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Chief runs Halfway fire co. with 'common sense'

January 22, 2002

Chief runs Halfway fire co. with 'common sense'



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

The secret to the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway's success is no mystery, said Chief Jeffrey Ringer.

"It takes communication and common sense," he said.

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With some area companies struggling financially and unable to respond to all calls, Halfway has been in the black since the fire company's rescue service started in 1995 and has never missed a call, according to company officials.

Some at Halfway say Ringer is part of the reason why.

Keeping Halfway running "is a team effort but every team needs a leader," said Halfway President Jim Kimble.

Ringer, 41, has been the company's career administrator for the past six years. In October 2001 he replaced Joe Kroboth as chief and now serves as chief/administrator.

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Kimble said Ringer motivates staff members and his background as a firefighter commands respect.

Ringer joined Halfway as a junior member when he was 16 years old and has served as company lieutenant, assistant chief, deputy chief and chief.

Being fire chief/administrator is the best of both worlds, since he handles the daily operation of the company and still goes on fire calls, Ringer said.

Ringer went on 600 of the company's 2,200 calls last year. Halfway's fire department covers a 6 1/2-square-mile territory and its ambulance is responsible for 8 square miles, he said.

"It's challenging especially during business hours when the commercial area (Halfway, Massey, Wesel boulevards), populations swell," he said.

An open-door policy with staff and regular talks with government agencies keep the company moving smoothly, according to Ringer.

"We keep things low key. If a member has a problem they can come in and we'll talk about it," said Ringer.

Being fiscally responsible is not just a catch phrase, said Ringer.

The company submits its budget to Washington County for review and residents can stop in any time and see it, he said.

"We have nothing to hide," he said.

Criticism that the company spent too much on its $2 million fire station, buying fire trucks with unnecessary "extras" like chrome bumpers and the operation of its bingo games hurts, said Ringer.

Ringer said the negativity makes it hard to find and keep volunteers.

"It hurts because we have such a passion for what we do. When you attack the fire company it's like attacking a family and tearing at its heart," Ringer said.

Halfway tries to stay on the cutting edge by keeping an eye out for new technology and talking to other companies, said Ringer, who is a member of several local, state and national fire associations.

Since 1983, Halfway has been a sister fire company of the Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Fire Co. in Newark, Del.

"It helps us think outside the box," Ringer said.

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