BRUNSWICK — Thirty-nine years, 10 months and nine days.
That is exactly how long 62-year-old Fire Chief Jim Baird will have been in fire service when he retires from the Brunswick Fire Department on Nov. 9.
“When I first became a firefighter, my goal was ultimately to work at every different rank within the fire department,” Baird said.
But now after nearly four decades, Baird said it is time to retire.
When he steps down, Assistant Fire Chief Joshua Erskine will take over as interim chief until Brunswick City Manager Carl DeForest selects a new chief.
Looking back on his career, Baird said Thursday that the job of a firefighter can be both a positive and negative experience.
“My favorite part about being chief is … being able to offer a young person the best job in the world, which is being a firefighter,” he said. “That’s just my opinion, but I’m pretty sure I am right.”
His least favorite part of the job is the negative things he said he has witnessed while out in the field.
“Probably just dealing with some of the things that you see,” he said. “You see some really horrible things that mess you up short term. Then, just being in the field for a long time, the things that you see just wear you down emotionally and physically and spiritually. The best part is getting to help those people.”
Baird said his faith, as well as talking with his family and friends, has helped him move past some of the difficult experiences that he has faced in his career.
Baird, who has been with Brunswick for more than 11 years, took over the chief’s job from Mark Schrade, who left for South Carolina in March 2007. The promotion came a few years after Baird moved to Ohio from Arizona after falling in love with his wife’s hometown of Fairlawn and deciding to make the move to the Buckeye State.
Baird’s career started on Jan. 1, 1979, in Mesa, Arizona, and Baird worked there until his first retirement in 1999.
That is when he moved to Ohio with 20 years of firefighting experience and began working part-time for the Fairlawn and Willoughby Hills fire departments. He eventually began teaching courses at the Cuyahoga Community College Fire Training Academy.
When his children went to college, Baird sought full time work again, and he got a job with the Hudson Fire Department as the fire and EMS training coordinator.
Training and teaching younger firefighters gave Baird the leadership experience he said he needed to take on the responsibility that came with the top position and when he tested in Brunswick he said he was able to reach the highest goal in his career: the job of chief.
“I decided to become chief, or to apply for the chief position when it came open, because I felt like I was ready for the experience,” he said.
In Baird’s nearly four decades in fire service, he said has witnessed two major industry changes.
“The advancements in medicine and technology and training that are available to help people who are sick or injured. It’s night and day what we are able to do for people,” he said.
He also said, “How much more dangerous firefighting is now than it used to be because of the way they are building houses and the stuff they are using to make furniture now. It’s all synthetic and it burns hotter and faster.”
Baird said he had a goal of improving the department’s facilities to address growth in the community when he became fire chief and, while he wasn’t able to completely reach that goal he said he was able to take some steps in the right direction.
“What I had hoped to do was to be able to provide new fire stations for the guys,” he said. “I was not able to provide those fire stations, but each of the fire stations have been remodeled and updated as much as I was able to do with the money that I had.”
Securing grants and budgeting also allowed Baird the funds to purchase some new equipment for the department.
As his last day on the job approaches, Baird said he has some advice for future firefighters.
“My advice is to go to school, pay attention to your education, first and foremost. Pay attention to your physical health; it (firefighting) requires a high level of fitness,” he said. “Pay attention to your emotional health. Firefighting requires a significant level of emotional intelligence, the ability to work along with people and to affect people’s lives and, stay out of trouble.”
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