The City of Cuyahoga Falls was founded in 1812. On February 2, 1837, interested citizens formed a volunteer fire department known as the Hook and Ladder Company according to the first minutes (log) book kept by J. H. Bryns, an original member. Fifty-three years later, Mr. Bryns hand-copied that original book for history. On June 3, 1837, the very first ordinance passed established the fire department for the safety and protection of the citizens of Cuyahoga Falls. The first fire warden was appointed in 1839. The gentlemen who served as fire wardens were:
In 1838, the first uniform, a hat, frock and belt, was established, and a committee was formed to select and procure uniforms for the fire department. In 1888, the fire department was officially "organized" by the Village Council. The department was run entirely by volunteers, but was staffed by a chief, Thomas Carney, two captains and twenty call men. To date, thirteen men have served as fire chief. They are:
1888 - 1889 Thomas Carney
1938 - 1959 Louis Seiler
1889 - 1902 William Clarkson
1959 - 1975 Myron Harrington, Jr.
1902 - 1905 Irvin Loomis
1975 - 1981 Elmer Brown
1905 - 1910 Russell Post
1981 - 1991 Wayne Bowen
1910 - 1912 Irvin Loomis
1991 - 1998 R. Robert Leonard
1912 - 1915 Frank Bethel
1998 - 2008 Mark S. Snyder
1915 – 1938 Myron Harrington, Sr.
2008 – present Paul D. Moledor
In 1909, for about nine months, Cuyahoga Falls was without fire protection due to a feud with City Council. All volunteers resigned their post. In the fall, on inauguration day for the city’s new mayor, all the volunteers were reinstated. Also that year, a member of council acting as fire chief bought a horse drawn hose and chemical truck for $1,525. Equipment such as this had not been a requirement because the city had water mains. Being a member of the Hook and Ladder Company for five years offered special privileges. A member was eligible for a certificate from the state exempting him from Road Tax, serving as a juror or doing military duty while living in the State of Ohio.
In the early years, the fire department was quartered in the basement of City Hall, located at Front Street and Broad Boulevard. In 1927, the fire department was moved from the basement of City Hall to its first station, Station 1 at 1924 Front Street, and established a staff of paid members and volunteers. In 1932, the department was fully staffed by paid members. Station #2, at 2121 High Street, was built in 1949 to service the eastside of town, which at that time was isolated because of the railroad tracks dividing the city. Station #3, at 1601 Portage Trail, was added in 1959 due to expansion of the city westward after the war. Station #4, at 3089 Northampton Road, was added with the merger of Cuyahoga Falls and Northampton Township in 1986. In 2006, Station 5 was built in a more central location to realign the workload, pulling from all the other districts. Land was reserved to build a training tower in the near future.
In 2008, the Cuyahoga Falls Public Safety Communications Center moved into new facilities at Station 5, at which time the City of Cuyahoga Falls entered an agreement to dispatch calls for Munroe Falls. Also in 2008, the Village of Silver Lake contracted with the City of Cuyahoga Falls for Fire, EMS and Rescue response. Assistance was expanded to include housing and building inspections, and smoke detector installations for Silver Lake residents.
To date, two Line of Duty Deaths have occurred on the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department. On 9 March 1937, Captain M. Earl Weirick (age 44) suffered smoke inhalation while fighting a grass fire and died of a heart attack on his way home the following morning. He was a 23-year veteran of the department and was laid to rest at the Oakwood Cemetery in Cuyahoga Falls. Fire Fighter Frank Schumann (age 33) passed away on the morning of 15 December 1957. Just before 4:00 am that morning, CFFD was summoned to the intersection of State Road and Maitland to flush gasoline from the roadway after an auto accident. The water used to flush the gas and the cold temperatures combined to present an icy hazard, so salt was ordered to the scene. Fire fighters Schumann and John Moore (age 22) were unloading the salt from the rear of a pick-up truck when an auto (driven by a drunk driver) struck the rear of the pick-up, crushing FF Schumann between the auto and the truck. FF Schumann, the father of two small children and a 3-1/2 year veteran of the department, died of multiple, internal injuries at Akron City Hospital less than 9 hours after the incident. He is laid to rest at the Bethlehem Cemetery in Malvern, Ohio.
Fire Prevention Bureau
Since the Fire Prevention Bureau was established in 1967, the following members have served as Fire Marshal:
1967 - 1977 George "Red" Costell
1989 - 1995 Jerry Lyell
1978 - 1984 Ivan Bennett
1996 – present Michael Dunton
1985 - 1988 James Pohl
In 1996, the Fire Prevention Bureau was expanded to three full-time members and one part-time member. This enabled the establishment of the Education and Records Divisions. A Fire Safety Trailer was purchased to assist in the training of fire safety to children. Lt. Fred Jackson was appointed as Training/Education Officer and FF Thomas Baird was appointed as Records Management Officer. A Fire Safety Instructor position was created to provide fire safety education opportunities for children and adults.
The Fire Prevention Bureau teaches fire-safety education to the children, adults, and senior citizens of our community. The bureau employs a part-time fire safety educator whose responsibility is to educate children at preschools, public elementary schools, and private schools throughout the school year. Classroom presentations, Fire Prevention Week visits by the firefighters and the fire engines, and Fire Safety Trailer demonstrations are the methods used to get our message across. Throughout the year, the fire safety educator attends other events (such as community festivals and health fairs) with the firefighters. Annually, approximately 11,000 children receive our fire safety training (1990 Census, three years and older in school).
During classroom presentations, stories about fire safety are read to the children, followed by a class discussion about the book. (The books used can be obtained at Taylor Memorial Library.) CFFD has its own library of fire safety videos to be shown. The videos range in age appropriateness from preschoolers to senior citizens. The content of these videos shows children how to crawl low under smoke, the seriousness of fire and how quickly a fire can spread through. Other classroom presentations include instructions on how to crawl low under smoke, to stop, drop, and roll, and to dial 9-1-1. Older students are quizzed about fire safety and asked to sequence pictures that describe what to do in case of a fire. This is followed with a fire safety discussion.
CFFD sponsors Safety Town at the Falls Natatorium for the incoming Cuyahoga Falls / Woodridge kindergartners each June. The fire safety educator arranges for speakers and volunteer assistants and gathers pamphlets, brochures and snacks for the students. Approximately 250 kindergartners attend Safety Town. During these two weeks, the topics covered with the children are:
The instructors use a variety of teaching methods from hands-on to videos. The children enjoy “crawling low” in the Fire Safety Trailer with the pretend smoke, made of sugar and water. They listen to speakers, watch videos, and color safety pictures.
The Fire Safety Trailer is a very valuable, hands-on tool for children. This RV-size trailer is taken to schools and festivals. The presentation starts in the living room with topics such as lights, electricity, fireplaces, and candles. The children dial 911 on a telephone, to practice an emergency call and discuss all types of emergencies. The presentation then travels to the kitchen. There they learn:
- What is the correct water temperature to wash your hands
- What to do if you are burned
- What are smoke detectors and what noise they make
- Not to touch the stove or oven
- How to cook in the microwave
- Not to play in the kitchen
The presentation moves upstairs to the bedroom. Here the discussion includes:
- Two ways out of every room
- Touching the door with the back of your hand to see if it is hot
- Crawling low under smoke
- Not to hide from the firefighters
- Never go back into a burning building
During Fire Prevention Week, the firefighters take the fire engines out to the schools and preschools. They see approximately 2,000 students and teachers. The fire fighters describe the fire truck and don turnout gear to show the students that fire fighters are “our friends”. Age appropriate safety information is shared with the students. Posters and stickers are provided for the schools.
While the Fire Safety Trailer is appropriate for some community events, the Fire Hazard House works better for others. The Hazard House is a portable forty-nine pound model home, which features a laundry room, bedroom, kitchen, living room, utility room, bathroom, computer room, and an attic. There are many hazards hidden in this house to illustrate the importance of fire safety. Panels depicting typical neighborhood scenarios, such as children crossing the street, skateboarding, bicycling, swimming, playground safety, carbon monoxide poisoning, and seatbelt safety are used to further illustrate safety issues. Home safety checklists are among the variety of literature passed out at these events.
Teaching fire safety is very important to our community. Fire can strike anytime and anywhere. Teaching fire safety to children at a young age, and reinforcing it as they mature, helps to imprint this valuable information in their minds. Empowering children and adults with fire safety knowledge will last a lifetime!
Emergency Medical Service was added to the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department in 1975. The service was started by 10 members who received paramedic training at Green Cross Hospital (now Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital). Dr. Thomas Petinga, Dr. Richard Smilak and Dr. Alfred Narraway coordinated the training. The founding members were:
In December of 1998, CFFD began transporting patients to the hospital as a matter of course. Before this time, CFFD responded to EMS emergencies, treated the patient, and often accompanied the patient to the hospital, but a private ambulance company actually provided transport. Today, CFFD can complete all the emergency medical care necessary for our citizens without the help of outside companies. This bold move has proven to improve patient care and abbreviate the time it takes to get a patient to the hospital. The acceptance of this new responsibility in patient care is but another example of the dedication and skill that the members of the department bring to the citizens of Cuyahoga Falls.
In the spring of 1984, Chief Wayne Bowen was requested to send the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department "dive team" to Franklin Township to search for a boy who was believed to have drowned in Turkeyfoot Lake. The divers he gathered were able to find the drowned boy within 30 minutes of their arrival after local authorities and volunteer divers had searched for over 6 hours. This incident was the impetuous for the development of the CFFD Dive Team. The charter members of this team included:
The dive team evolved into the water rescue team, which became a subset of Special Operations in 1993. At the time, Special Operations included water and high angle rescue disciplines. The charter members of the Technical Rescue Operations Team (TROT) included:
Today, Special Operations have added several new capabilities including Trench and Confined Space Rescue. In addition, CFFD members participate in the Summit County Technical Rescue Operations Team (SCTROT) sharing ideas and training with other rescuers in Summit County. In addition, several CFFD members are also assigned to the Summit County Hazardous Materials Response Team (SCHMRT). On CFFD, this important specialty, emergency -response discipline also became part of Special Operations. CFFD members who became charter members of the SCHMRT in 1986 included:
In November of 1996, a request was made of IAFF Local #494 (Cuyahoga Falls Fire Fighters Association) to select some members to serve as Honor Guards to represent the fire department at an ecumenical service. Fire Fighter Steve Lyons coordinated a volunteer group of professional fire fighters to serve at the service, and this group has since become the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department Honor Guard. The mission of the Honor Guard is to stand solemnly, in respect of all fallen fire fighters, past and present, who have made public service their profession and to show empathy, compassion and support to their loved ones.
All requests for the Honor Guard are directed to, or requested of, the Fire Chief. The chief’s office then contacts the Honor Guard Team Leader who coordinates all necessary arrangements with the family, the funeral home, the department and Honor Guard members.
Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial
at Oakwood Cemetery - Today
Females in the Fire Service
The Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department wrote another piece of history when it hired its first female fire fighter in July of 1999. Diane Dempster was only 23 years old when she joined the force. She had just completed Kent State’s School of Nursing program and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. Just seven months later, Chief Mark S. Snyder had the opportunity to hire yet another female fire fighter, Cathy Brightman. FF Brightman, also a nurse, was a 25-year veteran of Cuyahoga Falls General, St. Thomas and Akron City Hospitals. She had even served as a paramedic course instructor before joining CFFD. Older than most candidates, being a fire fighter was Cathy’s life-long dream, fulfilled at the age of 42. Twenty-two months later, 23-year old Charmaine Zawacki (now Kamp) was sworn in as a fire fighter. With this hiring, there was a female on each shift. In 2007, Maggie Hobson joined the department.All of these women were welcomed by their comrades and made fine additions to the force.
In 1998, CFFD was one of the first fire departments in the country to acquire thermal imaging helmets. Thermal imaging identifies heat sources through thick, black smoke, whether the heat source is a human being or the core of a fire. This technology enables fire fighters to quickly locate hot spots and provides a new level of safety. Extensive training was conducted at a demolition site on Huddleston Avenue. City Council members were invited to the training site for a hands-on experience with the new equipment. All were duly impressed. Since then, CFFD has purchased hand held thermal imagers also. All first responding apparatus are equipped with thermal imagers.
In 1999, Mayor Don L. Robart established a Comprehensive Emergency Management Program to provide a citywide plan to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from large-scale emergencies and/or disasters that may occur in Cuyahoga Falls. With the tragedy of September 11, 2001, interest in this program was renewed. Citywide training was conducted in the fall of 2002 and the program was expanded to include area schools with safety plans. All Cuyahoga Falls classrooms are now equipped with first aid supplies, emergency aids and evacuation instructions.
In May 2001, the City of Cuyahoga Falls and Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital joined forces to sponsor a program designed to save lives using Automatic Electronic Defibrillators. Defibrillators are used to “jump-start” the heart in a sudden cardiac arrest. Time is the enemy for a victim suffering from sudden cardiac arrest, but the survival rate dramatically improves with the use of an AED. The program is titled the “Cuyahoga Falls Public Access Defibrillation Initiative.” Cuyahoga Falls is the first city in Ohio to provide this type of community program. Eleven AEDs were placed throughout the city – in the City Building, at the Police Department, in each of the five district police cars, at the Quirk Center, at the Natatorium, at the Golf Course and at the Electric Department. City and school employees were provided training on the use of AED’s. Placing AEDs throughout the city makes Cuyahoga Falls a safer place to live, work and visit. In the future, AEDs will be placed in other public buildings in Cuyahoga Falls.
Smoke detectors are a valuable tool to save lives from home fires. In January 2000, CFFD initiated the Smoke Detector Program, whereby detectors with lithium batteries are installed at no cost to the resident. The detectors will function effectively for 7 – 10 years before needing replaced. Nearly 6,000 detectors have been installed in over 2,000 homes in Cuyahoga Falls.
January 25, 2001 looked like it was going to end like most days for 91-year old Michael Puzio of Union Street. Mr. Puzio, a bachelor since the death of his wife the year before, was preparing his dinner. Neighbors and family kept his freezer stocked with entrees he could “pop” in the microwave. Shortly before 5:00 PM, he put something in the microwave and went to the living room to rest until it was ready. He would have a quiet meal in front of the television.
Next-door, 12-year old neighbor, Jason Locklear, was playing in his backyard when he heard something unusual. Like most 12-year old boys, Jason was curious. The noise was the persistent “beep-beep” of a smoke detector and it led him to the home of his friend, Mr. Puzio. Jason peeked in the window and could see that the house was filling with smoke. He ran around to the front of the house and started banging on the door. Through the front window, he could just barely see Mr. Puzio asleep in his lounge chair. The house was full of heavy smoke. He banged even harder. Mr. Puzio got up, but stumbled and fell trying to get to the door. Jason could see that his friend was in trouble. Without thinking, Jason pushed the front door open and ran to help him. Jason carried Mr. Puzio out of the house and laid him on a bench while he ran home to call 911. The microwave was burning, and the fire was starting to spread to the objects around it. Soon, the Fire Department arrived to treat Mr. Puzio for smoke inhalation, the abrasions on his face, to put out the fire and to clear his house of smoke. Without the alarm sounded by the detector, Mr. Puzio may have gone to sleep permanently.
Mr. Puzio’s day ended differently on January 25, 2001. He had a new friend; the smoke detector installed a few months prior by the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department. And, thankfully, he had his “old” friend, Jason. For his heroic efforts, Jason was awarded a mayoral commendation in the presence of his teachers, family and his grateful friend, Mr. Puzio. CFFD documented its first “save” because of the Smoke Detector Program and hopes to document many more such saves.