Orange Township: Air Force veteran Nathan McNeil named fire chief

Jim Fischer
ThisWeek
Nathan McNeil, the Orange Township Fire Department's new fire chief, stands in front of a fire truck at the Orange Township Fire Department on April 7.

Orange Township has hired Nathan McNeil as its new fire chief.

A recently retired U.S. Air Force veteran, McNeil previously was deputy fire chief at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico and at Clear Air Station in Alaska. His 22-year active-duty military career included stations in Texas and Missouri, plus multiple deployments overseas.

Township trustees approved his hiring April 5.

“It’s not different at all,” McNeil said of military and civilian fire service, “in that they have the same purpose, which is to serve a community.”

“That’s a strength I see here. That everyone in the department has the desire to serve and to offer their best at all times,” McNeil told ThisWeek.

“What stood out to me the most and was something I was looking for in the interview process was his leadership,” trustee Ben Grumbles told ThisWeek. “The experiences he shared with us and his commitment to consistency and communication, I think, make him a great fit for our township.”

Grumbles said McNeil’s experience includes leadership in both firefighter and paramedic operations, something he had considered to be especially important because the township fire department’s staff are all cross-trained.

McNeil succeeds former chief Matt Noble, who retired last fall.

Grumbles credited Capt. Scott Rice for leading the department during the interim.

McNeil’s interest in firefighting was fostered at an early age. His grandfather was a fire chief in a small town in New York, and McNeil began working with an Explorer program for young people interested in firefighting when he was 16.

Military service also is part of McNeil’s family fabric, with family members serving in both World Wars and alongside Theodore Roosevelt in his Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, McNeil said.

“When I learned you could be a firefighter in the Air Force, I started looking into it. I had the (fire) certifications, and the Air Force was launching a program to bring in people with certain skills,” he said.

“I’m proud to be hiring someone with a (military) background,” Grumbles said.

McNeil said his interest in the job initially was based solely on geography. His wife, Heather, is a central Ohio native and Ohio State University graduate and will begin teaching on campus in Columbus in the fall semester.

“As I went through the interview process, heard from the trustees and learned more about the area, I was definitely drawn to the position,” McNeil said. “When I spent a couple days here for interviews, I got to meet some of the people and spend some time in the community, and you just get that feel that it’s a special place.”

“(McNeil is) eager to establish himself in the community. We as a staff and our residents have a high level of expectation for a level of service, and he will be able to do that,” Grumbles said.

McNeil will be paid $111,000 plus the standard township employee benefit package, the value of which varies based on insurance selected, township administrator Andrew King said. He’s also eligible for Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund benefits.

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