Three new firefighter/paramedics recently joined the Urbana Fire Division, bringing multiple years of experience to the division.
Urbana Fire Chief Mark Keller said the three new members were hired at different times since December. With the amount of prior experience the new members have, Keller said, they bring a good base of training to the division.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’ve hired the three of them … they do bring some experience, so training them is going to be a lot easier,” Keller said. “The main things that they need to learn at this point is the requirements that we have on probationary firefighters – learning the streets and roads, where the fire department connections are, where the high hazard facilities are that we need to be aware of for life safety purposes.
“When we don’t have to worry so much about the fire and EMS training that really helps us teach them about Urbana and about our district a lot easier.”
Firefighter/Paramedic Ralph Bowman has been with the division since Dec. 7, 2015. A native of the Dayton area and graduate of Tri-County North High School in Lewisburg, Bowman has worked in fire services since 1996 working for multiple departments in Trotwood, Englewood, Brookville and Clayton.
The month of May will mark the 20th anniversary of Bowman starting his career, but working for the Urbana Fire Division is the first full-time department he has worked for.
“I’m in the position after being in it for 20 years that a lot of guys that are getting ready to retire in five years are in,” Bowman said. “They’re able to recognize certain things that most young firefighters may overlook, knowing the inner workings of a department and also knowing fire scenes and other things that people pick up through schooling.”
Bowman is also a CPR instructor, fire services instructor and works as an instructor at Sinclair Community College.
Some of the people who Bowman said have been instrumental during his career include Chief Mike Acton from the Verona Volunteer Fire Department in Preble County, Chief Ron Fletcher of the Brookville Fire Department, and Chief Bill Hoover with Trotwood Fire and Rescue.
After being on the job for a couple of months, Bowman said, the transition to working in Urbana has been seamless.
“I have worked for departments where the transition has been very hard and the guys get enjoyment out of seeing you fail,” Bowman said. “Urbana doesn’t do that. The Urbana Fire Division does not set their probationary firefighters up for failure, they set them up for success in the way that they do their probationary period and in the way that they train their probationary firemen.”
Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Nitchman joined the division on Dec. 21, 2015. Nitchman was born and raised in St. Paris and graduated from Graham High School in 2003.
Nitchman has been with the JSP Fire District since September 2002. He said he was familiar with some of the Urbana Fire Division personnel and working with the division would allow him to still live in St. Paris.
Nitchman said his father, Richard, who has also worked for JSP, along with his mother and wife, Mellisa, have all been supportive of his career. Within his family, Nitchman is a third generation fireman.
Nitchman said he will still work part time with JSP.
“When it comes to this career field any knowledge or experience you can obtain is very beneficial,” Nitchman said. “We always teach you have the book way and then you have the common sense or street way – any experience anybody can obtain coming into this is crucial so bringing my experience from there over here is very helpful.”
Firefighter/Paramedic Joseph Hester started working for the division on Monday.
A graduate of Twin Valley South High School in West Alexandria, Hester started working in fire services in 2012 and has worked part time at the Madison Township Fire Department in Butler County and Franklin Township Fire Department in Warren County prior to being hired in Urbana. He said Capt. Chad Reed of the Franklin Township Fire Department was a great teacher and someone he has looked up to in fire service.
Originally from the Dayton area, Hester joined the Marine Corps at age 19 and served for four years and said his military experience will help in this job.
“Being in the military you go through a lot, especially overseas and deployment, so I feel like that’s prepared me for this type of work,” Hester said. “That way when you get on scene you’re not freaking out, you don’t lose your cool when you see something that a lot of people don’t see – I do well under stress.”
Keller said a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security covers the salaries for two of the new hires. He added the grant will be in effect for a minimum of two years.
With the hiring of the three new firefighters/paramedics, Keller said, the division now has 23 staff members which is what the normal operating number has been since 1991.
During some periods of time, Keller said, layoffs and the city budget prevented filling some vacancies. He said the additional hires will help cutback on overtime while also providing more people to cover service runs.
“We were right around 21; occasionally if we had a retirement we would be down to 20,” Keller said about some of the down years for the division. “It makes a big difference because it was one person per shift that we were short at that point which in turn then caused some overtime to occur. This will be great for us because it will help us alleviate some of that, but the priority is actually that we can go back to providing the service that we were able to provide previously.”
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.