By Liz Shepherd
ETNA GREEN — Several family members, friends and neighbors of a man who lost his life in a mobile home fire earlier this week attended Etna Green’s council meeting to voice concerns on the fire department’s response time to the scene.
At 11:11 p.m. Sunday, April 11, emergency personnel from Etna Township and Atwood Fire Departments responded to a mobile home fire on South Etna Street in the Etna Green Mobile Home Park.
Neighbors reportedly observed the fire and attempted to make contact with any potential occupants. Once firefighters were able to extinguish the flames and search the residence, they found the body of Arthur J. Peterson, 42. The fire remains under investigation by the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office, Kosciusko County Coroner’s Office and the Indiana State Fire Marshal.
Emotions were high as many in attendance discussed their concerns with Etna Township Fire Department’s response time, as well as a hydrant issue at the mobile home park.
One man at the meeting said it took 30 minutes for Etna Township firefighters to arrive at the scene and that Atwood firefighters got there first.
“Our brother burned up in this fire because nobody did their job correctly,” said one of Peterson’s relatives. “There was no tanker there. Why was there no tanker when that should have been there for preventative measures if a hydrant didn’t work?”
Council Member Jason Hanes said Etna Green’s fire department is run by Etna Township and suggested Etna Township Trustee Rita Anglin, as well as the township advisory board, be contacted about the issues. Clerk-Treasurer Patti Cook addressed the hydrant issue at the park. She said when Atwood firefighters arrived, they didn’t have the adaptor to go into the hydrant at the scene.
Town Attorney Jay Rigdon said the town of Etna Green is limited by state legislature in what it can do with township coverage.
“The town has to contract with the township,” said Rigdon. “If people are unhappy with the township coverage, there are ways in which you can get larger fire districts organized between townships to do that. Sometimes, it’s events like this that cause that to happen.”
“I think if you’re going to be a volunteer firefighter, then you have that obligation to stop whatever you’re doing and you go to that fire,” said one woman in attendance. “Because that’s your job. You volunteered to save someone’s life.”
Hanes said the fire department relies on volunteers and mentioned issues with staffing.
“That’s up to us as a community to fill those positions, not them,” said Hanes. “They’re looking for people. The guys … they’re all volunteers and most of these guys have never seen a body before. This is something they’re having a hard time processing also. This takes time and we’re going to figure out what happened.”
Several people at the meeting said they waited for hours for Peterson’s body to be removed from the home.
“I rely on you to save my life, not on whether or not you’ve got funds or if you’ve got people to run it,” said one woman. “We rely on them and it didn’t happen.”
“I’m not saying anything bad on you guys (the council),” said another man at the meeting. “I’m just saying you guys are the voice for us. The amount of disorganization I saw that night, trying to save my friend while those guys ran around with their heads cut off, not knowing what to do, is absolutely appalling and quite frankly, haunting, knowing that we have people we have to rely on, not able to do their job.”
Hanes gave Peterson’s family contact information for Etna Township representatives, noting he would continue to discuss the issues with Etna Township’s fire chief.
The town council’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 11.