Starke County Fire Departments Address Radio Problems with Council, Commissioners

Firefighters from Knox-Center Township, North Judson-Wayne Township, Hamlet-Davis Township, Koontz Lake-Oregon Township, Railroad Township, and Washington Township Departments are pleading with county officials to help fix an ongoing communication problem with radios.

The Hamlet Fire Department was called to a mobile home fire on Monday shortly after midnight at 218 Railroad Street with possible entrapment. Hamlet Fire Chief Brad Hazelton, who is also the Starke County Council President, explained that he was about to send firefighters into the burning building to check for occupants when the radios weren’t working. The 800 mhz system, UHF and VHF methods were silent. Koontz Lake Fire Chief Andy Lawrence said he received a phone call for mutual aid, and had to go to his fire department to tone out other firefighters to assist because the radios aren’t working right.

Lawrence indicated that when a radio test was done Sunday evening, he thought everything was working, but nothing was working when the fire occurred after midnight on Monday.

Lawrence said for the past six years, since the tower went down at the old Starke County Jail facility on Pearl Street in Knox in a fierce wind event, nothing has worked properly. The radio communications company, J&K Communications, claims to have fixed the problem, but the radios don’t work properly and haven’t since that time.

In addition, North Judson firefighters reported problems in the Denham and Railroad Townships areas.

Firefighters also told the county officials that there are times when they can hear other radio communication and other times they cannot.

After much discussion, the Starke County Commissioners and Starke County Council members asked IT Director Richard Franks to talk to the J&K Communication representatives to be in the county today to resolve the problem. If things aren’t remedied, then other action may be taken such as another vendor. Councilman Dave Pearman suggested moving the tower for the Koontz Lake Fire Department to the Washington Township Fire Department for better signal for communication. That will be reviewed.

Lawrence said they need proper working equipment for safety and to do their jobs to the best of their ability. They don’t want to experience a tragedy due to radio issues.

According to Hazelton, the there were no injuries in the fire that occurred Monday. The cause is under investigation with the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office.