A member of the Urbana Fire Division close to 12 years has been promoted to fire captain.
Firefighter/Paramedic Jason Croker was promoted on Feb. 13 and sworn in March 1. His promotion comes following the retirement of Phil Kellenberger, former captain, in October.
Born and raised in Urbana, Croker graduated from Urbana High School in 2000. His interest in the firefighter profession began while he was pursuing another career.
With an associate’s degree in information technology systems, Croker was an IT person for a local Internet provider. When the company was sold to another company in Dayton, he was relocated and worked in downtown Dayton for about six months.
Located on the 16th floor of Kettering Tower, Croker was often looking down on the world.
“I just kind of realized at that point that the office setting is not for me,” Croker said. “It’s right close to a pretty busy Dayton fire station so all day long I’d see these fire trucks go by. It kept crossing my mind as this is happening ‘these guys are going out there and they’re helping people, someone just called them at the worst moment in their lives and that’s what these guys are doing.’”
Croker said he wanted to be able to go home after work knowing he made a difference in someone’s life and going into the fire services could provide this opportunity.
Croker started as a volunteer on Box 13 while he was going through training and has also worked part time at the Washington Township Fire Department and the London Fire Department. He joined the Urbana Fire Division in July 2004.
Despite starting in a different career field, Croker said the transition into fire services was smooth because of his passion for the profession.
“I love the feeling you get when you get to go on a run and help people,” Croker said. “I love being in that position where you are the one that people count on and I think that’s what kind of has driven me to want to promote up and become a captain too because I love the fact that I come to work and guys are counting on me to help them out to do their jobs.”
Getting promoted to the captain position was a goal Croker said he always had in mind.
“It’s not one of those things that you just decide ‘hey one day I want to take the test and be a captain,’” Croker said. “It’s something that I’ve worked for throughout my career trying to advance my training and prepare myself for not only the firefighting side of it but also the administration and the human relation side of it because we do a little bit of everything.”
As part of his training, Croker has been to the National Fire Academy learning from people across the country and has also taken fire officer certification classes.
Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller said Croker has been an informal leader within the division through taking on multiple projects and his progression.
“I’m happy to have him,” Keller said. “I think he’s going to be a very good captain, he’s a good leader for the shift and I hope everything works out for him in that position.”
In addition to Croker, the division also has captains Jerry Kirk and Jim Freeman.
Croker also spent seven years as union president for Urbana Firefighters Local 1823. He said working as the union president when the division had to deal with layoffs due to the recession helped him prepare for the human element of the captain position.
“It really taught me to be that middle man between labor and management because I found myself in that position quite a bit,” Croker said. “Not necessarily picking one side or the other, just making sure that both sides understand where the other sides coming from and as I’ve transitioned into this captain role I’ve realized that that’s a lot of what this is – I’m the stopgap between the fire chiefs and the firefighters making sure both sides are heard.”
Throughout the duration of his career, Croker said his wife, Michelle, has been a driving factor and has been helpful during the extensive fire captain testing process.
“I’ve tested for other vacancies here before and just not been the one that was selected and she’s always been there to back me up and keep me motivated,” Croker said.
He also thanked his mother, Pam, for giving him the values he has and for watching his children to allow him to dedicate time into reaching the captain position.
Within the fire division, Croker said, everybody has been helpful in his development.
“I would put the knowledge and skills and abilities of our firefighters here up against any around,” Croker said. “And we’re just going to continue to get better because we’re really meshing well as a team so I think they’re going to help me improve and I’m going to help them improve and it’s really shaping up to be a great thing.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.