SIDNEY — Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones is planning his move to a new level in fire service after his retirement from the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services. His last day in uniform will be Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.
After serving for 27 years as a career firefighter, he is officially retiring on Nov. 10, following 10 years with the city of Sidney.
“Excited and nervous, but also a little apprehensive (to retire.) And I’m not completely walking away (from fire service); I’m still going to be in the business. Heck, I’m still not 100% sure it’s the right thing to do, but it’s the thing I’m doing,” Jones said with a chuckle about the next step. “(School) is a little overwhelming, but you got to make yourself feel uncomfortable. It’s the only way you grow.”
Currently two years into a doctorate program at the University of Dayton, with one year to go until he obtains a doctorate in education, Jones’ goal is to continue being active in fire service by teaching college education in public administration, or as a consultant. His dissertation is geared toward professional development in the fire service.
“Somebody needs to create some type of a path or a map or a blueprint for the next 23-year-old Brad Jones who wants to retire at some point,” Jones said of his aspirations. “We have done it here (at Sidney Fire). We have career tracks that we established though our strategic planning process, here internally. … You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. And I want to take that knowledge that we have done here and push it out into the fire service across America — across the world, as far as I’m concerned — that just gives everybody an opportunity … to prepare yourself for when Mrs. Smith dials 911.”
At the present time, Jones hold a Bachelor of Science degree in urban affairs/public administration from Wright State University, a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Dayton and also graduated from EMT and paramedic school at a Joint Vocational School in Ashland.
He is most proud of the active leadership role Sidney Fire Department (SFD) has taken in the region and the fire industry.
“I’m extremely proud of the activities SFD has done while I’ve been here,” Jones said. “— From the Underwriters Laboratories tests that will help shape fire tactics long into the future for the entire industry, not just here (in Shelby County), and the regional approach that we took with 12 different departments from all around Ohio that came and helped us in those burns, to the complex training that we have been involved in and offered here in Shelby County for all the first responders for the region. In 2016, we brought in, working with the EMA here in town, a CSX train, and in one exercise, we had over 180 participants in four different areas, from running an emergency operations center, to on-site, to the Red Cross acceptance buildings, to Wilson hospital participating.”
In the last 10 years, SFD has had 17 retirements and 18 promotions, Jones said. Firefighters have gone on 36,819 alarms, 28,308 of which were medical calls, and 49% of the department’s members were hired during his tenure.
“In a 10-year-window, this organization, that I’m so proud of, responded to over 36,000 alarms for our customers in the city. We took 28,000 people to the hospital,” Jones said. “It’s unbelievable the service this organization provides, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We never, never put a closed sign in our window, ever.”
His whole life has been submerged in the fire industry, as Jones’ father was also a fire chief in the city of Oberlin, a Cleveland suburb.
“This profession has been such a huge part of my life, since my dad did it, to now what I’m doing; basically my whole life. So, to just wash my hands of it and walk away is kind of weird, but I’m ready for it,” Jones said. “My earliest memory is playing in my dad’s fire boots, being little and being at the fire station. We literally lived right across the street from it.”
Whoever is hired as the next Sidney fire chief will have “big shoes to fill,” City Manager Mark Cundiff said in June.
“Brad was very concerned for the safety of the department. He fought hard during budget times to get new equipment and additional training for the department in an effort to make a dangerous profession as safe as possible,” Cundiff said. “Brad faced a challenge no other new fire chief had to face – being hired from outside the existing ranks of the SFD. This made his learning curve was much steeper than his predecessors. I wish Brad well in retirement and good luck in his ‘encore career.’”
Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst said in an email, “Chief Jones was the first fire chief hired from outside the department. Although he encountered some initial resistance to changes he implemented, Brad persevered, and in the decade he’s served as chief, the change in the department has been perceptible. When Brad assumed leadership of the department, the average of our firefighters/paramedics was 48.2; 10 years later, the average age of the rank and file is 35.9. In addition, departmental training requirements (the department average for the past five years is in excess of 5,700 hours per year); and, the introduction of state-of-the art firefighting techniques (including working with Underwriter Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute) have been an important part of Brad’s legacy.”
“Like his predecessor,” Barhorst said, “Chief Jones recognized that Sidney Fire is only as strong as the volunteer departments that provide mutual aid to us when we call on them. As the only paid professional department in Shelby County, Sidney Fire provides an array of technical rescue services, including swift water, rope, trench, vehicle and heavy machinery extrication, confined space, and structural collapse, often in neighboring jurisdictions. As a result, training in each of these areas is continuous, and we work to try to provide as much training to surrounding departments as possible.”
“Brad was the second chief to encourage the community to support a third fire station. Despite his efforts, the voters have twice turned down the income tax increase that would have made the station possible, despite the fact that when surveyed, residents consistently identify public safety as a high priority. I know this has been a disappointment not only to the chief, but the members of the department and council as well,” Barhorst continued.
“Brad also enthusiastically supported the concept of building a first responder training center, a concept that was encouraged by the Ohio Fire Marshall and the Director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. For a host of reasons centered on funding, the center has not yet been established, but the framework is in place so that if/when funding becomes available, we will be able to move forward. When that happens, those of us who were involved in the many meetings that took place will know that Brad was the chief architect of the plans,” Barhorst concluded about Jones.
With more free-time ahead, Jones looks forward to spending more time alone with his wife Kelly, but also with their three older children. He and Kelly enjoys traveling together and is looking forward to more time to hike and golf.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.