Fire department in Ross County receives new equipment thanks to Gary Sinise Foundation

Members of the Jefferson Township Fire Department in Richmond Dale pose with their new equipment (Deborah Ramsey)

RICHMOND DALE, Ohio — There are two things in Richmond Dale, Ohio, that keep the wheels of society moving forward.

The township of less than 1,000 people runs on friendship and faith.

And every once in a while, the two meet.

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"How do I put this?" Deborah Ramsey said. "It was an answer to a prayer that I hoped would be promised."

Ramsey is the squad captain with the Jefferson Township Fire Department. It has 24 volunteers and runs on about 160 calls every year.

"Yeah, it's interesting being on both sides," Jamie Barker said.

Barker is a township trustee and a lieutenant in the fire department. He sees the needs of fire fighters like equipment and resources, but he also sees the reality of a small town budget. The operating budget for the township is a little more than $500,000. Of that, the fire department sees about $37,000.

With old and expiring equipment, replacing it all just wasn't possible.

Fire fighter Ryen Brown suits up with brand new gear (Bryant Somerville - 10TV)

"If we had not gotten this money we would have lost eight fire fighters," Ramsey said.

Ramsey wrote a letter to the Gary Sinise Foundation First Responder Outreach Program, which is designed to help low and underfunded first responder departments.

She sent her letter back in February.

"And thought I'll never hear anything back," Ramsey said.

A good idea. A pipe dream.

"Thinking that the chances of Jefferson Township in southeast Ross County receiving a grant from the Gary Sinise Foundation might be a stretch," Barker said.

The idea to contact the foundation came from Ramsey's husband, Dennis, who is the fire department's chief and was recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The couple has been married 49 years.

Dennis and Deborah Ramsey have been married 49 years (Deborah Ramsey)

"It's heartbreaking," Ramsey said. "He has good days and bad days and, of course, his bad days effect me, too."

In the fall, a response. The foundation was going to pay for everything Ramsey had requested with a grant worth $78,000.

Acting Fire Chief Ryen Brown said it was Christmas morning, looking at eight brand new, self contained breathing apparatus sets with eight spare bottles. Normally, he says the department would be lucky to get one every other year.

Pictures showcased the day the equipment arrived in December. Even Chief Ramsey was there and tried on his new gear.

Fire Chief Dennis Ramsey tries on his new gear thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation. He was recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer (Deborah Ramsey)

The best part is that the life on every piece of equipment is 10 years, which means at least for now trustees can take a sigh of relief knowing no cuts are looming.

"It does, absolutely," Barker said. "A lot."

Barker says the township is also working with the fire department to begin setting aside money each year to replace equipment as needed.

Call it friendship. Call it faith. But this little town of less than 1,000 people is convinced it was a little of both.

The Gary Sinise Foundation sent this statement to 10TV in relation to the grant given to the Jefferson Township Fire Department:

"The Gary Sinise Foundation First Responder Outreach program is designed to be a resource that low and underfunded First Responder departments can utilize. We are more than happy to offer a variety of assistance, including assistance with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is what Jefferson Township Fire & Rescue had requested. All too often there are volunteer Fire, Rescue, EMT, and Law Enforcement departments that are operating with outdated and unsafe equipment, often at risk to their own lives.

Jefferson Township Fire & Rescue had previously been using Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus’ (SCBAs) that were more than a decade old, and when they reached out, their equipment was only a few months away from being un-usable, and rendering their department less effective when responding to emergency calls. Given Jefferson Township Fire & Rescue’s dire need for equipment to help keep these first responders safe, the First Responder Outreach department at GSF was honored to be able to grant assistance and award a First Responder Grant to Jefferson Township Fire & Rescue.

We were able to help these EMTs and Fire Fighters with 8 SCBAs. These community heroes will be able to respond to any emergency without worry of faulty equipment – allowing them to give their full focus and attention to the emergency at hand. We are more than happy to have had this opportunity to provide assistance, and cannot thank the members of Jefferson Township Fire & Rescue, along with First Responders across the country, enough for their service and sacrifices."