STOW - Remembered as a team leader and having a good work ethic, Stow Fire Capt. Steve Wood “Woody” gave more than 30 years service to Stow, Tallmadge and the county in fighting fires.
Capt. Wood lost his battle with cancer and died Jan. 2.
He served the citizens of Stow for 30 years before retiring in January 2016. He also worked part time at Tallmadge Fire Department for 36 years and was a Summit County HazMat Team member since 1987.
Stow Mayor John Pribonic said he knew Wood when he was involved with the schools and then during his 11 years on Council.
“He was always a fantastic gentleman and handled himself professionally,” he said.
Pribonic described Wood as a team leader and team player.
“He never expected someone to do something he wouldn't do,” Pribonic said. “He was always there and guys could come to him. His genuine concern was for the Stow Fire Department.”
Tallmadge Fire Chief Mike Passarelli said Wood began working part time in Tallmadge in March 1979 and retired in 2016.
Passarelli began working in 1976 and there were a string of barn, house and commercial fires during that time.
“Wood was on the [fire hose] tip,” Passarelli said. “He would pick it up and take it in.”
Wood was unshakeable and wasn't rattled whether at a fire or bad EMS call, he said.
“When you're looking at a crew, you’d breathe a sigh of relief when he was with you,” Passarelli said. “The chances of something going wrong were pretty slim but you were glad he was on your crew. He always made the difference.”
Love Furniture on West Avenue was one of the hottest fires Passarelli recalls. The first engine went in off the dock on the west side where racks of bedding were standing on edge and had caught fire. Someone opened the door to let the smoke out and it created a forge, adding air to the fire. Wood and Passarelli were on the second engine and went in the front door.
“We crawled halfway through that room,” Passarelli said. “Our mask rubber and face pieces started to distort it was so hot. We said we had to get out of there. That was the only fire we backed out of. If you backed Steve Wood out of a fire, it was bad.”
All the furniture had charred marks above 36 inches and the tops were charred from the intense heat going on in that building, Passarelli said, describing it like an oven. They cut a 4-by-4 hole in the roof to get the heat out of the building so they could control the fire.
“Wood never let that stuff bother him,” Pasarelli said. “He had a dry sense of humor but was a pleasant person to be around.”
Wood served on almost every committee that came along, Passarelli said. He had a voice in what the fire department was buying and how the department worked.
“He was a guy that if you gave him a project, he was hard charging,” Passarelli said. “He would finish the project that you gave him and he would give it his all.”
Passarelli said he knew Wood’s father and his brother, Tom.
“His father was hard charging too,” he said. “The apple didn't fall far from the tree.”
His work ethic and even temperament were his two best features and a great example to others, Passarelli said.
“When you brought in a new guy and pointed to who not to be and who to be, Steve was definitely who to be,” Passarelli said.
Wood served as past HazMat Zone coordinator, assistant director of operations and director of operations. He also received the Ron Floyd Award for Outstanding Service to the Summit County HazMat Team, and was instrumental in specification and equipping the construction of the HazMat Team's original decon vehicle, and the purchase and setup of meters and calibration systems for the team.
Wood was also a big part of the HazMat Team’s transition to Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) response capabilities with equipment and training, he was tasked with purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Stow Fire Department and made sure everyone's bunker gear was kept in working condition.
Wood was born in Akron. He graduated from Tallmadge High School in 1978 as a member of the baseball and basketball teams.
A Facebook post by the Stow Fire Department said Wood is described as being “very proud” of his two sons, Cody and Jacob, and went on many motorcycle trips with fellow firefighters enjoying the friendships he forged over the years. “He will be missed in this fire department, but his friendship, leadership and contributions to the fire service and Summit County Hazardous Materials Team will remain.”
According to the Tallmadge Fire Department, donations in Wood’s memory can be made to the IAFF Local 1662, c/o Stow Fire Department, 3800 Darrow Road, Stow 44224 or to the Tallmadge Part Time Firefighter Association, c/o Station 1, 85 West Overdale Drive, Tallmadge 44278.
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org