By Deb Patterson
NORTH WEBSTER — It was a night to recognize the support of the community Thursday evening, May 20, during the monthly Kosciusko County Fire Association meeting.
Financial donors for the three Titus fans purchased by the association were recognized. These donors included G & G Excavating, Mike and Rita Lewis Family, Grace College, Kerlin Bus Sales & Leasing, Paragon Medical, Complete Fleet, members of the Winona Lake and Silver Lake fire departments and an anonymous donations from a resident of Turkey Creek Township.
The only donors present were Richard Groninger with G & G Excavating, and members of the Winona Lake and Silver Lake fire departments.
The meeting was held at the North Webster-Tippecanoe Township Fire Station. More than 100 firefighters and guests were in attendance.
The fans have been named after the late Winona Lake Fire Chief Mitch Titus, who saw the need for heavy duty exhaust fans and began the fundraising efforts.
The efforts began following a fire a number of years ago at a Zimmer plant in Warsaw. All exhaust fans from county departments along with the air boat from Turkey Creek Fire Territory were used to remove smoke from the building. Titus knew that was not right and worked several years investigating how to purchase one.
Titus started the fundraising efforts after seeing a demonstration of a RamFan VX Power Stream fan at the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference trade show. However the fundraising was halted following his death May 5, 2019, from a workplace accident.
His efforts were picked up by local fire departments and businesses. The first fan was purchased almost one year ago and dedicated as Titus 1. The fundraising efforts continued. Titus 2 and Titus 3 have been purchased through generous donations of departments. A unit is kept at Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Station 3, Silver Lake and Turkey Creek Fire Territory. Each unit, housed at three locations throughout the county, contain a plaque honoring the donors.
The fans, which can be used for clearing smoke from large spaces such as community buildings, schools, apartments and factories, have already been used three times. Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Mike Wilson noted these fans are quick to remove smoke from a large structure.
Winona Lake Fire Chief Kevin Gelbaugh stated the units carried on fire trucks are 18,000 CFM and were not adequate to clear smoke from large open spaces. The Titus fans provide 60,000 CFM. “It’s an asset to factories to keep the smoke from merchandise … ,” said Gelbaugh.
Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Mike Wilson and Gelbaugh both stated the use of the fan is part of any firefighters training. It was also noted that the fans have a mister availability to be used as a cooling station.
Each unit costs approximately $20,000.
Titus was known as a tornado when he responded to calls and undertook a project, which his wife Jodi, concurred, adding she had been left at restaurants when he responded to a call. “As soon as he was done with this he would have moved on to another project,” Gelbaugh stated.
It was noted Titus’ daughter was at Gelbaugh’s Wednesday when Nappanee Fire Department requested the Titus fan. “She freaked out when she heard her (last) name,” Gelbaugh stated, adding it was a proud moment for her.
“The community came together. It will be his legacy for years to come … couldn’t be more proud,” Wilson and Gelbaugh noted.
Richard Groninger of G & G Excavating stated their donation was because “the employees wanted to do this. It was one of his dreams.”