ELKINS, W.Va. – It’s been 40 years since some friends of Tom Meader’s brought an application to the Elkins Fire Department to his shop down the street. His application was accepted and the bug bit hard. Now, four decades later, and with the title of Chief, Meader said he’s seen a lot of changes in the fire service since then.
“Nowadays, it’s all professional. the training is amazing. I mean, when I got in, 16-hour class. That’s all you had. Firefighter 1 was sixteen hours. Now to get on the truck, that class is 120 hours,” Meader said.
Meader’s also helped the city and department to shepherd in some changes, including tripling the department’s paid staff, and making a more affordable place to live, too.
“That was one of my goals. The other was to lower the insurance rating for the town, which we did, went from a class five to a three, which in turn saves people money on their insurance,” Meader said.
While Meader is stepping down as chief, he doesn’t intend to take the bunker gear off for good, either.
“You know, I think I’ll come around. I mean, I could still do all kinds of stuff. If we have major fires, load the hose, clean the packs, you know, do some paperwork. That’s not going to be a problem at all, but I can’t give it up. I can back off, but I can’t give it up,” said Meader.