Upper Arlington News

UA's former fire chief succumbs to cancer

John C. Haney pioneered fire-prevention efforts throughout his career

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Former Upper Arlington Fire Chief John C. Haney, who spent more than three decades championing public safety through fire-prevention campaigns, lost his battle with lung cancer last month.

He died June 15 in Tennessee, where he resided. He was 81.

Local fire officials said all arrangements were held privately. The Upper Arlington Fire Division announced his death June 27.

Haney served the division from 1959 until his retirement Dec. 31, 1991. He became chief in 1982.

“He was a real fireman’s fire chief,” said former UAFD Fire Chief Michael Gibbons, who worked alongside Haney for more than 20 years before succeeding him as chief Jan. 1, 1992. “He really enjoyed working with the firefighters and making sure they had what they needed.

“He was a true public servant and a true friend. So many people knew him and liked him and just enjoyed being around him.”

Haney had a decorated fire safety career in Upper Arlington and beyond.

Gibbons said Haney began fighting fires while he was in the U.S. Navy, before joining the UAFD.

UAFD Public Information Officer Dan Kochensparger noted Haney was elected as first vice president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1521, which represents Upper Arlington’s full-time firefighters, when the organization was chartered in 1964.

Over the years, he moved up the ranks, serving as a firefighter, lieutenant and captain. His duties included code enforcement, inspections, fire safety education and fire investigation, Kochensparger said.

Haney also served on the executive board of the Fire Prevention Committee for Columbus and Franklin County, was the first president of the Central Ohio Fire Prevention Association when it formed in 1969, and was a board member of the Ohio State Arson School.

Haney’s true passion, said both Kochensparger and Gibbons, was fire-prevention education.

For much of his career, Haney worked in and led the UAFD’s Fire Prevention Office, and in 1978, he wrote a white paper titled “Juveniles and Fire: The Upper Arlington Report.” It was recognized nationally as one of the first reports to address the problem of juvenile fire-setting in the United States.

“He already was (with the division) about eight years when I came on and he was the lieutenant in charge of fire prevention,” Gibbons said via telephone last week while vacationing on Lake Erie. He now lives in Plain City. “He was instrumental in starting the juvenile fire-prevention program. This was an Upper Arlington program that went nationwide.  

“If he had anywhere he directed his focus, it was on fire prevention,” Gibbons added. “He talked fire prevention. He lived fire prevention.”

During Haney’s tenure as chief, Gibbons said, he ordered that all fire personnel’s business cards state, “Give your attention to fire prevention.”

The renovation of Fire Station 71 in 1991 included an exterior plaque recognizing Haney’s career. He also was honored as grand marshal of the 1991 Upper Arlington July Fourth parade.

Gibbons, who served the UAFD from 1968 to July 1, 1998, said he “kind of filled in (Haney’s) footsteps” through his career.

He succeeded Haney as captain of the fire-prevention office when Haney was promoted to fire chief, and later followed him to take over the division.   

“I knew John from the time I got on the department,” Gibbons said. “We were just two offices away from each other for probably 16 years.”

He said he speaks with UAFD retirees regularly, and he talked to Haney via telephone about a week before his death.

He noted Haney was managing after being diagnosed with lung cancer roughly six months ago, but the cancer spread to his liver shortly before he died.

“We kind of reminisced about fire service,” Gibbons said. “He enjoyed camping and golfing, and was generally a pretty good guy.”

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