MACEDONIA — Since assuming duties as fire chief in 1995, Tim Black said the fire department’s staff has nearly doubled and calls have risen about 10 times.
Mayor Nick Molnar announced at City Council’s Jan. 10 meeting that Black is retiring after 36 years employed by the city and 24 as chief. His last day will be Feb. 15.
Molnar said Black, 56, has provided “exemplary service” to the city for many years “and we appreciate everything he has done to keep the city safe. He will be missed.
“He is someone who brings all the people around him up. His knowledge has been invaluable, and he’s prepared those who work for him to handle the important work of the fire department.”
Molnar credited Black with providing valuable information to the public about the fire department’s needs prior to last November’s vote on a 0.25 percent income tax hike, revenue from which the department will benefit.
The mayor said Capt. Brian Ripley will be acting chief until a permanent replacement is found.
Molnar pointed out he’s checking with the law director to see whether the position must be filled through a civil service exam in which the top scorer would get the job.
The fire chief’s current annual salary is $110,638 and the pay range for the position is between $69,888 and $125,944.
Black, who is a Nordonia High graduate, said he began his career with the city as a parks maintenance worker cutting grass in the summer during his years studying at the University of Akron.
A year later he joined the fire department part time and decided to switch his field of study from engineering to firefighting. He became a full-time firefighter in 1989.
The city took over Longwood Park in 1984-85 and Black moved into the caretaker’s house there. The city had only two other parks at that time.
“When I became chief, we had two other people and myself as full-timers,” he said. “There were about 30 total staffers. Now the department has 25 full-timers and 57 total.”
Black said the department handled about 300 to 400 calls a year when he took over as chief, and last year handled about 3,800. The department also covers Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills townships.
Black, who now lives in Sagamore Hills, said he doesn’t have any specific plans for the future, but enjoys riding his motorcycle and going camping.
He said he looks forward to spending more time with his two sons — one who lives in Twinsburg and one who is in the Army in Texas — and his daughter, who lives in Seattle, Wash.
Black said he is grateful to Macedonia residents for supporting safety services when they passed a 0.25 percent income tax increase in November, and he is excited that a $1.3 million aerial platform truck will arrive in a few months.
“In 1990, when we bought our current aerial ladder truck, it cost $435,000,” he said. “It’s amazing how much this piece of equipment costs now.”
Black said as fire chief he has tried to be a good shepherd, spend taxpayer funds wisely and give the best possible service.
“Tax dollars are not easily gained, and residents deserve an efficient fire department,” he said. “We have a great staff here. The guys impress me every day. They really care about people. Unfortunately, we see a lot of people on their worst days and some at the end of their lives.”
He said some of the most memorable — and saddest — incidents he recalls are two bad fires at Aerosol Systems, five members of the Nordonia Hills cross country team being hit by a car on state Route 8 and a teenage girl being killed when a train struck a car on Highland Road.
"Calls involving children are particularly stressful,” he said, adding one of the girls in the cross country incident had to be transported by helicopter.
Black recalls he was inside the Aerosol building when the roof collapsed during the first fire. “It was a stubborn fire, and after the company rebuilt, another serious fire broke out,” he said.
Another memory was the service firefighters provided in the years when “Deadheads” flocked to town for the annual Grateful Dead concerts.
And another fond memory was when the community “came together to support my family after my son was in a serious motorcycle crash,” Black said. “He survived and has been known as Miracle Mike ever since.”
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400 Ext. 4189 or email@example.com