When Trevor Collier began his full-time fire service Sept. 1 for the Norwich Township Fire Department, it continued a family tradition that began in 1958 when his great-grandfather and grandfather first picked up a hose and ax.

Collier, 27, said one of his earliest memories was being 7 years old and accompanying his father, Greg Collier, a retired Norwich Township firefighter, to the scene of a fatal car accident on U.S. Route 42 in Plain City.

"I was young enough that I didn't understand the life-and-death (aspect) of it but I remember watching how the firefighters handled it," he said.

The 2009 graduate of Jonathan Alder High School in Plain City said his first mentors included many firefighters who worked alongside his father.

Greg Collier, 55, worked full-time at Norwich Township from 1983 to 2013 and was a part-time firefighter for Jerome Township.

Greg Collier said he knew he wanted to be a firefighter from the start and while he still was in high school, he began working around the station with his father, Denzil Collier, 79, a full-time Norwich firefighter from 1972 to 1990.

He said he remembers hearing a whistle blow and watching his father and his grandfather, Leonard, scurry away to respond to a call as Plain City volunteer firefighters.

Denzil Collier, though, was new to the profession.

"I didn't always think of being a firefighter," Denzil Collier said. "My wife's brother was a volunteer firefighter for Plain City and he asked me if I wanted to be a firefighter.

"A few days later, the fire chief came to the filling station where I worked and said, 'You're hired.' "

In this case, the son inspired the father to join the ranks, as Leonard Collier also became a Plain City volunteer firefighter in 1958. He and his son volunteered together until 1972, when Denzil Collier became full-time Norwich firefighter.

When he joined the department, only two firefighters were on duty each shift at each of Norwich's two stations, Denzil Collier said.

One station was on Norwich Street, just north of Main Street and behind the IGA store, and the other was on Hilliard-Rome Road just south of Tinapple Road. The southern station was necessary because of the frequency of trains that blocked Main Street in Old Hilliard and Cemetery Road west of Norwich Street, he said.

In addition to watching his father respond to calls in Plain City, Greg Collier said he remembers occasionally tagging along on Norwich calls.

"I had a lot of fun at softball games and turkey shoots, too," he said. "As soon I was eligible (at age 18), I took classes to become a firefighter."

While Denzil and Greg Collier worked together for Norwich Township, another family member, Lt. Jeff Collier, Denzil's son and Greg's brother, was a full-time firefighter at Washington Township.

All three also worked part time at Jerome Township until Jeff Collier died in 2006 from cancer. (Leonard Collier died one year earlier, in 2005.)

"We could fill out an engine company (at Jerome) all by ourselves," Greg Collier said.

He said things have changed since that time.

"When my dad started, it was only 72 hours of paramedic school," Greg Collier said. "My training was about six months, and now it takes almost a year."

Denzil Collier said he recalls his fire service as a constant in his life. His residence is filled with pictures of him alongside those who served with him.

"Norwich was a great place to work and I can't thank everyone here enough from the bottom of my heart ... and now I have grandsons (serving)," he said.

They include Trevor and his brother, Adam, 25, a part-time firefighter at Jerome Township, Allen Township and Pleasant Valley.

Trevor Collier said being a fourth-generation firefighter is not lost upon him.

"I'm excited to carry it on and fulfill expectations," he said.

Anthony Hahn, 27, also joined the Norwich Township Fire Department on Sept. 1. He and Collier bring the total number of Norwich firefighters and supervisors to 89.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo