Jerusalem Township: Over 75 years, fire fighters made plenty of sacrifices

Kari Myers

The Jerusalem Township Volunteer Fire Department started serving the community in 1944 and is now celebrating 75 years.
 In 1949, the department was officially incorporated by the State of Ohio and has since become The Jerusalem Township Fire Department.
As Chief Tony Parasiliti looks back on the changes and advances in the department over the years, he recalls a number of changes in tactics. Over time, we have learned that fire needs three things to burn: heat, fuel, and oxygen. When Parasiliti started at the department over 35 years ago, they were told to open the house to let out the heat and smoke. Now the department is told to close up the house as much as possible and deprive the fire of oxygen. 
When he first started, firefighters would use a high pressure hose nozzle to spray directly on the fire. Whereas now, they spray the ceiling causing the droplets of water to come down while covering a broader surface area to create a greater cooling effect. Then the firefighters can enter the building. 
There are three levels of certification that firefighters and volunteer firefighters go through that add up to over 400 hours of schooling and training. During all this, volunteers are working regular jobs and attending their classes generally in the evening. After classes are done, they all have a school test to take and a national test to take. 
For emergency medical technicians (EMTs), the training is slightly less vigorous. EMT training is automatically around 170 hours. Then they have to take a state national registry test to be complete in order to get a state certification and a national registry certification as well. On top of all this training, schooling, and testing, the department holds drills every Wednesday, skipping a week here or there for holidays. 
Despite receiving certifications, advances in technology and methods are constantly being introduced, so firefighters and EMS personnel are never done learning and adapting.
“I always enjoy talking to the kids at the schools,” Parasiliti said, “I try to explain to them that you’re having education now and then you’ll have a summer vacation then you start up again. Well, for firefighters or EMTs it’s just ongoing, it doesn’t stop.”
When the hype settles…
The fire department is not limited to stopping fires. In fact, the Chief recalls some of his more rewarding calls to not involve a fire at all. 
One case was when the department got a call for an OB delivery where the mother had delivered her child by herself in her bathroom. Parasiliti felt proud to take part in that experience and to know that the training and education that they all go through was utilized and led to a successful call. 
Another memorable call was one they received for a woman who was 100-years-old. This woman had a minor tear of skin and couldn’t communicate well due to her age and other deficiencies. This was particularly unforgettable because her family told them that she had played the organ and piano at the Valentine Theater during the time of silent movies. 
While these are happy stories, the department faces many challenging rescues all the time — such as auto accidents. 
When the hype of the call settles, after victims have been rushed off, after the rescue squads have done everything by the book and followed their training, rescuers are able to stand back and really take in the gravity of the scene. 
After a head-on collision, the Chief recalls a scene where the engine block of a vehicle had ripped itself from the frame and rolled around a hundred yards down the road. 
“Now, can you imagine the force and energy it takes to rip that out and have that amount of metal rolling down the road?” Parasiliti said.
Of the 265 square miles that is the Jerusalem Township, 235 square miles is occupied by bodies of water ranging from creeks to Lake Erie. There is a certain amount of responsibility that the department has when it comes to water rescues and flooding. Therefore, they have six qualified divers to dive under ice should that be necessary. The department has a number of different watercraft meant for water and ice rescue. 
There was a large ice rescue call that came in with a report of 500 persons on the ice when it started to break. After people noticed the breaking, a number of citizens got off the ice on their own, but for those who didn’t, the department spent eight hours of the day using helicopters and boats to shuttle 134 persons off the water. 
In preparation for impending flooding, the department plans on meeting with the board of trustees to prepare more sandbags to go with the stash they already have available. 
Due to the complexity with emotions in this job, how traumatizing certain situations can be, and the fact that it’s a 24-hour job, it’s difficult to find people who are willing to stay dedicated to the job. The department once had 34 people altogether, but now only has 25 people who work on call around the clock. They struggle to get enough people to show up for a call and often call in other local departments for assistance with equipment, water supply, or personnel. 
Volunteers must be willing to sacrifice certain events with family or their sleep schedules in order to truly commit themselves to this profession. 
“The job is very rewarding,” Parasiliti said. 


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