Donation Keeps Ind. Dept. Open

KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. --

A private donor who made a large gift to a volunteer fire department so that it could stay open flew in Sunday to meet thankful firefighters and an appreciative community.

The Knightstown Volunteer Fire Department found itself in an untenable situation. The company that manufactured and serviced their self-contained breathing apparatuses went out of business.

The air packs, just two years old, could no longer get annual certification and could no longer be used in the line of duty. Air packs are as critical to the operation of a fire department as hoses and water.

"It was quite a shock to us, a big blow to a department this size and a community this size to actually come up with that kind of funding to replace it," said Knightstown Fire Chief Bob Schaeffer.

Mark Tabb, the department's chaplain and a professional writer, just happened to be penning the memoirs of author and Wrigley heiress Helen Rosburg. Tabb asked her for advice.

"She knows people in those kinds of circles who have foundations," Tabb said.

Instead, he got her help. With the $75,000 Rosburg donated, the department was able to buy state-of-the-art air packs, masks and tanks for every member of the department.

Each tank, which holds up to 45 minutes worth of air, can be life-saving while battling a blaze. Firefighters consider Rosburg their hero.

"Without this gift, we basically would be out of business in about two weeks," Tabb said.

Firefighters honored Rosburg, who flew in for the ceremony, by making her an honorary, lifetime member of the Knightstown Fire Department and giving her a badge, helmet and plaque.

"You guys are my heroes, you and the military and the police," she said. "You're all that stands between us and chaos, so thank you."

The old air packs were donated to a vocational school to be used for training.

The book that Rosburg and Tabb are writing, called "Don't Just Survive It -- Sing," should be out by November 2010.

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