HARRISON TWP., Ohio (WDTN) — After 35 years of service, Harrison Township Fire Chief Mark Lynch is hanging up his hat, officially retiring July 1. 

“I’ve always been a hands on person — and that’s just me,” says Lynch as he reflects on his career.

Firefighting runs in the Lynch family. 

“My father was a volunteer firefighter in Pennsylvania,” says Lynch.

It only made sense for him to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Lynch started with Harrison Township as a volunteer firefighter in 1987 and rose through the ranks. In 2007, his son pinned on his badge when he was promoted to chief. Right before he retired, Lynch was able to return the favor, pinning his son as he became a full-time firefighter with the department.

Lynch’s three-decade tenure responding to emergencies and fires is filled with memorable moments like delivering babies and putting out flames; but there’s one call he’ll never forget — Memorial Day 2019 when the tornadoes hit.

“It hit me pretty hard. Took out a lot of homes, their livelihood, but that was probably — the first 48 hours was probably the longest of my life. It was tough, real tough,” Lynch tears up. “It stretched the entire length of the township from one end to the other.”

His department was crucial in responding to building collapses and damaged homes after the tornado swept through.

“Had a lot of people just come in and help, and that was probably the best thing ever. Even weeks after the tornado for the first three weeks, my fire station right behind me was a drop off and pick up location,” describes Lynch, as people banded together to drop off donations.

Over the years, his biggest challenge was not fighting flames but battling the budget.

“Whenever I took over as chief, the recession hit. It dropped all of the home prices in the township and with that goes your levy dollars. And whenever the prices increase back for housing, the levies don’t increase,” says Lynch. “We were fortunate. We never had to let go of anybody. We just cut where we could cut, save a penny here, save a penny there.”

Lynch says the people have always been the biggest draw.

“I love people. I’ve always been out to all of the township events. I’ve rarely missed one,” admits Lynch.

As he heads into retirement, it’s also what he’ll miss the most.

“I’d like to wish the new chief all of the success in the world,” says Lynch.

Lynch says he’s selling his house and moving to Florida.

The township is conducting a search for Lynch’s replacement. Battalion Chief Mike Crist will serve as the interim chief.