DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Ancient Greek historian Thucydides once said, “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
That “risky meeting” for the Dayton Fire Department was historic in 2019.
Memorial Day ending in horror, 15 tornadoes barreling through the Miami Valley. Days of around-the-clock search and rescue, taxing each firefighter sifting through the rubble of decimated communities.
Jeff Payne served as DFD’s Fire Chief for six years before retiring in January of this year. He said traumatic events are nothing new for first responders, but, “Typically, police officers and firefighters kind of steel themselves to this type of thing, but not four, five and six things happening in one year.”
Barely two months later, another call unlike any in the history of Dayton, a mass shooting in the Oregon District with nine people gunned down. Payne says they were ready.
“We were prepared for all these things.” Payne pointedly added, “Let’s be clear. You still fall back on your training, but this isn’t anything that anyone has done before police or fire.”
Payne says the fire department met the unprecedented challenges squarely, yet he acknowledges the collateral price his firefighters personally paid.
“Pain. There was a lot of pain. There was a lot of folks that needed the help, and they sought after it, and they received it.” Payne continues, “But I am very proud the way the Dayton firefighters bounce back. You still have to come in. You still have to go on those ten to 20 runs a day.”
Payne says the fire department and the city are engaged to ensure firefighters get the health care they need. He also adds there is a silver lining to the year of tragedy. The fire department is better and even more prepared for the next event, tipping his cap to Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, as the two came together in the weeks following the shooting.
Payne proudly says the fire and police departments analyzed the events and identified the things they did well and areas that needed improvement, adding, “That after action made them a much stronger, cohesive public safety group for the city of Dayton.”
And according to the retired chief, more prepared and ready if called into action yet hoping they never have put that training into practice ever again.