New Franklin chief retiring
Fire Chief Perry Surgeon reflects on 36-year career
|New Franklin Fire Chief Perry Surgeon will retire June 28 after 36 years of service, all with the New Franklin Fire Department.|
|Photo: Maria Lindsay|
In a few short years, Surgeon said he found his calling instead on the emergency medical services (EMS) side that was just developing.
“I found out I really liked helping people,” he said. “I liked it because there was generally not a good outcome to a fire. Property was destroyed, people were displaced and lives were disrupted. In EMS, you are doing something positive.
During his 36 years of service to the community, which will come to an end June 28 upon his retirement, Surgeon has had the opportunity to both learn a lot and help plenty of people, he said.
Surgeon said he was certified as a firefighter in September 1976 at the Akron Fire Department Fire Academy. He completed emergency medical technician (EMT) basic training in 1977 and received EMT-paramedic (EMT-P) certification in July 1982 from Akron General Medical Center. He was certified as an EMT-P instructor in 1982 and as a fire service instructor in 1983. In 1987, he was certified as a fire safety inspector and as a hazardous materials technician, he said. He served with the Summit County Hazardous Materials Response Team until 1997.
Surgeon served as a lieutenant in the fire department from 1989 to 2003, supervising EMS and EMS and hazardous materials training. In March 2003, he was appointed acting fire chief of Franklin Township and promoted to fire chief in February 2004. Subsequently, he was named fire chief of New Franklin Village and continued in that position when the village became a city.
Surgeon said he received a bachelor’s degree in technical education in 2001 and an associate of applied science degree in fire protection technology in 1996, both from The University of Akron.
According to Surgeon, he has taken courses in strategic and master planning, financial management and EMS management at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md., as well as courses on emergency planning and at the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
In addition to the formal training, there was a lot of learning on the job, Surgeon said.
“One of the biggest changes over the years has been the shift from fire suppression to fire prevention, which is a good thing,” he said.
Surgeon credited smoke detectors and education with the resulting significant drop in fires.
In fact, prevention has become such a key focus for most fire departments that the new badge, created when the community became a city in 2004, placed “Prevention” on top of the department’s new emblem, with “Fire” and “EMS” on the sides and “Rescue” on the bottom.
Surgeon said one the most memorable fires he was involved with included a 1995 gas fire at an old Marathon pump station on Kungle Road with about 200,000 gallons of gas. Surgeon said he and another person on their way to dinner stumbled upon the spill, caused by a pipeline leak, which caused a hillside to catch fire and took more than one week to clean up.
On the EMS side, Surgeon said that when he first began, paramedics offered very little treatment or evaluation.
“EMTs and EMS really changed how we handle calls,” he said. “Our monitors are like an emergency room in a box. We do a lot more treatment on the scene and make fewer trips to the emergency room.”
Surgeon said he still finds the job exciting, but he decided to retire now to fulfill a promise he made to himself to retire by 59. He is only about five months late on keeping that promise, he added.
“The job is still exciting, and there is a great group of people in the department,” said Surgeon. “We have well-trained, conscientious people. There is no other business where you can call and have someone on your porch within 10 minutes to help you.”
Local officials praised Surgeon for his work on behalf of the community.
Mayor Al Bollas said Surgeon was a dedicated professional who loves his work.”
Council member Judy Jones (at large) said Surgeon has been a “very good fire chief.”
Steve Leslie, assistant fire chief for the past two years, said he has known Surgeon since he first started working with the department 28 years ago.
“I have enjoyed working with Perry,” he added. “He is one of those people who is willing to help new people and mentor them along.”
Leslie said Surgeon has been nicknamed “doctor” because of his passion for EMS.
“He recognized its vital significance to the department long ago and has been a driving force in making us one of the better EMS departments in the area,” said Leslie. “Also an EMS instructor, he has always tried to keep up with changes and keep the department as a whole progressive.”
Linda Domico, an administrative aide for the department, said she has worked with Surgeon for 30 years.
“I was one of the first women in the department,” she said. “Perry has always been a big supporter of women in the department. He has been a good boss, a good friend and an all-round good guy. He has helped a lot of people in the department.”
Surgeon said he will not “disappear” upon retirement.
“I plan to remain involved with the fire department and the city in the future,” he added.
A retirement and recognition party in his honor will take place July 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Tudor House, 655 Latham Lane. Appetizers and cake will be served and a special presentation is planned at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.
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