When Capt. Greg Myers completes his final shift for the Plain Township Fire Department next month, he will be the first firefighter in nearly 20 years to retire, according to Chief John Hoovler.

The last person to retire from the station was former assistant chief Bernie Obert, said Hoovler, who joined Plain Township as its fire chief in 1994.

Obert retired in February 2001, according to township officials.

The reason for the low number of retirements is because when the fire department switched from volunteers to full-time firefighters in 1991, most of the employees hired were relatively young, Hoovler said.

Myers, who did not become a full-timer until 1995 when he was in his late 30s, was the first older firefighter hired, Hoovler said.

Other firefighters could have retired already, but they have opted to prolong their service time through a program within the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund for financial benefit, Hoovler said. He estimated that in five years, several firefighters in the department could retire about the same time.

Myers has been a full-time firefighter with the department for more than two decades, and his absence will create a void, Hoovler said.

"He'll be missed," he said.

For Myers, a 61-year-old Plain Township resident, Plain Township was the first and only community he served during his firefighting career.

He was introduced to the work incrementally, starting as a volunteer.

"In little steps, it all came along," he said.

When Myers and his wife, Diana, moved to Plain Township from Whitehall in 1985, his wife's brother, Bob Goodrich, was serving as a township volunteer firefighter.

Myers said he figured the activity would help him become involved in the community, so he decided to do the same while working as an auto mechanic.

In December 1995, he accepted a full-time post as a firefighter-paramedic. A few years after that, he became a designated firefighter in charge -- a firefighter who acts as a lieutenant when the lieutenant is off duty.

In 2005, Myers was promoted to lieutenant, and he became a captain in April 2013.

HIs last shift day in his current role will be April 16, he said.

After that, Myers plans to hit the road with his wife, staying in a camper the two already have taken to the Outer Banks. They plan to drive around the country, timing their travel so that they end up in the Southwest for the winter, Myers said.

He also plans to spend more time with family. He and his wife have three children: Julie, 40, Bryan, 36, and Eric, 23.

Though Myers said he is leaving firefighting, Eric Myers might follow in his father's footsteps.

Eric Myers started entertaining the idea of a career in firefighting while in high school, Myers said, and he earned a degree in fire protection and administration. He has been busy for the past few years applying and testing to land a job, he said.

The education and hiring processes for firefighters can be a challenge, although the career is a rewarding one, Myers said.

Myers said he became a firefighter later than most, starting as a volunteer at 29 and beginning full-time work at 38. Most firefighters, in comparison, typically land full-time jobs in their mid-to-late 20s, he said.

Although he has been the oldest guy in his unit at the fire station, which is at 9500 Johnstown Road, he knows his co-workers would do just about anything for him, and he would do the same for them, he said.

Mike Tocci, a firefighter-paramedic who works on the same shift as Myers, said the captain is someone who always comes to work with a smile on his face.

"He is the kind of person who will do anything to help his fire family, not only at the fire station, but also in our personal lives," Tocci said.

Myers said helping community members was another rewarding part of his career. His role is to help people on their worst days -- whether that's a day spent feeling unwell, or dealing with an auto accident or a house fire, he said.

"I'm coming in trying to help them," he said.

Hoovler said the department would promote a lieutenant to captain to replace Myers and also promote a firefighter to the lieutenant. Although he won't hire a firefighter to replace the promoted ones, Hoovler said, he plans on doing so later on.

The fire department includes includes Hoovler, an assistant chief, a fire marshal, a fire-department administrative assistant, a part-time fire inspector, three battalion chiefs, three captains, three lieutenants and 27 firefighters who work on three shifts, Myers said. Three additional firefighters are full-time and float between units, he said.

The township also has six part-time firefighters, he said.

The typical annual total compensation -- salary and the value of benefits -- for a starting firefighter is $64,474.18, Hoovler said.

The typical annual salary and benefits package for a lieutenant is $100,815.94, he said.

Myers has a combined annual salary and benefits package of $116,423.42, Hoovler said.

That is typical of what a captain makes at the fire department, he said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah