A new chapter at the Red Oak Fire Department was started on Thursday evening with the promotion of 10 firefighters. The addition of the new rank, battalion chief, sparked a change in the department’s leadership structure.
The hope is the three new battalion chiefs will improve safety and management of emergency calls and bring consistency to the department's leadership. The battalion chief is responsible for overseeing an entire shift of firefighters, which consists of two stations each staffed with four firefighters.
Red Oak Fire Chief Eric Thompson told the crowd gathered at Red Oak City Hall that this is an exciting time for the department as it continues to grow to meet the city’s needs.
“Our department works daily to have a shared vision. A vision of creating an organization that is recognized for exceeding the needs of the community. We strive to set the standard of excellence in all aspects of our service,” Thompson said. “I am truly blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to serve with these men as our fire chief. The members of the fire department never stop amazing me. They continue to set the bar high and accomplish their goals. This did not come easy and there is a great deal of self-sacrifice and commitment that comes along with this.”
Jerold Nichols, who is the father of two Red Oak firefighters, Brandon and Josh Nichols, commends the department for looking toward the future by implementing this change. He shared that his sons have always had a passion to serve, but still worries about them every time they go on shift.
“We used to have an app on our phone that we could follow and listen to them. We got rid of that because we witnessed a few of the swift water rescues and things like that. It is a little dicey. Sometimes we have seen them on the news as it is going on and it is a little leery to watch that,” Jerold said. “We also know that they are practicing safety and the news does not know them like we do. It is a little nerving sometimes. For the most part, they do pretty well.”
Jerold stated he is extremely proud of what they do and the service they provide to the community they serve even though it can be stressful sometimes.
Holly Bradley is the wife of Eric Bradley, who was promoted to driver/engineer. She shared that the change in the department’s structure is comforting because it will improve safety. She added that everyone at the department takes care of each other.
Holly recalled only one call that has given her a little bit of pause, which was when Red Oak was sent to help in West after the fertilizer plant explosion.
The Associated Press reported that on the April 17, 2013, explosion at the West Fertilizer Company plant killed 15 people. “When they went to the West Explosion. That frightened me because they heard it all on the news. He couldn’t call or contact me. I didn’t know what he was going into,” Holly said. “That was different not knowing what was going on at the moment.”
Maggie Griffith, the wife of Tyler Griffith who was promoted to driver/engineer, echoed the others thoughts about the dangers of the job but is proud of the service that Tyler gives daily to the community.
“It is always a little nerve-wracking because you always worry about him. Then when you see how much they put into safety and doing well at their job it kind of eases that,” Maggie stated. “He loves his job. That is what he always talks about is being a fireman is the best job in the world. Then when it came to the promotion, he worked really hard to get there. It was a long process.”
Promoting from captain to battalion chief are Casey Greene, Brandon Nichols, and Andrew Jakubik.
Greene stated that he is honored to be to be serving in this new role.
“I think that we have worked hard to get here. This is kind of the next stepping stone with the growth of the city and the growth of the department,” Greene said. “As firefighters, we are protecting the citizens. In the role that we are in now we helping the guys so they can have what they need so they can go out and do the job.”
Jakubik shared the Greene’s thought about the importance of the evening.
“I am proud of my guys and all of the ones that have worked hard to promote, all of them. They all work hard every day when they are on shift. I am just excited to be a part of this organization,” Jakubik said. "The organization is getting bigger and this helps to bring us together.”
Brandon Nichols stated he is proud to be a part of a monumental moment in the department’s history.
"It feels good to be a part of a department like this. It is neat to be one of the first battalion chiefs in the city. It is just an honor,” Brandon noted. “It is neat to have such good guys to work with and guys that I call brothers, and one that is my brother that promoted to captain. It is neat to be a part of a family like that. I just want to be the best leader that I can be, have a strong shift, and get these guys home at the end of the day.”
With the addition of the new rank, promotions were seen in other areas of responsibility. Promoting to captain were Steve Moses, Jared Ussery, and Josh Nichols. The department’s new driver/engineers included were Eric Bradley, Grant Bruce, and Tyler Griffith. Sutton Jones, the department's newest member, was recognized for completing his year probation and was named as a full member.
Thompson said this change would help the department into the future with the growth that is continuing to expand the city.
“We know that the city is growing. Really we wanted to bring another level of I guess accountability, and bring some consistency in our operations,” Thompson noted. “Without the battalion chief we have captains, but we don’t have the shift commander per-say. So we wanted to bring consistency in our leadership and in the management of our shifts.”
Thompson stated that is important to recognize all of the sacrifice and the commitment put in by these individuals.
“The department started adding career positions in 2003. Since that time we have grown and developed into an aggressive department. We were recently awarded as the sixth department in the state to be recognized as a best practices department,” Thompson said. “This takes a shared vision, grit to execute, and a love for the fire service. These men love the fire service and their commitment every time that they get up, leave their families, and put the uniform on proves that.”