Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

November 6, 2013

A flame that endures: OHFD

Part 1 of a series

By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Journal-Times

Nov. 6, 2013 — Tygart’s Creek. Bluegrass music. The brickyard. These iconic fixtures have helped shape the identity of Olive Hill from one generation to the next.

Yet there is one organization that shines out as perhaps the crown jewel in the town’s rich and lengthy history – the fire department.

Founded in the 1880s, the Olive Hill Fire Department (OHFD) has had no shortage of disasters to overcome throughout the years. Numerous floods and two massive downtown fires in 1917 and 1976 left their unique fingerprints of devastation in their wake.

But each time a crisis has pushed the town to the brink, it has been OHFD answering the call, serving as a beacon of hope and stability throughout the most uncertain of times.

Though Olive Hill has undergone numerous changes during the past century, one thing that has remained constant is the ever vigilant presence of its fire department.

Fast forward to today, where OHFD is one the most well-equipped and often called upon rescue organizations in Carter County.

It provides protection to 118 square miles, making it the largest fire district in the county.

The current 42-person roster consists of a chief, assistant chief, two captains, three lieutenants, and 35 firefighters, easily making it one of the largest departments in the area.

“We have the capability to provide services for fire suppression, vehicle rescue/extrication, first response emergency medical care, high angle rope, trench rescue, confined space rescue, collapse rescue, farm machinery rescue, swift water rescue, and large animal rescue,” said Asst. Chief Jeremy Rodgers.

In addition to normal duties, three OHFD members also are members of the Grayson Fire-Rescue Dive Team, while two members are members of Ohio Task Force 1 USAR Team – an internationally-recognized rescue team that responds to devastating natural disasters around the globe.

OHFD is well-trained and one of the most often utilized rescue organizations in the region. But it also remains perennially underfunded, hampered by the declining fiscal condition of the town it protects.

Despite the financial challenges, however, OHFD continues to find ways to provide rescue services at a high level.

The flow of Tygart’s Creek was eventually changed and the brickyard has deteriorated into a dilapidated monument to former economic prosperity.

But the Olive Hill Fire Department continues to endure the tests of time.

Joe Lewis can be reached at jlewis@journal-times.com or by telephone at 286-4201.