BRUNSWICK — Assistant Fire Chief Richard Barber said he was humbled when he learned Chief Jim Baird had named him the city’s firefighter of the year.
“It makes it easy when you have a good boss, good Council, good administration and good staff,” Barber said when he accepted the award Monday night.
Barber has been with the department more than eight years after serving as a lieutenant in North Royalton for 11 years. In total, he has 28 years of firefighting experience, but Baird said it’s Barber’s creativity in addition to his skill that make him a great leader.
“I would not be effective without Rick,” Baird said. “He has the creativity to envision a project and the talent to make it happen. That’s a rare combination.”
Barber most recently has been involved with countywide efforts to increase preparedness for major fires and other disasters. Barber serves as a team leader for the Incident Management Team, which works in concert with the Medina County Emergency Management Agency.
The Incident Management Assistance Team is a countywide group that allows police officers and firefighters to put out calls for assistance when handling a major fire or police incident.
Barber also instituted “chief boxes,” a network that allows an agency to radio for backup chiefs or other leaders to help manage a scene.
“It’s good to be able to call for backup manpower, but sometimes, you need additional command officers,” he said. “That’s what this allows you to do.”
Baird said Barber made it a personal project to reach out to the community two years ago for help painting fire hydrants throughout the city.
“This city has 2,600 fire hydrants, and the expense of painting all of them was high,” Barber said.
Barber instituted the “adopt-a-fire hydrant” program and residents and civic groups stepped up to paint 1,200 hydrants.
“We were able to save some money that way,” Barber said.
But Baird said it’s not just in special projects that Barber makes a difference; it’s also in day-to-day operations.
Baird said Barber identifies grants for which the department would best qualify, and then works with the city’s grant writer.
He also helps to manage the daily payroll and supervise the staff.
“I can leave anything in his hands and not have to worry,” Baird said.
Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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