Collier's job was a 'dream come true'
Greg Collier joined the Norwich Township Fire Department when Terms of Endearment dominated the Academy Awards, the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series, Michael Jackson filled the airwaves with Billie Jean and Sally Ride made history aboard the Challenger space shuttle.
His first day with the department was May 10, 1983.
Collier, 51, retired Feb. 10 as a battalion chief with almost 30 years of service to Norwich Township and more than 32 years as a firefighter.
"I am so proud to have to opportunity to come to Norwich," Collier said. "It is a wonderful community and it was a dream come true to be a firefighter here."
Firefighting is a family profession for the Colliers.
Collier followed in the footsteps of his father, Denzil, who retired from Norwich Township in 1990, and his grandfather, Leonard, a volunteer firefighter for the Plain City Fire Department from 1958-72.
His brother, Lt. Jeff Collier, who died in 2006 from cancer, was a firefighter in neighboring Washington Township.
His sons have the same career aspirations. Trevor Collier is a senior at Eastern Kentucky University and Adam Collier is a sophomore at Otterbein College. Both are studying fire science.
A graduate of Jonathan Alder High School, Collier became a volunteer firefighter for the Plain City Fire Department at age 18, but he said he learned much about Norwich Township's operation when his father joined the department in 1972.
"I was 10 years old when my dad went to work at Norwich, so I consider myself to have worked for Norwich for more than 40 years," Collier said.
Collier said he spent untold hours at the department's second station on 2899 Hilliard-Rome Road, a building now occupied by Wayac Calibrations. The department used the station for about 10 years solely because trains too often blocked Cemetery Road and Main Street in Old Hilliard.
By 1983, when Collier joined the department, the city had completed a railroad overpass on Cemetery Road and Norwich Township had consolidated the stations at Hilliard-Rome Road and Norwich Street at the current site of the Joint Safety Services Building on Northwest Parkway.
The Joint Safety Services Building currently houses Station 81. The township also has Station 82 on Davidson Road and Station 83 on Walker Road in Brown Township.
Collier still can recall his first day on the job.
Collier did a ride-along the first day on duty, which included responding to a car fire.
"I thought I'd have a longer time to adjust, but they told me the next time, I was driving," Collier said.
The firefighter who drives does not actively fight a fire, but rather is responsible for all the on-board equipment, including hydraulics and the delivery of water from the tanks.
Only six firefighters were on duty at the same time when Collier joined the department. Today, normal shift numbers are almost triple that.
The command structure within the department and the training firefighters receive are among the largest changes Collier said he has witnessed.
"Scenes are safer and more organized (with today's command structure)," Collier said.
As a battalion chief, Collier was in command of a scene and solely dedicated to managing it. When he first joined the fire department, the commander of the scene also had to actively participate in controlling the fire.
Also, when Collier joined, not all firefighters were certified as paramedics. Most modern firefighters are trained as paramedics and can administer life-saving measures to patients en route to hospitals.
"When I was first a firefighter, our role as medics was largely to transport to a hospital," Collier said. "Today, we are actively treating for trauma, cardiac arrest and other medical emergencies. (Patients) don't have to wait until getting to the hospital."
Collier was promoted to lieutenant in 1999, captain in 2004 and battalion chief in 2012.
In addition to his service to Norwich Township, Collier was chief of the Jerome Township Fire Department, a part-time position, from 1992-99.
Collier said he had hoped to achieve 30 years of service with Norwich Township, but a brush with cancer caused him to retire a little earlier than expected.
He recently completed a successful second surgery and doctors have told him to enjoy his retirement, which includes a trip with his wife, Tammi, in March to watch their son, Adam, play baseball in a college tournament in Florida.
"I'll also have more time to help with projects at (Dublin Baptist Church)," Collier said.