Indiana University students offer cost-saving advice to rural fire districts

  • June 5, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University graduate students are suggesting a range of reforms aimed at lowering the cost and enhancing the efficiency of rural fire service in Monroe County.

The students in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs were asked by four townships -- Benton, Bloomington, Salt Creek and Van Buren -- to develop a strategy for speeding response times by firefighters while reducing the cost of the service.

They’ve recently submitted a 107-page report to the townships outlining options to grow revenue:

  • Expand ambulance service. The revenue would come from insurance companies, not residents, and an Indiana township offering this service generates about $500,000 annually.
  • Charge inspection fees for new developments. The townships currently offer free fire code inspections, but this could provide a lucrative revenue stream with the anticipated increase in building due to the construction of I-69. The students estimate Van Buren would have netted about $1,800 in 2013 if there was a fee for inspection.
  • Work together to win state and federal grants. The SPEA students suggest the townships pool resources in an effort to earn grant money that could pay for new equipment and training.

Because of Monroe County’s hilly terrain and winding roads, firefighters want to lower their response times to better serve the growing rural population. To accomplish that, the students made these suggestions:

  • Purchase new trucks and other equipment jointly in order to get price breaks. The students created an equipment list with anticipated replacement dates to simplify this process. “A local supplier of fire trucks has indicated that a bulk order of three units would lower the cost by $6,000 per unit,” according to the report.
  • Consolidate the four township departments into a single fire territory so equipment can be best positioned. The students created a geographic information system model to use as a basis for future discussions.

“The students have based these ideas on an enormous amount of research,” said SPEA assistant professor Justin Ross. He directed the project through what is called a capstone class. It brings students from several academic areas together to develop solutions on behalf of a client similar to the service provided by a paid consultant.

The SPEA group outlined the suggestion for a fire territory at a public information session in April at the Monroe County Fairgrounds. Several state representatives as well as town officials and interested citizens attended.

Now that the towns have the full report, the students say all the affected parties, including firefighters, residents and community leaders, should begin discussions about how to reshape rural fire service. Reporters may contact Jim Hanchett, 812-856-5490 or, or Steve Hinnefeld, 812-856-3488 or, for a copy of the report.

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Jim Hanchett

  • School of Public and Environmental Affairs
  • Office 812-856-5490