With almost 30 years of experience in the fire business, Prairie Township hired from within in selecting a new fire chief.
Assistant Fire Chief Chris Snyder was sworn in as chief during a brief ceremony at the June 12 board of trustees meeting. He succeeds Steve Feustel, who officially retired June 6.
Snyder began his career as a firefighter in 1974 with the Jefferson Township Fire Department, serving the West Jefferson community. He joined the Prairie Township Fire Department in 1985.
Snyder said a fire in an old freezer in the basement of his own home when he was a boy inspired him to become a firefighter.
The blaze prompted a visit from the local fire department, he said.
"I can remember looking at them and saying, 'I want to be one of them someday,' " he said.
"In 1974, you had to have a sponsor to become a firefighter cadet," Snyder said. "I was lucky to have great mentors throughout the years. It has been a wonderful ride."
The people and dealing with the unexpected are what he has loved about firefighting and serving Prairie Township in particular, he said.
"Every day you come to work and you get the unexpected," Snyder said. "The day is always evolving. You are never dealing with the same thing every day. It's challenging and satisfying to be helping someone in need."
Snyder said it is important for firefighters on a run to bring a sense of calm to those who need help.
"Most of the people we meet, this is their first contact with emergency services," he said. "We want to be as calm and reassuring to them as possible."
Snyder said he hopes to bring his strengths -- strong leadership and organization -- to the role of fire chief.
"We have a great group of guys," he said. "I am hoping my leadership will grow within different programs like training and customer service. What we are going to do is take what we have now, which is something great, and make it even better."