“My grandfather, Dennis Gates, was a volunteer firefighter in Warren, Ohio,” Brown said. “It was his job to drive the horses back when fire vehicles were horse-drawn.”
From Gates’ years of fire service, the legacy continued when Brown’s father George D. Sr. joined the Howland Fire Department as a volunteer. That meant a young George Jr. was to grow up in a family with a well-established history with the fire service.
Brown attended Howland High School and graduated in 1972. He went on to the University of Cincinnati and took a course on Ohio fire training.
After graduation, Brown worked his way to a mid-level manager at Copperweld Steel in Warren. He had over 250 employees under his position that he held from 1972 to 1984.
While working full time at Copperweld, he joined the Howland Fire Department in 1972 and, after leaving the steel industry in 1984, he turned full-time firefighter at Howland. Three years later, he stepped into the role of chief and has held that position for the past 24 years.
When asked why he left Howland to take the lead role in Boardman, Brown said, “I’d done what I could at Howland and I saw there was a lot to do at Boardman. In the years I have left in the fire service, I wanted to continue to make a difference.”
In the past week or two, Brown has been settling into his new spot and has been having brief discussions with retired Chief Jim Dorman. He did reveal some of his ideas and what direction he would like the Boardman Department to head in over the coming years. One direction involves medical service.
“We have 13 paramedics in the department,” he said. “But we are considered first responders.”
The difference between first responders and paramedics is the level of care that can be put into use. First responders basically are limited to what they can do. A paramedic has a larger ability in using life-saving drugs and treatments.
“Often, we send crews out on medical emergencies and they have an eight to 15 minute wait for an ambulance,” Brown said. “There is definitive care we could do if our people could use their skills.”
Upgrading the medical service the department delivers is just one area that Brown hopes to have a positive impact on. He is also looking into the Boardman fire code.
“The state of Ohio is looking at redoing the fire code around November,” Brown said. “We would like to adopt it in an effort to make Boardman more business friendly.”
Brown explained that the effort by the state is to come up with a uniform fire code that would eventually be used throughout the state. Contractors and developers who work around the state would eventually be able to meet fire codes anywhere if they were all the same. The fire codes affect a lot of construction as well as business operation.
Brown also would like to improve training for the departments firefighters and upgrade equipment, which has already begun. Just last week, the firefighters at the main station on U.S. 224 near the Southern Park Mall were getting trained on a new portable suction unit used to clear an airway.
One other area he wants to work is becoming more active in the community. He would like more involvement at the schools during the safety city programs as well as more public fire prevention programs.
His biggest challenge this year will be coming up with a good budget plan that will move the department ahead while working within its means.
“My goal this year is to come up with a strategic plan and a capitol improvement plan and move from there,” he said. The state of the department didn’t happen overnight and we can’t fix it overnight.”
He hopes to have his plans put into a report and presented to trustees before the end of the year.
While Brown is full time in Boardman, he will remain officially as Howland’s fire chief until July 12.
Photo by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Boardman’s fire Chief George Brown is getting adjusted to his new position and looking forward to continuing a legacy that began three generations ago.