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Ober resigns to take Tilton position

December 15, 2010
ASHLAND—Fire Chief Brad Ober has submitted his resignation to town officials in Ashland, effective Jan. 20, and has accepted a position as Fire Chief of the Tilton-Northfield Fire and EMS.

Tilton-Northfield Interim Chief Michal Robinson issued a press release last week announcing the appointment of Ober, a veteran professional Tilton-Northfield firefighter and lieutenant, who had been serving as Interim Deputy Chief for the Department.

"We are very pleased to have been able to promote from within the ranks," said Robinson.

His new duties in Tilton begin immediately.

Ober says that the promotion is a tremendous career opportunity for him, but that he will leave Ashland with mixed emotions.

"I have known most of the guys in the department since I started as a call firefighter in Ashland 23 years ago," said Ober in an interview in his office at the Ashland Fire Department last week. "They are definitely a good group of people. We take care of our own. Despite the desire to be home with families and the need to attend to other obligations, like our regular jobs, we all pull together and get the job done."

Ober says he intends to stay involved in Ashland as a call firefighter. He expects that there will be a very smooth transition to the next chief. The position has already been posted, and Ober will stay on long enough to ensure an easy succession.

Reflecting on his nearly two-year stint as Ashland's Fire Chief, Ober said that he was very grateful for the amount of support his has received from the town and Fire Department employees.

"I can't say enough about the dedication of the staff here," said Ober.

His tenure as Chief in Ashland has been notable for several positive developments, including his success in establishing a labor grade and step system for employees in the department.

"That was a tremendous shot in the arm for morale," said Ober. "Even though people are not here primarily to make money, it is still important for them to be compensated fairly for the job that they do."

In the wake of the terrible 2009 floods, he was also instrumental in getting a new local Water Extrication Team (WET) search and rescue initiative up and running, in cooperation with other local departments. The team is now ready to be deployed in case of emergency anywhere in the Plymouth area and Newfound region.

The department has also secured several sizable grants on his watch, including one for a ventilation system and another for an emergency generator that will enable the station to be more fully utilized as an emergency operations center in the future.

But Ober says that he feels that there is so much more to be done.

He has been a very articulate and dedicated advocate for the need for a full-time chief for the Ashland department. Currently, there are no salaried staff members in the department. The chief's position comes with an hourly stipend of $11,000 per year, plus hourly on-call pay.

"The department definitely needs a full –time manager," said Ober. "It is not that we need someone to sit here and wait for a call to come in, but we have close to $3 million in fire apparatus and total assets of closer to $5 million. It deserves regular maintenance and a full-time manager."

Ober says that a full-time chief would serve as a force multiplier, as well, ensuring emergency response during the daytime hours, when most of the 28 call members have regular employment obligations elsewhere.

In addition, he says that a full-time chief could implement prevention programs and a regular inspection regime that would go a long way towards limiting the potential for fire damage in Ashland. A manager could also keep up with training trends, changes in industry standards, and move the department forward operationally in terms of writing Standard Operating Procedures, a task that he regrets he has not had the time to do over the last few years.

He cautions that the Fire Department is suffering from having had to "make do" with default budgets over at least the last three years. He says the cumulative effect is starting to hit, and he was forced to take drastic and unsustainable measures in order to stay within budget in the current fiscal year. He believes that the budget committee and select board understand the difficulties the department is operating under, and is optimistic that the situation will improve in the coming year.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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