The West Licking Joint Fire District's new chief isn't always at the fire station. Since he started about a month ago, Chief David Fulmer has been seen out in the community, introducing himself to the people and government officials with whom he now works.

The West Licking Joint Fire District's new chief isn't always at the fire station. Since he started about a month ago, Chief David Fulmer has been seen out in the community, introducing himself to the people and government officials with whom he now works.

"I will not be a stranger," Fulmer told Pataskala City Council last week. "Your needs are our needs."

Pataskala city administrator Timothy Boland said Fulmer already has attended a city department-heads meeting and was an active participant.

"We're looking forward to working with you," Boland told Fulmer.

Pataskala City Councilwoman Pat Sagar, who sits on the fire district's board, said Fulmer came with great credentials and has been open and easy to work with.

"For (only) a month (into your new job), you're doing terrific," she said.

Fulmer has been a firefighter since he was 14, when he worked as a junior firefighter with the Pleasant Hill Volunteer Fire Department in Steubenville.

He had thought about becoming a state highway patrolman later but decided otherwise.

"I have no family ties to the business," he said. "I'm a first-generation firefighter."

He joined the Army National Guard after high school and went to the University of Akron to earn his fire-protection associate's degree and his bachelor's degree in technical education.

During his college tenure, Fulmer continued his fire service, working as a firefighter for the Fairlawn Fire Department near Akron.

He returned to the Dayton area after graduating to sell some safety equipment and then was hired by the University of Illinois to teach at the college's fire academy.

Again, Fulmer continued fire services, this time with the village of Savoy, near Champaign, Ill. He served as an assistant chief and chief there and later left the college to become a fire chief at Fitchburg, near Madison, Wis., before returning to Ohio and taking the chief's position in Miami Township in Miamisburg.

He worked in Miamisburg for seven years, but he and his wife, Amber, had hoped to be in central Ohio, near most of their family. When the position at West Licking opened, Fulmer was glad to be chosen.

"Our long-term goal was to get back in Columbus, into the Columbus metropolitan area," he said.

Though the family still is living in Miamisburg and will until their house sells, Fulmer said, he is excited to begin looking for a home nearby.

The West Licking Joint Fire District is considered a challenging district, covering 109 square miles in seven jurisdictions: Etna, Harrison and Jersey townships, the villages of Kirkersville and a portion of New Albany, the cities of Pataskala and a portion of Reynoldsburg.

This is the first fire district for which Fulmer has worked but said most departments have similar challenges today. Miamisburg was considering starting a fire district but did not prior to his departure.

"It's not only an opportunity, but a challenge, dealing with urban flight and increased calls for service," Fulmer said.

He said balancing growth and the financial ability to pay for services is one of the challenges he sees in his new position.

Being in a fire district also presents an interesting "economy of scale," he said.

"You are funding one organization, not six or seven, but you have to balance the needs of six to seven as compared to one."

The fire district has an $8.2-million budget for this year and has 60 full-time firefighters and 24 part-time firefighters.

Although now an administrator, Fulmer said, he hasn't forgotten what it is like to run into a burning building, and he doesn't forget that the people under his command continue to run into burning buildings.

In his office, he keeps a twisted, burned piece of metal, a remnant of a chemical-company explosion that almost killed him and 11 other firefighters in Miami Township.

"We were 150 feet away when it blew," he said.

He also keeps with him a flag that two Miami Township firefighters carried with them in the memorial run held in New York City, in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The two men had the flag and their picture framed as a going-away present for their chief.

When asked what his goals for the department are, Fulmer said he's working with the board and the staff to determine what goals the department hopes to accomplish this year.

lwince@thisweeknews.com