The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jun. 24, 2022

Retired VW fire chief earns state honors

VW independent/submitted information

Retired Van Wert fire chief Jim Steele earned statewide recognition this week for his nearly four decades as a fire instructor.

Retired Van Wert Fire Chief Jim Steele holds his Fire Educator Lifetime Achievement Award plaque. photo provided

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that Chief Steele was one of the recipients of the Ohio Fire Service Hall of Fame and Fire Awards, earning a Fire Educator Lifetime Achievement Award for his service as a fire educator, both for the Van Wert community and statewide.

Chief Steele spent 37 of his 40 years as a Van Wert firefighter and fire officer also serving as an instructor for other firefighters. In addition, for many years he has also served at the state level by leading changes in Ohio’s training curriculum and promoting professionalism throughout the fire service. 

That desire to ever increase levels of firefighter training and fire officer growth led Chief Steele to serve as the chairman of the Firefighter and Fire Safety Inspector Training Subcommittee of the Ohio Division of EMS, as well as a research paper evaluator for the Ohio Fire Executive Program, a participant in the Maxwell Program: Designing Tomorrow’s Leaders, and to receive the 2010 Ohio Fire Chiefs Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

He remains active in the growth and development of future firefighters through his involvement with the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, the Maxwell Program, and the Firefighter I and II programs.

Chief Steele was one of 12 honorees during the Ohio Fire Hall of Fame’s 40th annual awards program.

“With all the challenges faced this year, we felt it was important to continue our tradition of honoring these first responders and citizens for their selfless and courageous efforts,” said State Fire Marshal Kevin S. Reardon. “We are pleased to recognize these heroic individuals.”

Chief Steele, who retired as Van Wert fire chief in 2017, became interested in firefighting while growing up in the small Hardin County community of Dunkirk. His father, who was a physics teacher in the local school system, was also a volunteer firefighter for many years.

“I was a ‘firehouse rat’, there’s no doubt of it,” Steele noted prior to his retirement three years ago of the time he spent as a youth hanging around the firehouse where his father volunteered.

Chief Steele came to Van Wert in 1979 and was hired by then-Fire Chief Paul Baer on December 10 of that year. After moving up through the ranks, first to fire lieutenant and then to fire captain, Steele was named fire chief on June 3, 1997, and served two decades in that position.

POSTED: 09/30/20 at 11:30 pm. FILED UNDER: News