Viral firefighter, police prank war helps raise money
The pranks began when firefighters tied a donut to a string and flew it over to the police department with a drone
By Danielle Grade
The Evening News and Tribune
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — On Saturday, the people coming up to Jeffersonville's firefighters at the Save the Fieldhouse Craft Bazaar weren't grimly bringing up the opioid crisis or devastating fires. Instead, they were smiling and laughing with the city employees.
The cause of their joy, said fire Sgt. Justin Ames, was a lighthearted prank war between Jeffersonville's fire and police departments that started the Tuesday before and soon became a local sensation.
“It's been great,” Ames said. “It really has. And it really wasn't meant to be what it became, which is what we love most about it.”
It all began when Ames decided to test out the drone his department recently acquired. An employee asked if it could carry anything.
Fire Chief Eric Hedrick joined in: Maybe a doughnut, he joked.
“You know, we've got a doughnut,” replied an assistant chief.
Soon, the firefighters were tying the pastry to a string, which they attached to the drone. They flew it over to the Jeffersonville Police Department next door and began dangling it in front of the building's windows.
“Up and down,” Ames said. “Left and right.”
The firefighters spotted Police Chief Kenny Kavanaugh in his car in the parking lot. They flew the drone over to him and put the doughnut up to his windshield.
Kavanaugh got out of his car and walked toward the front entrance. All the police officers were laughing about it, Ames said.
Capt. Kevin Morelan emerged from the police headquarters. He asked the chief if he should shoot it.
“But the real reason they wanted to shoot the drone down? They wanted to get to the doughnut,” Ames joked.
Ames didn't know anything would come from the prank, but Derek Ellis, Jeffersonville High School's head baseball coach, was nearby, and he filmed the fun. On Tuesday, Ellis posted the video to Facebook.
It had 20,000 views as of Monday.
The next day, police struck back by erecting an electronic traffic sign near the fire department.
“SHHHH…..FIREMEN SLEEPING,” it read.
The police department posted a picture of their response to their Facebook page.
“Wanted to thank our little brother next door (aka the Jeffersonville Fire Dept) for feeding us yesterday. We appreciate it and want to make sure you are properly rested,” it read.
“We loved it,” Ames said.
At 10 p.m., the sign changed to “HONK IF YOU LOVE FIREMEN!!”
The noise was almost constant. But — “Everybody loves firemen, so that's cool,” Ames said.
The next day, someone placed donuts on the sign's handles. That elicited another Facebook post from Ames.
With each prank, more attention was directed to Jeffersonville's police and fire departments. Local television stations began picking up the story, and eventually, a national blogger, STATter911, even wrote something.
Bill Burns, Jeffersonville Parks Authority's board president, followed the story from start to finish. It was great, he said.
"I guess they kind of went back and forth, but at the end of the day, you could really tell [the police and fire departments] have great love with each other," he said.
Ames started using the attention to promote a chili cook-off between the police and fire departments, which took place Saturday at the craft bazaar. The donations raised by the event would benefit the John H. Schnatter Nachand Fieldhouse, which needs another $380,000 to fund $1.8 million in renovations.
The cook-off raised $2,748 for the field house. Ames attributed some of that to the pranks.
Many of the department's firefighters have connections to the fieldhouse, and it meant a lot to be able to turn the situation into money for the project, Ames said — even though the police department won the competition.
As for the pranking, it's quieted down. But the good-natured fun between departments left a smile on the faces of just about everyone.
Copyright 2017 The Evening News and The Tribune