PHOTOS BY CHRISTINA McCUNE | DGKN
Instead of a ribbon being cut, a firehose was uncoupled to mark the grand opening of the new Kidron Volunteer Fire Department station during an open house event.
Residents crowd the apparatus bays at the new station.
The Kidron Volunteer Fire Department station before it was torn down in 2021.
The new Kidron Volunteer Fire Department station at the dedication.
KVFD Chief Jon Peters.
PHOTO BY RANDY FATH
Current and former KVFD volunteers.
PHOTO BY RANDY FATH
Former KVFD members.
A tour inside the station.
Reuben Troyer from Apple Creek Fire Department.
KIDRON Consistent themes run through the 70-year history of Kidron’s Volunteer Fire Department, and generosity and sense of community seem to stand out.
In the earlier part of the 20th century, the community depended on the hardware store owner and his fire extinguishers for fire protection. The loss of a barn sparked the community’s interest in forming a fire department. When Orrville Fire Department wasn’t able to arrive in time to save a burning barn, an interest was sparked to form a fire department in Kidron to cover a 16-square mile response area.
“The community gathered for the project,” Kidron Fire Chief Jon Peters told the large crowd on a warm and sunny afternoon May 21 just outside the open apparatus bay doors of the recently completed fire station.
At the corner of Kidron and Emerson roads, the new station had a more than $3 million price tag and the community pitched in to pay for it. In December, local businesses came together on behalf of KVFD for an appreciation/fundraiser dinner and noted that donations had reached 79 percent of the $3.2 million goal. Hundreds of people gathered and an anonymous donor offered to pay off the balance.
Peters, who has been chief for two years since taking the reins from Doug Reeder, highlighted some of the most interesting historical facts about the department during the new station’s dedication and open house.
“In 1951, Kidron Community Fire Department bought its first fire engine,” Peters continued in his remarks to the audience. “Earl Bixler owned the property here on the corner of Kidron and Emerson Road along with a small building containing his barber shop and a bus garage. Earl offered to house the fire truck and soon he built two additional bays for the community. Eddie Lehman was appointed as fire chief and the department was off and running.”
A few fun facts about the early days included that 200 milk cans stored at the Kidron Auction barn were filled with water from an artesian well and volunteers brought their flat-bed feed trucks to take the cans to be poured into a portable tank for the fire engine to pump water from there.
The first chicken barbecue fundraiser was in August 1957. The popular event continues to draw residents and visitors from around the area and is known for selling out.
Over time, as older equipment was replaced and updated, the department literally outgrew the walls of the station. The building was renovated over and over to make room for the larger trucks but eventually a leaking roof, heating system that needed to be replaced and maxed-out storage prompted KVFD to consider the possibility of an entirely new station to continue operating. Building and finance committees were formed and everyone got to work. There was some shifting as the department operated out of a temporary building while the new station was being built. But over the course of just a year, the new station was completed.
“In the end we have a beautiful new station with plenty of room,” Peters said. “On freezing nights, our firefighters can wash in heated truck bays any remaining carcinogens from the smoke, and firefighters can wash off in the station showers instead of taking it home to our families. We have a separate locker room for our fire gear so we no longer have to worry about hazardous residual. The environment is safer for everyone involved. In the end this could never be possible without our whole community’s support. Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
Peters also gave a “shout out” to former firefighter Roger Geiser and his wife, Betty, who provided donations to have a museum attached to the station.
“Just so happy that everybody has stepped up and helped us out,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without our whole community.”
Peters noted that KVFD has had 125 on its roster since it formed. The department now has 30 members. Names of members are listed on plaques on the walls inside the station. Peters recognized Bob Romey as the only remaining original firefighter.
Many KVFD past and present members as well as members from area fire departments attended the open house and dedication.
Dick Wolf, director of Kidron Community Historical Society’s Heritage Center, provided the dedication and prayer. Reuben Troyer from Apple Creek Volunteer Fire Department presented to Peters a plaque with the firefighters’ prayer and the date of the station dedication.
“I’m here with a small token from your neighbors to the west noting this opening and goals reached in this station dedication,” he said. “This effort from the community is an inspiration and a great example to all of us in the fire and EMS service… This is not just a piece of wood but it’s a true testament to our relationship that we can have between our two departments.”
People lined up throughout the three-hour open house for guided tours of the station. Several tour groups of 10 to 12 at a time were taken through by several volunteers. Capt. Troy Shaum, who has been a volunteer for 16 years, was one of the members who provided tours to groups. He called the public event a “hats off to the community for all they’ve done for us.” Groups made their way down hallways and peeked inside rooms including where the gear is washed and dried, a conference room which is also a safe room, the kitchen, lounge room, work room, exercise room, showers, and meeting room for training and monthly meetings.
Cake was served to mark the occasion and, unlike the previous station, the truck bays were spacious enough to accommodate many tables and chairs set up as well as the apparatus at the same time.
“It shows what the community can do,” said John Sprunger, who was voted in 1961 to be Kidron’s fire chief and also was Wayne County’s first registered EMT. “The building was provided by the generosity of the community.”