With the days moving toward the end of a 39-year career, Sylvania Township Fire Chief Jeffrey Kowalski said his attitude is tinged by melancholy because of the things he will miss.
The chief recounted some high points, but made it clear that what he will miss most is the daily interaction with a group of men and women which he continually praised as highly dedicated and professional.
“The personnel are a highly educated, dedicated and professional staff that has been wonderful to work with each and every day. I’m looking forward to retirement, but leaving these people does make me sad,” the chief said.
He echoed that sentiments at a recent meeting of the township trustees at which he was given a proclamation for his years of service to the community.
In remarks after receiving the certificate, the chief thanked the trustees and the community as a whole.
Chief Kowalski began to thank the “unsung hero,” but paused to hand his wife, Mary, long-stemmed red roses and to gain a little time and composure to continue about how there will be no more missed birthdays, anniversary’s and holidays.
In an earlier conversation, the chief had spoken of the dedication of spouses who have to make adjustments sometimes on fly because of the firefighter’s duties.
Not to mention the concern , he said, due to the possibility of harm that is inherent in the job.
In large measure it is safer today due in part to advances in equipment from the day he started with a rubber coat and a tin helmet.
“Put all that on and you feel like Superman,” he said, but added that a firefighter still has to be cautious.
He recalled a fire at a bar-restaurant on Central Avenue near McCord Road which he was approaching and saw that firefighters already had a hose into the building. From his approach he saw the roof begin to buckle and immediately called for the building to be evacuated.
“Everybody got out and it wasn’t more than 30 maybe 60 seconds and the roof caved in.”
He pointed to a black wrist band which he always wears. It reminds his greatest duty. Printed on the band are the words, “everyone goes home.”
Because of the nature of the job, the chief said he can’t be sure when, but he intends to go out with a crew on one last run.
That uncertainty, he said, was one of the factors which drew him to the department and kept him excited about it.
“It was always going to be something different. No two days were ever the same,” he said, adding that “whatever you were going to, you were going so you could help people.
For his regrets he said, there are solid reasons to go. It’s the right financial decision and he will have more time to spend with his wife, grown children and grandchildren.
In terms of personnel and finances the department is in good shape, “and it’s probably time for some new blood, some fresh ideas.”
He again thanked the community for passing the mast recent fire levy, “which allows us to buy the best equipment which allows us to provide the best service.
Most recently, a new fire truck was purchased and put into service, three new fire stations were built over the past few years and the fourth updated and a transport vehicle was put back in service.
The chief put together a committee of to design, within financial limits, the new fire engine–what they wanted in the cab, where certain items should be stowed on the vehicle. He had only one suggestion and it was adopted.
On the sides are the words he views as something of a motto.
“Honor, Courage, Dedication.”
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