A Family History of Service
Huntington's own Ron and Jason Meier service is in the blood.
By The Den's Mike Rice
After serving as a Military Police officer, stationed in France, during the Vietnam war, Ron Meier returned to Huntington set on resuming his career as a heavy equipment operator.
Ron had help build Interstate 69 and liked the nice income his former job provided.
Destiny had other plans for Ron.
One night, out for a time killing drive through town, Ron happened by the local firehouse and saw two high school friends, who were firemen, standing in front of the station.
The two classmates encouraged Ron to look into joining their ranks.
After talking it over with his father and an interview process packed with political overtones, including the asking of “What’s your politics”, not once, but twice, Ron was hired in August of 1967.
Over the next 38 ½ years, leading up to his retirement in 2006, Ron would witness many changes to the firefighting profession.
The air packs/masks, that every current crew member has, were once stored, 4 to a box on the truck. The firemen who used them were seen as weak, by their peers.
Back then, you sucked it up and “ate the smoke”, as Ron recounts.
Even the size of the crews have evolved.
In Ron’s day, fires were fought by a two-man crew, equipped with a one size fits all fires, “oversized garden hose”, type of hose, about an inch around.
Today’s crews are larger and equipped with various sizes of hoses and lines. Masks are mandatory.
A lot of those changes stem from differences in the materials used to construct homes, businesses and automobiles.
Wood, metal and carpet have often been replaced by plastic, plastic and more plastic, causing fires to burn at different temperatures and put off smoke of different thicknesses that also contains more dangerous chemicals.
When Ron first became a fireman, work weeks averaging around 63 hours were common, occurring from an every other day schedule.
Today’s schedules are centered around a 24 hours on duty, 48 ours off duty routine that averages out to 56 hours per week.
While Ron retired in 2006, he still keeps up on all things fire fighting related through his son, who has followed in Ron’s footsteps.
Jason Meier took after his dad from an early age because as Jason puts it “What kids doesn’t look up to his dad?”
Ron had a part time job laying carpet and Jason would soon pick up the skill, using it to make extra money.
After graduating high school, Jason worked for the Parks Department as a foreman, but would feel the pull of the red trucks and flashing lights.
He became a volunteer fireman in 1993 and moved in to the professional ranks in 1999.
Like his father, he’s seen the face of firefighting change in front his eyes.
The non-fire related side of the job has become much more prevalent, with crews being utilized by communities during emergency medical situations more and more.
The equipment changes that his father’s generation birthed have had an impact on Jason and his fellow firefighters of today, as well.
Jason’s typical day starts with a power lifting workout that keeps him physically prepared for the ever-changing demands of his job.
After a shower and a shave, he reports to work at 7 a.m., eating breakfast with his crew and tending to work around the firehouse.
The expanded crew, diversification of duties and advances in equipment, that have accumulated over the years, means Jason faces a different set of duties depending on what roll he is serving on the crew that day.
That means his daily routine includes a hands-on check and inspection of “anything you’re going to touch that day” and continuous training.
As expected, with over 65 years of firefighting service between them, the two men have their share of “stories”.
While neither one of them can claim to have gotten a cat out of tree, Jason can vividly recall the day he was crawling through a house, doing a secondary search of the property, opened a door and was greeted by a goat.
Jason, who still lives in the house he grew up in, having purchased it from his father, looks forward to another ten years or so on the job.
After that, he has his eyes on retiring to Florida, specifically, somewhere in the Key West area.
Until then he’ll continue spending his off-duty time with his wife, kids and grandkids, as well as hunting and fishing, something his father introduced him to at a young age.
In fact, Jason and Ron and make annual trips to Lake Leelanau, Michigan.
It’s a trip that some people might refer to as a “tradition”. Others may look at is as simply a kid wanting to be like his dad.