Joel Thacker has his hands full as new fire chief of the Plainfield Fire Territory. They are building two new fire stations and in the midst of the 2018 budget cycle. He’s looking to start community-based CPR and AED programming, while getting to know the people in the town better.
Thanks to the guidance of current administration and his extensive background in fire and emergency services, the Center Grove alumni said he feels well-prepared to handle everything.
Thacker grew up in the Center Grove suburb of Greenwood. Throughout high school, he was involved in the marching band. The band was state champion in ’89 and ’91 and runner-up in ’88 and ’90.
In the spring of 1989, Thacker was in a serious car accident.
“I remember being cared for by the fire department,” he said. “I saw one of the individuals at the library. We talked about the fire department and he suggested I join the cadet program… That was the start of my career in fire service.”
Thacker served as an Explorer for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and cadet for the White River Township Fire Department (WRTFD). After graduating from Center Grove High School in 1992, he started working for Myers Ambulance Service, serving Greenwood and Southern Marion County, for two years. He started taking fire classes in the evenings. In 1995, he started working for Wishard Ambulance Service as an EMT and taking paramedics classes, all the while working part-time for WRTFD.
The first five full-time firefighters were hired to WRTFD in 1999, and Thacker was among them. He remained with White River Township until 2012, serving as a lieutenant, battalion chief, training chief and chief of administration.
He briefly served as fire chief in Columbus, Ind., before going to Brownsburg in September 2012 to serve as assistant fire chief. In October, 2015, Thacker transferred to Plainfield as division chief of division and administration. On Jan. 9, he was sworn in as the fire chief.
“The role of the fire chief is leading the organization, casting a vision and I love that,” he said. “I have really enjoyed working here.”
He and his wife, Julie, have two children: Elaina, 23 and Aidan, 12. The family moved to Plainfield, and Julie took a job with its school corporation.
Thacker said one of his goals is to be a community fire chief, so that the people in the community know they can stop in and talk to him.
The Plainfield Fire Territory has three fire stations. Two of those stations will be replaced with new buildings.
“There is so much growth in Plainfield,” he said. “I really appreciate how the council, the former town manager, laid out the vision for the Town of Plainfield. There is potential for growth in the future. It’s a diverse community, from an emergency response standpoint. We have our residential core area of town. We have a large commercial/industrial base. We have a prison system over here. We have the transportation corridor, the I-70 interstate and being close to the airport. There’s a variety of things we have to be prepared for.”
Prepared, they will be. Thacker said the overarching goal is simply, continue to build on the foundation the fire territory has already laid down.
“I set some expectations for the men and women here: to stay focused on our mission,” he said. “Protect the lives and property of citizens, visitors and neighbors of the town of Plainfield and Guilford Township. It’s really to ensure our men and women are taken care of, that they have the best equipment and training possible so when they bell goes off and we’re called to duty, they are fully prepared to handle anything that comes out way.”