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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fort Thomas Fire Fighters Retire with 47 Years Service

Members of the Fort Thomas Fire Department at the Grilling for Tim event at Tower Park in July. 
In July Fort Thomas quietly lost two of its longest serving public servants, as Captain Jeff Parker and Lieutenant Steve Rath retired from Fort Thomas Fire Department, after nearly 50 years of combined service.

Captain Parker retired with 25 years of service to FTFD, 17 as an officer, while Lieutenant Rath had 22 years, with the last 3 as an officer.  Fire Chief Mark Bailey said the department has lost: “Two wonderful gentleman and they’ll be sorely missed. They’re both welcome back at the station any time.”

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Jeff Parker was a shift commander as well as being in charge of Fort Thomas’ Emergency Medical Service. Chief Bailey points out that this was no small task:

“Most people don’t realise that we respond to more EMS calls than anything, it’s around 90% EMS to 10% anything else.  Jeff was instrumental in keeping our EMS service on the right path, I can speak highly enough about Jeff and the job he did.”

Jeff also teaches the next generation of first responders at the University of Cincinnati on their bachelors in fire protection program and he’ll continue to teach there, as well as getting involved in training at local departments, now that he’s retired

As well as his emergency duties, Lieutenant Steve Rath carried out fire inspections in Fort Thomas and assisted his captain in running his shift. Lieutenant Rath has also served on the executive board of the Kentucky Fireman’s Association, currently serving as secretary. Chief Bailey said having someone with Steve’s background in the station was invaluable:

“A lot of regulations come from our senators in Frankfort and Steve did a great job of keeping us apprised. He was instrumental in letting us know what was passed there and what was happening in other parts of the state.”

Both men spent time in fire stations from an early age, as both of their fathers were volunteer fire fighters. After serving for so long together the men are great friends. Captain Parker says of Steve: “He’s a hell of a guy, a hell of a firefighter and a hell of a medic. He made so many runs and did a lot of good. Everybody loved working with Steve.”

Having served for so long, the men have seen many changes over their long careers. Captain Parker says there is so much specialization now, and so much training involved that makes fighting fires easier, although it also makes it harder for members of the public to volunteer as fire fighters, as there’s so much time involved.  

Although Captain Parker says the Fire Department is a lot more “organized” now, he does have concerns about staffing levels. “If we have 4 people on shift and two go on a call, there’s only two left in the station should another call come in.” He believes that this is primarily a funding issue but is worse since historically there were many volunteer fire fighters and now it’s so hard for people to spend the time required.

Another unwelcome change has been an increase in the number of overdoses paramedics must deal with: “In the 80s and 90s we used Narcan (a drug which can block the effects of opiates and prevent an overdose) very rarely, now it happens quite often.”

Having gone on thousands of runs, it’s impossible to overestimate the positive effect that these two men have had on Fort Thomas. Captain Parker remembers being called to help a man in his fifties. He needed defibrillated, the medics did CPR, ran IVs and cleared his airways. They managed to get a pulse and got him to the hospital. When they got to the fire station for their next shift, the man’s son was waiting  with giftsto thank them personally. “Those are the ones that stay with you.”

A lot of the things Captain Parker is proud of doing during his time in FTFD happened behind the scenes, such as applying for a grant that allowed the department to purchase a new cot with hydraulic lifts. Small things that could possibly go unnoticed but make things better for the guys who come after him, as well as the citizens of Fort Thomas.

Captain Parker says serving Fort Thomas for so many years was an honor: “The people who live here were good to us. They appreciated us. You never want anything bad to happen to anyone, but I always enjoyed helping people when I could.”

Chief Bailey is grateful to both men: “I thank them both for their service to our citizens and wish them nothing but the best in their retirement.”

Despite having big shoes to fill, Chief Bailey is confident that the newly pinned fire fighters and newly promoted officers will be up to the job of keeping Fort Thomas safe:

“I look forward to working with the new personnel and newly promoted officers and it’s all positive things for FTFD in the future.”

Captain Parker agrees:

“The city can count on these guys. They are great paramedics and great firefighters.”

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