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Commissioners help township firefighters with software buy

Allen County Commissioners gave final approval Friday to lending a helping hand to 14 area township fire departments.

The county will pay half of a $15,640 tab for new software that will allow county firefighters – many of them volunteers – to get to the scene of a fire more quickly, easily and efficiently.

The remaining cost will be split equally among the county fire departments, which include all but two – Hoagland and Arcola, said David Ringer, St. Joseph Township Fire Department chief and president of the Allen County Fire Chiefs Association.

“Hoagland said no and Arcola is kind of hit-and-miss on joining in,” he said.

The service will enable the 14 departments that are participating to tap into a software module the county and Fort Wayne already has from Spillman Technologies Inc.

Spillman supplies public safety software for police departments, sheriff’s offices, communications centers, fire departments and correctional facilities nationwide.

Included in the package is an app called “I Am Responding,” which instantly relays dispatching information on smartphones, iPhones and mobile devices.

When a fire call is received, firefighters will be able to relay whether they are responding and that information will instantly be flashed on a screen in the fire station as well as on the phones, Ringer said.

He said firefighters can go directly to the fire site – a map and directions also show up on the screen – and the trucks will already be there, loaded with the gear they need.

“I can look at the electronic tablet I keep in my fire chief’s vehicle and know how many people are responding at the scene and how many are at the station to take the trucks,” Ringer said. “I will know whether I need to go and get a truck or if I can just go straight to the scene.”

The program also monitors truck and equipment maintenance and availability; schedules staff shifts, tracks staff training, certifications and expirations; and communicates with responders and specialized teams.

“We can add others onto the system – such as wrecker services – and there is no extra charge,” Ringer said.

Ringer’s request initially went before the Consolidated Communications Partnership, where Commissioner Therese Brown is a board member, and then to the County Council, where it was approved Thursday. Commissioners then had to OK the amended agreement with Spillman Technologies, Brown said.

“Technology-wise, this is a good thing,” Brown said. “And Spillman has waived annual maintenance fees” because the county already has a working relationship with the company, she said.

The system is already in place among the departments on a trial basis, so there will be no lapse in service, Ringer said.

“There are close to 700 county responders now using the program,” he said.

“We had several who were against this until they saw how it worked, and all are on board now. This was such a necessity for the county and one of the most impressive programs I’ve seen.”