RICHFIELD — Richfield Village officials and residents will celebrate the retirement of Fire Chief Phil McLean today, Feb. 25, at noon, at the fire department, located at 4410 W. Streetsboro Road.
Event organizer Lt. Kevin Urban, a firemedic, said the public is invited to attend, and cake and coffee will be served in the 12,000-square-foot bay, which provides room for social distancing. Several people will share experiences and roast the chief, and the celebration will end with McLean being driven to his home in a fire engine. Anyone interested in attending is asked to send an email to Brittany@senpro.net or firstname.lastname@example.org.
McLean, 63, will retire tomorrow, Feb. 26, after 45 years of service with the department.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my career,” he said. “We have a lot of good up and coming leaders, and it’s a good time for them to move forward. It’s the right time in my career, as 45 years is a long time to be here.”
McLean said he has watched the department grow from a full volunteer department into one with full-time firemedics and through the construction of a new station.
He began with the department in 1976 as a volunteer firefighter and became a lieutenant, earned the captain ranking in 1998, was appointed assistant chief in 2013 and chief in 2017. He also served as director of the Training Center for Fire & Hazardous Materials at The University of Akron (UA) from 2000 to 2013 and in leadership positions with the Summit County Firefighters’ Association, the Ohio State Firefighters’ Association and several other professional groups.
He is certified in emergency medical services (EMS), as well as an emergency medical technician, firefighter, fire instructor and trainer, as a hazardous materials technician and fire safety inspector. He attended the National Fire Academy from 1987 to 2000 and is working on an associate’s degree in fire protection technology at UA.
McLean also worked at Technicare Corp., which later became Summit Medical and SMV America, from 1978 to 1998, beginning as a junior technician and ending as an engineering manager.
He founded and owns Sensible Products Inc., which manufactures customized brackets for fire apparatus.
McLean’s awards include Firefighter of the Year for Richfield Fire in 1979; Ohio State Fire Instructor of the Year in 1989; and Summit County Firefighter of the Year in 1993.
When looking back on his career, McLean said he remembers the department responding to a baby choking years ago and that person is now graduating from college. He remembers tanker spills and explosions on Interstate 271 and “quite a few fires.” McLean said the number of fires today has dropped significantly across the country since he first began because of prevention programs and education, as well as inspections.
“After all these years, knowing you have been able to help a whole lot of people through stressful situations has been rewarding,” he said. “One of the biggest changes has been the development of paramedic certification and the rising number of EMS calls for medical and other problems. Also notable was the recognition and response to hazardous materials in the early 1980s.
“I am also proud of spearheading a law passed in 2009 requiring continued education for firemedics — Ohio is one of only eight states in the country to have this, and it was a big thing,” he added. “It affects 57,000 firefighters and paramedics in Ohio.”
McLean said he has been planning for his retirement for several years.
“I developed a strategic five-year plan for the department, which included succession planning,” he said. “We brought back the assistant chief position to groom that person to become chief. This makes for a smoother transition of command and provides a career path for staff. We’ve got an exceptionally great bunch of people in the department that make it work and make it happen. We are a big family and share things together. I will miss this camaraderie.”
McLean will be succeeded by Assistant Fire Chief George Seifert.
As for retirement plans, McLean said he plans to work on his business and other small-business opportunities.
“I also want to take some time to relax and enjoy more time with my wife, Sherri, a retired Revere [Local] Schools kindergarten teacher,” he said. “We have been married 40 years. As the world gets back to normal, we hope to do some travelling.”