On June 5, after 35 years of service to the Urbana community, Firefighter Dean Edwards will spend his last day on duty for the Urbana Fire Division. Like many growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he dreamed about being a firefighter while pedaling the fire truck he received for Christmas and spending time in a shed that he turned into a “fire station” for the neighborhood kids and their bikes. He had always dreamed of being a firefighter. He knew he would be a fourth generation firefighter, therefore, there was never a lack of inspiration, ultimately leading him to his career choice. Perhaps his biggest inspiration was his brother Gus, a firefighter paramedic for the city of Kettering. Gus fractured his neck and was hospitalized just two weeks after Dean’s high school graduation. Gus spent almost a year in the hospital and rehabilitation. By the time Gus was discharged, Dean was an EMT and ready to embark on his firefighting career. From his wheelchair, Gus was an instructor in Dean’s first firefighting course.
Two years later, in June of 1984, Dean became the first firefighter hired by the city of Urbana who was already a paramedic. Dean’s Fire Chief, made keeping his paramedic certification a condition of employment. Dean started his career on C-shift and credits that crew for shaping him into what he is today. Jan Beatty, was Dean’s first officer and was like a father like shield from the wrath of the old timer, Hap Mattox. Hap was old school, salty, and never missed a chance to make you earn your keep. He kept the fire house lively and would make you own your mistakes and fix them as a lesson. Dick Myers made Dean learn Urbana streets, hydrant locations, local factories, and much of the history of the city.
Dean said he felt like he had grown up in Urbana after just six months of training. Roger Fultz was his squad partner for his first seven years and also helped him learn the history of the area. Bill Willman was Dean’s favorite extrication tool. Bill provided the muscle to quickly enter a wrecked car, a house on fire, or to tear apart a structure during post-fire overhaul. Dean’s first crew taught him about the city, the fire department, and the local people. Thanks to this crew, Dean proudly calls Urbana his home.
During his early years, Dean helped secure funding for UFD’s first Amkus Rescue System, rescue air bags and the division’s first one-man cot systems for the medic units. In 1990, Dean served the Urbana Firefighters Local 1823 as union president. He worked on the building construction committee throughout the development of the municipal complex renovation/construction project, served on the apparatus specification committee for our Pierce Platform Ladder Truck, and obtained an $18,000 appropriation from The Grime’s Foundation to purchase the initial haz mat equipment and begin a haz mat team.
Firefighter Edwards was involved in several special assignments, including SCUBA diving for rescue and recovery, providing EMS billing and record keeping, and serving on the technical rescue and hazmat teams. Haz mat became his specialty. He attended his first haz mat class with the Springfield Fire Department in 1985. This sparked his interest and his haz mat schooling progressed to the specialist level and eventually to classes that now total more than 3400 hours of haz mat training. Dean has been to schools in eight states and attended the National Fire Academy three times and International Haz Mat Conferences seven times. As a haz mat instructor, he has taught classes throughout the county, west central Ohio, and in Indiana and Illinois.
Dean had the privilege of serving on Champaign County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee for 20 years and the Homeland Security Committee for 9 years. Regionally, he was a member of the Public Safety Steering Committee for Ohio Hi Point Career Center.
With more than 9,000 calls for Urbana, there are several that Dean has mentioned that stand out:
· Dean’s hottest fire was the Champaign Telephone Company fire on E SR 29. The outside temperature that night was in the 80s and the concrete inside the building was hot enough to melt his fire boots.
· Dean fought two fires in the same building on Monument Square: The Family Table and Finney’s Fifties. Both of these fires were successfully extinguished and businesses reopened.
· The swimming pool fire at Urbana University. The state fire marshal investigating the fire said, “You guys get the weirdest fires in Urbana.”
· Fires in nearby cities including the Kelsey Hayes fire in Springfield in 1984 and the downtown Marysville fire in the 1990s.
· An apartment fire on 3/11/2001 at W. Court and N. High St. made Dean an inch shorter when a beam fell onto his head and knocked him unconscious.
· 30 years ago this month, Dean’s best friend Marty had a stroke at work. Dean took him to the hospital that morning, resulting in Dean meeting his wife later that day.
· The toughest run of Dean’s career was on March 17, 1988. While working at the scene of a double fatality motor vehicle crash, a fellow firefighter found that one of the victims was his son.
· Recently, losing our firefighter brother, John Dale, after a tough fight against cancer.
Dean stated that the last couple of years have been more enjoyable than he could have imagined. The brothers that he is leaving will be like leaving his family. The crew that he is leaving is going to continue to serve Urbana well. Dean stated that a firefighter is about commitment, serving our people, and it doesn’t come without some sacrifice. Dean wanted to thank his wife and children for sacrificing their “normal” lives and fitting it into a firefighter’s schedule. They’ve endured Dean not attending some events, holidays, and family gatherings due to work. Dean wanted to thank them for supporting him in doing a job that he loved so much.
Submitted by the Urbana Fire Division.