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The Chillicothe Voice

Why I Joined Chillicothe Community Fire Protection District—Jim Benisch

Feb 03, 2023 11:14AM ● By Jim Benisch

My first introduction to the CCFD/CFD was when I was six or seven. The house across from ours caught fire, and we watched the department hard at work. I distinctly remember a red box truck coming up the street, and later, I determined it was the first rescue truck purchased by the CCFD.  

Several years later, a friend and I would go to Mossville station and visit the firemen. The more we went there, the more I knew I wanted to be a part of that someday. One day, the station Fire Chief (Gail “Mike” Myers) commented, “looks like we got a new fireman.” He asked my age and where I lived, then said to stop by Station 1 on Monday and fill out an application. 

As I was filling out the application, Chief Myers walked in and said, “when you are done, come see me.” He reviewed my application, signed it, and said to have both my parents sign it since I was only 17. After I returned the signed application, I was issued gear, much different than what we have today, but served its purpose. 

I remember my first fire listening to others yelling back and forth about what to do while wondering what my role would be. As I was helping others with air packs, a Firefighter, Wayne Carlin, started to help me with mine, and in not as nice of words, told me to “stay on his six” and “ do not let go of him” as we went interior to battle this fire. I did not expect that being on the department less than 48 hours. 

My first training class was driver training on rescue #7—the exact truck I mentioned previously. During training, the gear shift fell off. They told me what I had done in strong words, and come to find out later, it happened frequently. Everyone had a good laugh after training with their newest recruit.

I’ve had various organizational roles, from Firefighter to Fire Chief. I’m quite honored to be the last Fire Chief to be appointed to the City before the City partnered with the Fire Protection District. 

Through years of service, the membership responded to various calls, some good, some bad, and even some on the humorous side. Some we carry with us every day, and some we have the opportunity to laugh about. 

  I have seen many changes within the fire service, some by requirements, others by choice. One thing has not changed, our membership. I attribute that to our foundation set by past leadership and the continuous efforts of the present leadership. Chief Meyers once told me, “The process may change, but your memories and end goals will not.” 

The national average for volunteer firefighters is 5 years—our department averaged 12.97 years of service. 

I hope I continue to represent the organization well and provide the service expected of me to the membership and our citizens. When asked why I joined, my answer is the same as when I first joined, “Why wouldn’t I?”