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The Final Years...
Retiring from Greenville Fire Department and moving on to new horizons
By Robert Rhoades, Senior Scribe
Part 1: The Early Years

It’s sort of hard to tell when I started thinking about doing something else.  Having spent 25 years of my life, which seemed like an eternity, at one job was a pretty big task I thought.  But I could tell that my body was starting to fight back.  It seemed that I was having an expansion in my mid section which was not welcomed at all.  I was 30% deaf in my left ear and my bones and muscles creaked every time I rolled up hose.  Some guys can go on forever and some can’t.  I was in the latter.  I unfortunately know people who have stayed on the job and not had a very good memory of most of it.  And in some cases, people didn’t have a very good memory of them.
One of the greatest things that I got to do was train other people.  We operated under the principal that there was no point complaining about the help you got when calling another department if you couldn’t go out and help them fix their problems. At one point, I had held training classes of one sort or another in every department in the county.  It was neat to see people take a little bit of knowledge and put it to use to make their department better and the town safer.  There are a lot of stories about those things.  Pitsburg saved their grain elevator one day because they developed a method of using century old “fire cisterns” in the streets as their initial water supply.  All that training with mutual aid companies paid off one day when the elevator caught fire.  It took a while but the building is still standing and that was 20 years ago.
I watched as Osgood designed a new engine during a training class using NFPA standards that they were introduced to.  The eventuality of that was the next year they purchased that engine.  Burkettsville probably gets the award for stick-to-itiveness. It took them the biggest part of 10 years but they developed a system for water shuttle that eventually lowered their fire insurance rates from a 9 to a 6 which at that time was almost unheard of.  Most of the departments around them followed suit.  And of course the best one was Chief Bud Gray from Arcanum.  He called me one day and said, “I’m not very happy with our performance, come down here and fix it.”  And so we did.  There were a lot of us teaching through the Montgomery County Career Technology Center then.  That’s being carried on now through there and Sinclair Community College. I’m happy that it kept going.
So sometime around the beginning of 1992 I started to think about doing something else.  And one day I was at the State Fire Marshal’s office in Reynoldsburg picking up supplies for a class I was teaching and I found out that there was an opening in the Hazardous Materials Bureau.  After applying for the job and going through the interview process I got the job.  I went back to work for my old boss, Willie Beaver.  At that time, three former GFD people were employed at SFM, Willie, Harvey Wilt and I.  We followed Capt. Cornelius O’Brien who had been Chief of the Fire Prevention Bureau.  Pretty good for a small department I’d say.
And so on July 2, 1992, 25 years to the day I was hired, I walked out the door for the last time.  The guys carried on a tradition started when Harvey left.  They opened the big doors and formed a double line and the retiree has to walk out the corridor formed by the men as they salute.  Then your shift takes you home in the engine. Kinda tough, that morning.
In a couple of weeks, I was off to the big city of Columbus for some hazardous materials training.  I saw more dynamite in the first week there than I had seen in 25 years in Greenville.  After about 8 weeks, I hit the road, preaching the gospel of “There’s bad stuff out there that can hurt you” to local fire departments.  Some became believers and some didn’t   All eventually did… it just took some longer or a significant event, like a train wreck.  We taught a lot of people about Hazmat and responded to a lot of problems.  More about that later.

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