Skip to main content

The Chillicothe Voice

Why I Joined Chillicothe Community Fire Protection District—Joe Merdian

Dec 28, 2022 03:14PM ● By Joe Merdian

“Why did you join the fire department?” I ask this question often to others in the fire service. I always enjoy the responses, as many come with memorable stories. Some say it was natural, in their blood—their father or grandfather was a fireman, and they cherished fond memories being around firehouses. Others say that their best buddies were in the fire service, so they joined, too, not wanting to be left out. Still others had personal encounters with devastating fire, leading them to forever wish to stop them.

And then there’s me. My story? I suppose it’s not as memorable. I simply wanted to serve my community, to help others in need. At the age of 21, I merely brought it up in conversation with my father—John Merdian—to see what he thought of the idea. A couple days later, he hands me an application; after all, Station 1 is an easy pit-stop cycling back from J.T. Fennell. I filled it out, stopped by the fire station, and was soon enrolled in my recruitment program. Fast-forward ten years and I still look back on joining as one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Over these last ten years, I have learned many things about the fire service. First and foremost is the crucial support of loved ones to answer the call. Personally, this is my beloved wife, Catherine. Secondly is the fact that one cannot train hard enough for a job that can kill you. Thus, training and education should be the foundation of any active firefighter’s career. I have been blessed with many opportunities to build my knowledge, from state-certified fire classes, to EMT licensure, even to routine training drills and exercises at my own station downtown.

As a volunteer department, we boast of men and women from all walks of life. Most of us have day jobs, with careers ranging from electricians, sprinkler fitters, mechanics, engineers, cooks, TV show producer, businessmen, and military veterans, just to name a few. And yet it is our diverse backgrounds and skill sets that enable us, collectively, to overcome challenges, playing off of the strengths that each of us contributes.

Over time, this band of individuals becomes a family—brothers—forged in fire, not blood. And it has been astonishing to have such close-knit members that one can rely on, even in the most perilous of circumstances. In a way, it is a vocation—a calling—that strengthens my Catholic faith and way of life through love of neighbor and service to others. After all, St. John writes, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.” This light of faith, hope, and joy is something I strive to bring to others, even in the midst of tragedy or suffering.

While what prompted me to join the department may not be the most exciting, it is but one chapter of a truly amazing story. Indeed, it led me here to being an active volunteer firefighter, which has become one of the most defining characteristics of who I am. And if I were to ask you, “What would be your story?” what would you say? Why might you join the fire department?