement of Jimmy Sherrill.
Greathouse has been in fire service for 15-years, and in addition to his volunteer position with the Licking Fire Department, he is also a career Lieutenant for the City of St. Robert Fire Department.
Greathouse was in middle school on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was struck.
“That event and the days after set my life in motion,” he said. “After moving to the area in 2008, I began volunteering for the Roby Volunteer Fire Department. This is where I fell in love with firefighting. Being able to help others in their time of need is a big reason why I do this job. I have a desire to help.”
Beginning his volunteer service in 2008, he has served with the Doolittle Fire Protection District, Licking Volunteer Fire Department, Raymondville Volunteer Fire Department and Roby Volunteer Fire Department.
Greathouse became a career firefighter at the Rolla Rural Fire Protection District before leaving for his current position at City of St. Robert Fire Department. He also has an Associate Degree in Information Technology and a Bachelor Degree in Cyber Security.
Volunteering or being a career firefighter requires family and home life sacrifice. Emphasizing family support, he says, “Being a fire family is quite difficult at times; missed dinners and special occasions, going alone to every family function and people start to wonder if we are even still married because they never see me. It is not just me volunteering for this department, but my family too. Without their support and unwavering understanding that others might need me, I couldn’t be the Fire Chief. The fire life is all they’ve ever known and they do it with so much grace and understanding!”
The Fire Chief’s family includes “my amazing wife, Tessa; she and I have been married for just shy of 12 years but together for close to 15,” he responds. “And we have two beautiful daughters, Joselyn, 10, and Emberly, 4.”
Greathouse’s credentials include: Firefighter I and Firefighter II, Hazmat Awareness, Hazmat Operations, Instructor I, CPR Basic Life Support, Emergency Medical Technician – B, Handling LP Gas Emergencies, Emergency Vehicle Operator, Storm Spotter, Incident Command System – (100, 200, 700), Extrication Technician, Large Machinery Rescue, Pump Operations and Instructor II – in progress.
These many qualifications prepare Greathouse for his current responsibilities as Fire Chief. When asked what his duties with the Licking City/Rural Fire Department are, he replied, “Maintaining internal control, discipline, command and administration of the fire department. I also provide administrative direction and leadership for all functions, operations and personnel, through the supervision of volunteers and review of their activities. I review the general operation of the department to determine efficiency, providing direction on projects and areas to improve, planning for the future of the department, developing and implementing policies and procedures, and providing policy guidance.”
He continued, “I am responsible, through study and consultation with the Rural Board and City Council, for developing recommendations for the protection of life and property within the response area. I also attempt to keep up with the most current developments within the fire service by attending courses, doing research, or being affiliated with such organizations as the Texas County Chiefs’ Association, which provide the channels of communication and exchange of information to maintain appropriate levels of proficiency for acceptable levels of administration and management of the fire department.”
As seen in the Run Report published monthly in The Licking News, the volunteer fire department assists with structure fires, brush fires, landing zones, motor vehicle accidents, ambulance assists, fire alarms, search and rescues, storm damage and assessments, LP or natural gas emergencies, and mutual aid calls to nearby fire departments. The Run Report, department information, events, ongoing training and educational posts are also located on the Licking Rural Fire Department Facebook page.
Department participation in community events and educational opportunities include Rodeo Weekend, July 4th celebrations, Christmas Parade, Truck Pulls, and Fire Prevention at area schools and daycares.
His decision to become the Licking City/Rural Fire Chief was influenced by the desire to help the community.
“I want to build on the foundation the previous chiefs have left,” said Greathouse. “To continue making improvements and bring up another generation of firefighters. I want these men and women to see that it is possible to make this a career if that’s what you want. It takes hard work and determination but it is possible.”
Due to a very limited budget, there is an immediate need for structural firefighting gear, self-contained breathing apparatuses, and other necessary equipment that is out of service. Greathouse hopes to continue building the fire department by applying for grants and other funding through local, state and federal agencies.
Donations from stores like Harbor Freight (mechanic tools) to local agencies (hoses, nozzles, pressure washer, medical bags, mobile radios, etc.) have helped with some of the need.
A very beneficial application has been purchased and implemented recently. Greathouse explains, “ActiveAlert is an application on our volunteers’ phones that will alert them if there is a call to service and they can either select ‘responding’ or they can select ‘out of service’ if they are unable to come to the call. We can quickly see who is responding and be able to make decisions on asking for mutual aid from other departments. This application also has a mapping service where we can add hydrants, landing zones or other items as markers for all volunteers to see.”
Fire protection is provided by the Licking City Fire Department within the city limits of Licking. If you live outside the city limits of Licking, fire protection is provided by the Licking Rural Fire Department, which is a dues-based fire department, and you are not taxed for fire protection. The dues, which are payable each year to the fire department, prevent charges for services provided by the department in the event of a fire. If you have questions contact 573-889-8167.
“This is a 100 percent volunteer-based department,” says Aaron. “I would like to grow the roster. Currently we have about 10 volunteers that run the majority of the calls. Emergency services are no stranger to burnout and PTSD. We need our volunteers healthy and one way to ensure this is making sure each of them has the personal time they need.
“In a volunteer department this means the need for more First Responders so the same 10 do not feel obligated to come to every call or event. If we can get more personnel that are showing up and putting in some work that will make everyone’s load lighter. We are very proud of our current volunteers that are answering the call.
“Volunteering can mean things beyond the firefighter side. We have several jobs and could utilize different backgrounds of anyone wanting to volunteer. We need drivers, event coordinators, grant writers, data entry/bookkeepers, mechanics, medical professionals, Auxiliary and many others. If you would like to volunteer or pay your membership dues, please reach out to our Facebook page at Licking Rural Fire Department or contact us at 573-889-8167.”
Photos by Christy Porter and Rick Duncan