Allen-Clay Joint Fire District Chief Bruce Moritz revels in two major achievements he helped bring about during his term as president of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association.
The first, which has been in the works for years, is the upcoming merger of a medical transportation board to oversee both private and public ambulance services. The other is the creation of an educational class that will guide the heads of departments.
“There is no training for fire chiefs in Ohio. Seems we have a lot of chiefs getting themselves in trouble somehow,” Moritz said.
The 32-hour course rolling out this fall touches on subjects such as budget, law, inter-government relations, finance, interpersonal relations, human resources, media, labor relations and ethics. The sections are broken into comprehensive 8-hour classes.
Over the past year, Moritz testified in hearings held before committees of the Ohio State Senate and House of Representatives to pursue the merger so that ambulance services with licenses would be under the control of one public safety unit. Before, they were under different umbrellas and oversight was not streamlined. The merger helps eliminate one tier of government boards, Moritz said.
Moritz ended his stint as president of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association during a conference held in his honor in Sharonsville near Cincinnati in late July. One of his final acts was the swearing in of the incoming president Porter Welch of Scioto Township.
“I’ll serve one year on the foundation’s education side and then after that … I’ll just be a picture on the wall,” he quipped.
The 40-year veteran of firefighting services has made public service an important part of his life.
“He really has done a lot for the association as far as new legislation,” Genoa Police Chief Bob Bratton said of Moritz’s role as the association president. And locally, Bratton added, Moritz has helped protect the safety of local residents and their property.
Moritz began his tenure with the Clay Center Fire Department in 1969 and then joined the Genoa Fire Department in 1974 and rose through the ranks. In the mid-1990s, talk began to combine area fire districts to pool resources, including finances and manpower.
Around 2000, when the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District was created, he applied for the full-time chief’s position and received it. That is when he retired from his full-time supervisor’s job with Toledo Edison. He also serves on the Ottawa County Board of Health and is a member of the local area’s emergency planning committee.
The fire chief’s honor comes days away from the opening of a new fire station of the Allen-Clay district.
The station, which cost just over $1 million to build, is comprised of bays for all the fire apparatus, living quarters, a training room, chief’s office and state-of-the-art training room.
“We are really looking forward to that,” Moritz said of the training room.
Harp Contractors of Northwood began work on the station at 3155 N. Genoa-Clay Center Road in October. Funding for the station comes from the cash accumulated through the continuous 5-mill levy approved for the operation of the district.
The improvement of department infrastructure is also a catalyst for attracting fresh volunteers to the department rolls, he said, adding recruitment and training are always on the mind of fire department officials – especially in an area like Ottawa County that relies heavily on a volunteer network.
Still, it’s a challenge, Moritz said.
“It’s a demand on people’s time. Our training is always increasing,” he said of state mandates. “I’m not against training … but we are in constant competition with everything else.”
A grant received by the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association will be used over the next year to focus on hiring and retention efforts.
“It’s tough keeping people. If they are dedicated, they work hard and they stay. But you have to keep them engaged. And we have to have fun, too,” Moritz said.
Rapidly changing lifestyles also impact the effort, the chief added.
“We are losing something in our community. We don’t have that sense of give back, that sense of involvement. A lot of people moving to the area just think that (fire) service is provided and think nothing of it,” Moritz.
That change in attitude as well as the demands on families today stresses recruitment efforts significantly.
“Parents are very busy. Many families need two incomes to get by. And they’re following their kids here and there for all kinds of activities,” the chief said.
So far, though, Moritz said his fire department has been able to maintain a steady, reliable team of volunteers.
“I don’t know why but we have been very lucky here in the Allen-Clay area with the volunteers we have attracted,” Moritz said.
He, however, doesn’t want to rely on luck to keep the team in top performance. A large percentage of those volunteers are aging and bringing new blood into the fold is important, Moritz added.