Matt Hull, City of Athens Fire Department captain, drives about three hours every day to get to work. He lives in Powell, near Columbus.

“Personally, one of my biggest challenges is I have to wake up extremely early to get here on time,” Hull said. 

Hull started out his firefighting career here and has never left. One of the benefits for Hull was the the close-knit community of staff.

Up until a year ago — when he switched to another shift to take over for a retired firefighter — Hull said he worked with the same men for about 21 years. He said he could probably tell you everybody’s wife or girlfriend’s name and what their kids are up to.

“It’s a great little department,” Hull said.

He noted that some larger departments may have more trouble with the community aspect because of their size. He said this may be harder for larger departments in bigger cities.

On the other hand, the department is looking to increase its staff, Fire Chief Rob Rymer said. It has also recently applied to receive a grant for new air packs. Rymer said it is working toward a higher insurance services office, or ISO, rating. 

The main role of the ISO is rating the fire departments throughout the nation on based on many different categories including water supply, equipment and the infrastructure for insurance purposes. 

While the best score to have is a one, the Athens Fire Department has a score of four. According to the ISO website, 78 percent of Ohio falls between the score of one to four.

Rymer also said he recently talked to Ohio University’s Student Senate about a possible program for students. Each student would possibly have an extra fee in their tuition, and with that fee, they would receive education on fire and safety awareness. That program would help to decrease the number of fire, especially cooking fires.

“You know, it would be great if all of our runs were false alarms — that means we’re doing a good job and nobody is starting a fire,” Rymer said.

Rymer started his career as a volunteer firefighter and “caught the bug.” He said he loves the Athens community. One of his favorite parts of the job is working with the kids. He said he loves showing them the truck and heading to the local grocery stores to pass out fire helmets.

“The best qualities, clearly to me, is they have people who want to help,” Sheriff Rodney Smith said. “They want to be there, and they have everybody’s safety and well-being at heart.”