BROWNSBURG — Brownsburg Fire Territory’s new chief has been on the job for a couple of weeks now and says he has nothing but praise for his fellow firefighters.
“I knew the men and women of this department were fantastic, but they not only care about this department and this community and the quality of service and delivery of that service, but they care about continuing to deliver to the people of the Brownsburg Fire Territory that come to depend upon them and respect this community,” William Brown said.
He took over as chief in late May.
Brown brings experience at both the local and federal level with more than three decades as a firefighter with the Indianapolis Fire Department.
“When the position became available, I was with IFD and Indiana Task Force One, so having known several members of the Brownsburg Fire Territory that were also members of Indiana Task Force One, several had asked me if I had any interest in the position,” he said. “With the retirement system in Indiana, you max out your pension base at 32 years of service and you can retire, so when I was selected to this position, I chose to retire and take this position as the fire chief.”
Brown was born and raised in central Indiana, being a Southport High School graduate who was immediately drawn to the public service realm and specifically, fire service. He worked for the City of Lawrence’s volunteer fire department before turning 21, thus allowing him to take a position with IFD, where he stayed from 1979 to May of this year.
Brown served as task coordinator for ITFO, one of 28 federal urban search and rescue teams under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security-Federal Emergency Management Agency. He has been deployed by FEMA as a specialist to assist with the Haiti earthquake and several hurricanes, including Katrina.
Since 9-11, he said, preparedness has taken on a different, prominent role in dealing with disasters of all kinds.
“When what happened right after 9-11 happened, there was so much emphasis put on terrorism, preparedness, and response,” Brown said. “The federal government did an infusion of quite a bit of large sums of dollars to not only bring the 28 teams up in their level of response, but also up to the new arenas for responding to weapons of mass destruction. Millions were spent in federal search and rescue programs to respond not only to natural disasters, but man made ones. With any disaster, we now have the United States and the first responder community and FEMA by previous disasters and lessons learned, we have sheltering places. We learned after Katrina that it’s better to pre-plan for large scale disasters than go in after the fact.”
Brown said there are busing and even military transportation programs in place that allow mass evacuation of citizens in the event of a disaster. He used Hurricane Katrina as an example.
“When it (the number of displaced residents) was bearing down on Texas, Indiana was put on alert to possibly receive residents,” he recalled.
His team was also quintessential in helping the search and rescue efforts following the recent tornados in Southern Indiana, gaining acclaim from Washington, D.C., on the program’s synergy.
“The tornado hit about 3:15 p.m. and I received the call about 4:30 p.m. from the Department of Homeland Security,” Brown said. “The local response teams are first and foremost, then the state teams, then of course the federal. The state asked assistance from our team and we were able to have 84 personnel of the task force within 6.5 hours beginning search and rescue operations. That’s something almost unheard of. You have to stop and take into consideration that it happened at 3:15, you get the call at 4:30, everyone has to activate at the center, process the personnel at medical check ins, make sure they’re healthy, load equipment, then drive 90 miles south under escort to the area and to have boots on the ground at that time in that area is phenomenal. Washington called and said how impressed they were that we were able to do that.”
Still, it’s the nuts and bolts of being a firefighter that Brown says he loves the most and the short time he’s been in Brownsburg has only further instilled that.
“There are several things, but I’d have to say that the camaraderie of the men and women not only of the fire service, but of public safety in general,” Brown said. “Often times the public reads and hears about the negative things, but they don’t hear about the good things that go on, and that’s really the rewarding part for me.”
Brown said he received a letter from a Brownsburg resident telling him of how firefighters Dan Chubb, Joe Hassler, Mark Auberry, and Braden Prochnow pooled together funds to help a struggling family. Things like that are what Brown hopes people come to know about the Brownsburg Fire Territory.
“That’s the rewarding part for me as chief, to get to see how many there are in numbers that truly care about giving back to this community,” he said.