An Indiana Township volunteer fire department could get a reprieve after being suspended in the wake of claims that firefighters responded to a call after drinking alcohol and backed a truck into a pole, officials said Monday. The Indianola Volunteer Fire Department replaced its chief and president in hopes of saving the department. Two former Indianola chiefs will take over the department.
T.R. Hays was voted the new chief, and Mitch Kovel was named assistant chief at a meeting last week.
“We’re arranging a meeting with the township, and we hope we can resolve this,” said Kovel, 62, who had served as chief for 22 years before stepping down in 2000. “It was obvious the township wasn’t happy with the previous administration, and we had to do something.”
Two weeks ago, Indiana supervisors unanimously voted to decertify the 54-year-old department after a police investigation in response to a March 5 mulch fire. Supervisors said firefighters responded to the fire after drinking, and then-Chief Sandy Koski backed a fire truck into a telephone pole.
Koski resigned as chief, and her husband, Mike Koski, quit as president at a meeting. Both will remain firefighters in the department.
“I’m upset, but I’ll be all right,” Sandy Koski said. “I voluntarily stepped down. I can’t get into any more discussion of it than that.”
Indiana supervisors said they were unaware of the leadership change but are willing to consider reinstatement.
“We’d have to make sure all the problems are fixed,” Supervisor Dan Taylor said. “It’s definitely not a closed door. With new leadership — it will be something to look at. I’d want to set up face-to-face meetings with the new leadership.”
Most of the officers and other people in administrative posts also were replaced in the shakeup. Kovel’s wife, Jackie, will take over as president.
The March 5 incident unfolded just after 3 a.m., when Indianola responded to a small mulch fire outside Emery Tree Service Inc. on Hershey Road. No one was hurt and the fire was extinguished, but township officials said it was the last straw for a department that had prior problems.
Indianola was one of four volunteer fire departments in Indiana. Dorseyville and Rural Ridge volunteer fire departments are now covering Indianola’s territory.
“We’re just trying to salvage the fire company if we can,” Mitch Kovel said. “I’m disappointed by the whole scenario.”
By Bobby Kerlik
Tuesday, May 23, 2006