CUYAHOGA FALLS — After a career that included volunteering, full-time firefighting, working on special operation teams and investigating the causes of blazes, the city’s fire marshal said he feels “blessed” and is retiring with “no regrets.”
Lt. Tim Mier’s last day with the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department was Aug. 31, a day which included a farewell celebration at Fire Station 1 that capped a 32-year career with the city. For the last three years, he served as the fire marshal in the department’s fire prevention bureau.
Mier, 59, said he started working as a volunteer with the Northampton Township Fire Department in 1977 while he was in college. He went through training on EMS while he spent one year at the University of Akron and then the next four years at Kent State University, where he earned a degree in industrial arts.
“By April [of 1978], we were all brand-new responders in a brand-new EMS ambulance,” recalled Mier. “That type of work, the more I learned about it… it looked like a decent career path.”
After college, Mier said he worked for a chemical company in Solon that printed its own labels.
“It was miserable,” said Mier. “I found out there is no easy way to get from Cuyahoga Falls to Solon. I hated it.”
While working in Solon, he was still volunteering in Northampton and periodically interacted with a firefighter who had a fire lights and siren business in the city. Mier applied for, and was hired to work in a part-time position at this company and also enrolled in paramedic school.
After graduating from paramedic school, Mier said he was one of three full-time firefighters hired for Northampton Township in April 1984. When the city of Cuyahoga Falls merged with the township in 1986, Mier became a Falls firefighter and the township station he had worked in at 3089 Northampton Road became the city’s Station 4.
Mier said he and the other Northampton firefighters helped educate the city firefighters about the rural conditions of the former township that included longer driveways and larger setbacks. Since a “large portion” of the area at the time did not have hydrants, Mier said a response to a fire would include both an engine truck and a tanker truck to provide supplemental water.
Mier said he earned a promotion to lieutenant in 1992, and noted he was also part of the department’s Dive Team, Technical Rescue Team and the Summit County Hazardous Materials Team for a good portion of his career.
Mier added he took several civil service exams for promotion to both captain and assistant chief, but was never able to earn the top score to be moved up.
“I would do OK on the test but when there’s only one position here and one position there … number one gets it,” he said.
Fire marshal service
Mier applied for, and was selected as a deputy fire marshal in the department’s fire prevention bureau in 2001. The work consisted of building code enforcement, fire investigations, and public education.
Mier said he felt the fire marshal work — particularly the investigations — suited him because he was a “hands-on” and “analytical” person. He also noted that firefighting is a “young man’s job,” and added he “saw some longevity” in the fire marshal work.
“It was a way to stay in the fire service, expand my horizons, [and] be able to work a full, successful career,” recalled Mier. “I’ve seen too many guys go out of here with back injuries or cardiac.”
When the city made adjustments in fire department personnel in 2007, Mier said staffing in the fire prevention bureau was reduced from three employees to two. As the least senior bureau member, Mier said he was switched to working as a lieutenant at Fire Station 5 in 2007.
In 2008, Mier said he re-applied for, and was returned to his deputy fire marshal post after Fred Jackson was promoted from deputy fire marshal to assistant chief.
When fire marshal Mike Dunton retired, Mier was promoted to fire marshal in mid-2015 and has served in that post ever since. Mier added that the fire marshal’s position he is vacating will be filled by firefighter Tom Carano, and Lt. Steve Lyons will serve as deputy fire marshal.
In the past decade, Mier said there’s been a greater focus on the types of chemicals firefighters and fire investigators are exposing themselves to “even after the fire is out.”
“You got all these byproducts of combustion, largely of synthetics and plastics and composites,” said Mier. “What those have broken down into by fire and are getting stirred up into the dust, no one really knows. They’re seeing people developing cancer [where] they’re thinking they’ve been exposed to this stuff.”
Mier recalled it was once “cool” to fight a fire and return to the station with dirty gear.
“And nowadays, we’re all re-thinking that,” noted Mier. “All that stuff on [your gear] is chemicals that still come off on your hands and you still breathe.”
After they are finished at a fire scene, Falls Fire Chief Paul Moledor said firefighters now engage in a “gross decontamination” process where they are hosed off and use wipes to sanitize their hands and face. Moledor said firefighters who have fought a blaze must have their gear washed before it’s put back into service.
Moledor said Mier did a “great job” as fire marshal, was “meticulous” when investigating the cause of a blaze and was “very fair” with residents when he applied the fire code.
“He is one of the most dedicated men that I have known in the fire service field,” said Moledor.
Mier said he would miss the camaraderie of working with other firefighters and noted a co-worker once described the typical schedule as “going camping with your buddies every third day.” Mier added that working with a core group becomes like a “second family.”
He noted the firefighter family is subject to the same dynamics families experience at home.
“But in the end, the mission’s the same for everybody. Everybody’s got each other’s back,” said Mier.
Mier and his wife Lisa raised two sons and a daughter, and have two grandchildren.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.