Two new firefighter/paramedics recently joined the Urbana Fire Division, bringing varying levels of experience to the division.
Firefighter/Paramedic John Flora was hired on Feb. 1, while Firefighter/Paramedic Jacob Jones was hired on Feb. 6.
Originally from Urbana, Flora brings years of experience to the division. He has worked for multiple departments, including the Northeast Champaign County Fire District and most recently as an EMS instructor with the Columbus Division of Fire. He received his paramedic certification and EMS instructor certification through Grant Medical Center and his fire certification through Clark State.
“For me it was a matter of coming back home to some degree,” Flora said. “I’ve been in the fire service for about 16 years, I’ve been teaching primarily for the last three years but wanted to get back into the field providing care for patients. This opened up so I took the opportunity.”
Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller said Flora’s experience as an EMS instructor will be beneficial to the division.
“Eighty percent of our job nowadays is EMS, so he brings a lot of experience with EMS and we look forward to harnessing that for us,” Keller said.
Originally from Springfield, Jones graduated from Springfield High School in 2011 and attended Clark State for his firefighter and paramedic certification. He previously worked for Quality Care Transport, a private emergency service, making Urbana the first fire department he has worked for.
“I went to EMT school first and the whole medical side of it kind of scared me because I was really new to that,” Jones said. “But what really interested me about fire was I wanted to do something that was physical I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day long.”
Jones said he was first notified that the division was hiring last summer by firefighter/paramedic Chris Jones.
Keller said some of the challenges for Jones are learning the everyday operations of how the division works within the fire station.
Keller said there is certain criteria the division looks at when making new hires.
“We look at a couple of things when hiring firefighters and that is partly their experience and with that experience whether or not they can adapt to the way we do things versus the way things are done in other departments,” Keller said. “We also look at the potential times when there is somebody that’s kind of fresh that’s new that we can mold to be like we are.
“We operate a lot differently than most fire departments do. I know a lot of people look at it as we fight fire, Springfield fights fire or whoever. We do that with limited resources and we fight the same type of fires that they do in Springfield with a lot less people. Our people that we hire have to be able to adapt and do every task on the fireground, not just certain things like they are at other departments.”
With the recent two hirings and the retirement of firefighter/paramedic Brett Evilsizor, Keller said the division is down one position and hopes to fill this opening by the end of the month. He added keeping the staffing levels up at 21 firefighter/paramedic positions is important as part of a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant requirement.
The SAFER grant covers the salaries for two positions.