After the recent resignation of John Reeves from the position of Chief of the Park Hills Fire Department, the city has given the title to a lifelong member of the department.
Brad Weiss, formerly assistant chief, first became involved with the Park Hills Fire Department while in high school.
“When I was in high school, a friend of mine was a junior firefighter,” Weiss said. “He talked me into doing it. I started at the end of 1995 when I was still in high school, and I just sort of never left.
“When I turned 18, I turned my application in on my birthday and was on the fire department the next week. I’ve served in every position from lieutenant to captain to assistant chief, and now chief.”
Since 1995, there has only been one year that Weiss didn’t serve on the Park Hills Fire Department, which was because he was seeking his paramedic’s license. He began working part-time with the St. Francois County Ambulance District as an EMT in 2001-2002, then went to full time in 2004.
Over the course of his more than 20 years’ experience with the department, Weiss said he’s seen everything about the department change with time—from the equipment used to the types of fires the department sees. In that time, he said he’s received various awards and recognitions, but the real honor comes from helping people.
“One award is the same as the next,” he said. “But getting to shake somebodies hand while they’re walking out of the hospital when they shouldn’t have survived is better than a piece of paper.”
This focus on helping residents of Park Hills and surrounding communities, he said, is what has kept him pursuing his job at the department during his career.
“It may sound cheesy, but I’ve always been in it for the people,” he said. “That’s my favorite part. People call us on the worst day of their lives. That’s what I’ve grown accustomed to.”
As far as the future of the department goes, Weiss said he hopes to boost the department’s numbers in order to continue providing adequate staffing for the community.
“Our roster has been down recently,” he said. “Volunteers everywhere have been down. My main goal is to get our roster back up to 20 or 25 firefighters. The idea is to have the best fire department and the best-trained people.”
Being centrally located in the county, Weiss said the Park Hills Fire Department responds to a good deal of calls to assist neighboring departments, which calls for a skilled and well-equipped roster of firefighters.
“We respond to more fires simply because we assist everybody in mutual aid agreements,” he said. “We respond to approximately 120 working fires a year, most of those being mutual aid. I like that everybody calls us. We have some of the best equipment and the best firefighters. I trust them all with my life.”
Weiss said he was also recently honored by being selected to review a section of the most recent edition of Fundamentals of Fire Fighter Skills and Hazardous Materials Response, a textbook used to train firefighters across the nation and beyond.
While the city continues to examine how to continue into the future on a tighter budget, Weiss said the department will continue to provide the best protection to the community, as it has since he joined the department as a high school student.
“This is the town I group up in,” he said. “Like I said during my interview, I choose to live here and I choose to be part of this town. I’ve grown with this fire department and it’s my home.”
Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.