History of South Vienna

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Those who protect and keep the Village safe

Fire Department

The South Vienna Fire Department was organized as a volunteer group in 1912, and it was the first volunteer fire department in Clark County. The original firehouse was located in the lower level of the town hall building at 16 N. Urbana St. The South Vienna Fire Department was not only responsible for protecting the village, but they also had to protect Harmony Township. The township paid the village a fee of about three hundred dollars per year, and in return the village provided fire service to the township. This agreement remained in effect until the mid 1950’s, when the village could no longer afford to maintain the department’s equipment. The village engine had become outdated and unreliable, so the village decided that they could no longer protect the township without new equipment. In 1957, under pressure from village council, the township purchased a new engine, and in 1958 the department officially became the Harmony Township Fire Department. In 1968 the department moved from the North Urbana Street location to 8 East Main Street, which would be the home of the department until 1997, when Harmony Township built a new building just outside of the village. This building houses the fire department, township vehicles, and township offices. There are currently 34 members of the Harmony Township Fire Department. The Harmony Township Fire Department has had six chiefs since the department formed in 1958. Russell Smith was the department’s first chief, and he had also been chief when the department was the South Vienna Fire Department. Mr. Smith retired from the department in November of 1958. Dana Stites became the second chief of the department in 1958, and held that post until 1966. Mr. Stites remained a firefighter with the department until 2003, when he became a reservist. Gary Cochrun was chief of the department from 1967 – 1972. He is now a resident of Moorefield Township, and he is a member of that fire department. Ralph Phares was chief from 1973 – 1976, when he retired from the department. Richard Smith, the son of Russell Smith, was chief from 1977 – 1981, when he retired from the department. Warren Smith, Richard’s brother, became the third member of the Smith family to be the chief of the department in 1981. He remained chief until he retired on Dec. 31, 2008. He was replaced by Denny Paul, who still holds the position in 2014. In order to be a member of the department, a prospective firefighter must have at least 36 hours of class work. Once the firefighter becomes a member of the department he or she must have 20 hours of training per year, 12 of which is rescue training. After two years, rescue training is reduced to 8 hours per year. This mandatory training was not always required of the firefighters. When the department first began in 1912, there was no training to speak of. Firefighters basically just showed up when there was a fire. In the early 1960’s prospective firefighters started taking T & I (Trade and Industrial) classes that were mandated by the State of Ohio, but department training remained sporadic at best. In the mid 1970’s Captain Warren Smith became training officer, and he instituted mandatory training for all members which is still in place today. There have been many changes in the apparatus used by the department since its beginning. The original equipment was two 2-wheel 35 gallon cylinders pushed by manpower. Eventually, a 1938 Dodge engine with a 350 gallon per minute pump was acquired, and used until 1958. The department also had a tanker with a 250 gallon per minute pump and a 1800 gallon tank. This tanker remained in service until 1978.

Warren Smith

                                 1961 T & I CLASS 

                   Dana Stites, Chief; J. Heinzen,

                   Instructor; Fred Sheerin, Asst. Chief;

                   A. R. Fife, Marshall Vannatta, Lowell

                   Baldwin, Robert Campbell, Merrill

                   Weller, Ray Martin, Don Lambert, 

                   E. Horton, Gary Cochran, S. Culwell

Harmony Township purchased a new International Harvester engine in 1957 for $14,000 that replaced the 1938 Dodge.  Eventually, this engine was fitted with a larger tank and remained in service until the late 1980’s.  The department’s first brush truck was purchased from Wright Patterson Air Force Base for $210.  The truck was a former military vehicle that had four-wheel drive.  Many volunteer hours and $790 made the “Folly” a very efficient vehicle for fighting field fires.  In 1967, the department added a second International Harvester engine.  This engine was purchased for $13,028.  A new International Harvester tanker was purchased for $12,800 in 1978.  It was originally a Marathon Oil tanker, and after two years in service a custom tank was mounted on the chassis by the Wilco Company in Kenton, Ohio.  This tanker is still used by the department today.  In 1983, the department decided a new brush truck was needed to replace the “Folly”.  A 1983 Chevrolet truck chassis was purchased by the township, and the rest of the truck was built by the firefighters thems4elves for about $15,000.  About 2000, the truck was repainted and a lift kit was put on, and the truck is still being used.  About the same time the firefighters also built an air trailer to be pulled by the brush truck.  This was one of the first vehicles of its kind, and it allowed air bottles to be filled at the scene of a fire.  A new engine was purchased in 1986.  It was a Pierce engine with an International Harvester chassis.  This engine replaced the 1967 engine and remained in service until 2003.  In the late 1980’s the township, in a joint venture with Pleasant Township, purchased a rescue vehicle.  This truck was purchased from the Springfield Township Fire Department and transported the jaws of life and other rescue equipment.  This vehicle cost about $2,500.  A new 1987 engine was purchased from a department in Hicksville, New York for $25,000.  It is a Sutphen Custom, and it was fitted with a new tank and repainted for $22,000, and is still in use.  A new rescue truck was purchased in 1999 for $134,000, replacing the truck purchased from Springfield Township.  In 2000, a new support trailer was purchased by the department for $3,400.  It replaced the air trailer, plus it is able to carry spill containment equipment.  A new custom made Sutphen engine was purchased in 2003 with a 2,000 gallon per minute pump and a 2,500 gallon tank.  This engine cost $350,000 and replaced the engine purchased in 1986.

     The department relies on dispatchers to relay calls for help to the members of the department.  Originally dispatchers were only equipped with a phone and a switch that was wired to a warning siren on top of the old town hall.  When a call came, the siren would be activated, and the dispatcher had a list of firefighters to call.  By the mid 1970’s, the dispatchers had two-way radios that would alert firefighters, who had boxes in their homes, of incoming calls.  By the mid 1980’s, firefighters were equipped with pagers that they could carry with them anywhere.  In 1989, a repeater was installed in South Vienna that boosts the radio signal at least 20 miles.  This repeater is shared by Harmony, Madison, and Pleasant townships.  Today most members of the department have portable two-way radios that allow them to communicate with the dispatchers. 


     The department first added an Emergency Medical Division in the mid 1970’s. Before this service was added, funeral home vehicles were called in to transport people to the hospital.  Later, Pleasant Township purchased an ambulance and they covered emergencies in the village and the township.  Once the township decided to add a squad to the department some members were trained to be EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technician’s).  The first squad vehicle was purchased in 1977 for $18,000.  The township has had three other vehicles since 1977.  The second squad was purchased in 1986 for $61,000, the third was purchased in 1997 for $117,000, and the current vehicle was purchased in 2005 for $168,000.  There have been six chiefs of the Emergency Medical Division .The first was William Lawson who served as chief from 1976-1984, when he retired from the department.  James Wren has been chief twice, from 1984-1987 and again from 1990-1991, and is still a member of the department as a firefighter and an EMT.  James Holland served as chief from 1987-1989.  He is also still a member of the department as a firefighter and an EMT.  Doug Runyan was chief from 1990-1991, and he retired from the department soon after.  Joe Clark followed from 1991-2001, and still serves as a firefighter.  Patsy Rucker became chief in 2001 and continues to hold the position.

Fire Chiefs & Squad Chiefs
Russell Smith, mid-1950s   William Lawson  1958 - 1966
Dana Stites, 1958 - 1966  James Wren 1967 - 1962
Gary Cochrun, 1967 - 1972  * James Holland, 1987 - 1989
Ralph Phares, 1973 - 1976  *  Doug Runyan, 1989 - 1990
Richard Smith, 1977 - 1981  *   James Wren, 1990 - 1991
Warren Smith, 1981 - 2008  *  Joe Clark, 1991 - 2001
Denny Paul, 2009 - Present  *  Patsy Rucker, 2001 - 2012

The men & women who serve & protect the Village of South Vienna are greatly appreciated by the residents for their sacrifices and bravery. These Firefighters & Police Officers are one of many reasons that the residents love living in the Village.

During the 1920's, Chet Davy patrolled the streets of South Vienna on a motorcycle.  A night watchman patrolled the village during the 1930's, 40's, and 50's, with Pearl McCann,Mac McWilliams, Howard Mershon, Jack Benston, and John Sheets holding this position.  They patrolled the streets from midnight until daybreak, during the hours when the street lights were turned off, except for the one under the traffic light in the center of town. The South Vienna Police Department was created in 1979, by Mayor John Kennedy and Council in an attempt to curtail vandalism and speeding by motor vehicles, which had become problems within the village.  At first, the mayor and council wanted to contract police protection from other departments. Catawba was the first department contacted, and it was hoped that South Vienna could use Catawba’s officer and patrol car, and in return South Vienna would pay Catawba a fee.  Catawba informed the council that they were not satisfied with their officer, and they did not feel that South Vienna would want him to patrol the village.  In a second attempt to contract police services, the council contacted the Clark County Sheriff.  The sheriff’s office was willing to give the village a deputy, but they could not provide a patrol car. Village officials decided that it would be best for the village to form their own police department. In June of 1979, council learned that the village might be able to obtain a police officer through a CETA grant.  CETA would pay to send the officer to school if the village would provide a patrol car.  In August, the village learned that they were eligible for the CETA grant, and, in September, council started to look for a patrol car.

In October of 1979, council approved the purchase of a patrol car from the state, and in March of 1980 council decided to buy radar for the car.  It was also decided, in March 0f 1980, to set up a mayor’s court for traffic violations.  For the next year and a half the village used the officers provided by the CETA grant, along with a couple of part-time officers.  Once the CETA money ran out   council had to decide if they were going to continue to operate the department. For a short period of time patrol ceased, but in 1982 the department was given new life and a new chief. 

     At this time, new mayor Henrietta Hocter and the council hired John Sims as police chief.  Chief Sims had been a part-time member of the department since 1980, and had held a commission on the Clark County Sheriff’s Department since 1972.  Chief Sims brought order to the department by establishing a records section, a regular patrol for the village, a standard uniform for the department, and a 24 hour police emergency phone in his residence.  Under Chief Sims, the department grew to three part-time officers, six auxiliary officers, an explorer program, and two patrol cars.  Chief Sims also helped get a police levy passed that brought improvements to the department.  In 1990, after ten years with the department, Chief Sims was forced to retire because of a serious heart problem.


     In January, 1991, Chuck Lusk was sworn in as Chief of Police. Under Chief Lusk, the size of the department grew considerably.  With the help of COPS (Community Oriented Policing) grants, the department hired its first full time officer in 1995.  Prior to these grants, the village had only six part-time officers.  By March of 1999, the department had four full-time officers and four part-time officers.  Under Chief Lusk the department increased the number of patrol cars from two to three.  One of these cars was given to the village as the result of a drug forfeiture.  Chief Lusk was also instrumental in the department being one of the first in the county to have cameras inside the patrol cars.  Chief Lusk resigned in November of 1999 after almost nine years as chief.


Patrick Sullivan was appointed to replace Chief Lusk on February 22, 2000.  Chief Sullivan had recently retired from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department after thirty years of service, and upon his retirement he was a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Department Detective Bureau.  When the new chief took over the department a lot of things had changed.  The department now had only one officer, and the department no longer had any COPS grants.  Also, Mayor Toni Keller had decided to end mayor’s court in the village. This meant that all traffic violations would be sent to municipal court in Springfield, Ohio.  One of the new chief’s first acts was to create a new bond structure for traffic violations and file it in municipal court.  He also put in a complete set of rules and regulations for the village, and he built a new evidence room in the municipal building.  Chief Sullivan installed a new reporting system for the department called NIBERS.  He made sure that all village officers were trained in first aid, CPR, and AID, and he started a neighborhood watch in the village.  He has also strengthened the relationship between the South Vienna Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, and has been able to make use of the sheriff’s PRIDE program (a prisoner work program) to get work done for the village.  He has also helped the village receive free computer equipment, radios, American flags (for holidays), and a grant for a new AID.  Patrick Sullivan continues to be the chief of the South Vienna Police Department.