Just today, Sadler took possession of a 1986 Pierce fire engine once owned by WFD. For what he calls “a steal,” the county coroner and owner of McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel purchased the truck for the intent of donating it to Jellystone Park in Pierceton.
“There’s a history there,” explains Wilson, who is a pre-arrangement counselor at McHatton-Sadler and is the former Warsaw Fire Marshal. “John has a long-standing relationship with Larry Ladd [former Kosciusko County Coroner and long-time general manager of Jellystone Park] and a history with Jellystone.” Sadler actually worked as a park ranger at the popular campground when he was in high school.
“I even met my wife there,” Sadler says, who is more than happy to share his knowledge about the campground. “People don’t know this but it’s the world’s largest Jellystone with 1,340 lots. On a holiday weekend it has the second largest population concentration in the county with 10,000 people. And there’s 10 miles of roads.”
But the real story is with Engine 1 that, on Saturday, Sadler will donate to Jellystone Park as a working fire truck.
Over the last year, Mike Wilson and his wife, Multi-Township EMS paramedic Tracy Wilson – who also have a lot at the campground – have been in talks with the Jellystone Park Property Owners Association about fire safety. As Wilson explains, “Fire situations are very possible at campgrounds because of all the fire pits for one.” As a former fire fighter, he knows the dangers and wants to protect his fellow campers.
Like Sadler’s history with Jellystone, Wilson also has a history with Engine 1. “It’s the first fire truck I worked on at Warsaw,” he says. The truck was used by WFD from 1986 until it was officially retired in 2011. The truck has been kept at the WFD training center since 2010 and, with the help of former WFD Chief Mike Rice, its purchase was made possible.
Sadler and Wilson say Rice worked with the city and the owners of R&B Sales to get Engine 1 sold. Despite the fact that it sat unused for so long, the men say the truck was in good shape and running fine.
After some mechanical work by Sadler and David Baker, also of McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel, Engine 1 has also been getting some TLC. Sadler emerges from the engine compartment a little blackened from his cleaning task, but says overall the truck is in great condition and it’s ready to be used.
The original decals from the WFD will remain on the truck with some new ones to be added. Wilson says the word “retired” will be placed under the Engine 1 label on the cab doors and the names of the sponsors who are making the donation to Jellystone Park possible – McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel and R&B Sales – will also be added.
The men also make a point to say the fire truck will not be used in place of Pierceton and North Webster Fire departments. In the event of any emergency, standard protocol will apply: 9-1-1 will be called. However, in the event of a fire, the engine will be on Jellystone Park property and ready to respond.
As Sadler notes, the park is a community all its own. The plan is to train several volunteers, including many fire fighters – both current and retired from Warsaw, Winona Lake, Valparaiso and even Chicago who utilize the campground – to be able to use Engine 1 and respond immediately.
The 750-gallon tank on the engine means most fires at the property will be able to be extinguished or at least contained until local fire departments can respond. “It’s about using it as a tool to protect property and people,” says Wilson.
Although the truck will be donated to the Jellystone Park Property Owners, McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel will continue to fund the maintenance and pay for fuel for the vehicle, which is estimated to cost approximately $1,000 a year. A fund has been established for anyone wishing to donate to that fund, but donations are not tax deductible. Donations may be sent to Fire Truck Fund c/o McHatton-Sadler Funeral Chapel, 2290 Provident Ct., Warsaw, IN 46580.
The truck will officially be presented to the property owners at 3 p.m. Saturday.