Craig Zollars: WRTFD officer has a direct impact on the community through public education and outreach efforts
As the Staff Officer of Life Safety Education, Craig Zollars said it’s an exciting thing for him to see the White River Township Fire Department’s programs develop and change. He leads community outreach and public education for the department, and said the ever-growing community partnerships have been an invaluable resource to increasing public safety in White River Township and Johnson County.
Zollars, who was born in Detroit, Mich., came to Indiana in 1987 to attend Indiana University graduate school. He became a firefighter for Bloomington Township in 2001 and came to White River Township in 2006. Zollars still resides in Bloomington with his wife, Lisa. They have two children, Eva and Logan. He became involved in the educational programs in 2008, teaching first aid and CPR classes within the community.
Zollars leads the planning for WRTFD’s annual events such as Christmas Angels, the Strawberry Festival and more. The 23rd Annual Strawberry Festival is June 5, 12-7 p.m. and June 6, 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. The festival includes educational displays and presentations, a blood drive, live entertainment and concludes with fireworks. Zollars said events such as this give the department a chance to interact with the community and speak with residents one-on-one.
What was your inspiration to become a firefighter?
I was professor at Indiana University. I had just had kids and was a stay at home dad. I had driven by the fire station for years and thought that was something I’d like to do. I started in 2001 as a volunteer at the Bloomington Township Fire Department and worked my way up to full-time. I came onto the White River Township Fire Department in 2006, on the ladder. In a combination fire department, you do lots of medical work and work on the truck itself. I was a fire prevention officer in Bloomington Township starting in 2002. I really enjoyed the idea educating, making kids safe and making families safe. I thought there was a really big impact there.
What has been one of your most gratifying moments on the job?
Gratifying moments come when we’ve come in and corrected car seats, which if they were in a crash, they would have died. We’ve had seats that are not attached to the vehicles, kids that are not restrained… We are able to give a new seat that fit and show the parent how to harness them in. That’s huge to us. That’s one of are areas where we know we’re getting a direct impact.
What aspect of the job do you find most challenging?
Logistics – just getting everybody and trucks to where they need to go. I organize everything that comes in from birthday parties to community events. We have to get all those things organized and keeping it straight is pretty hard.
What do you enjoy doing in your off-time?
I enjoy traveling. Our family likes to go to Mexico. We’re going to New York this spring. You find yourself wanting to go back. I like different cultures, meeting new people and learning about them.
What are your future goals, professionally or personally?
There are so many facets of what we do with public education. I started the chapter of Safe Kids Johnson County in 2008 where we do bike rodeos and car seat checks, partnering with Greenwood, Bargersville and Franklin Fire Departments. We do Christmas Angels and other events. I will continue what I’m doing but always tweak it a little more, make it a little better and consistently reach out to the public and work with them.
What would you have done if you hadn’t of became a firefighter?
I would probably have been back in education again.