Fort Detrick Firefighter Oley Griffith was awarded the 2014 Maryland Firefighter of the Year Award from the Maryland State Firemen’s Association recently in Ocean City, Maryland. This is a very prestigious award that has gone to many very dedicated individuals that served at volunteer fire service throughout the state to the highest degree, according to the state firemen’s website.
Winners do outstanding deeds for the fire service and their communities, and Fort Detrick is very proud to announce that our very own Oley Griffith is the recent winner.
Oley, who has been with the installation since 1990, has 38 years of experience as a firefighter. Growing up in Sharpsburg, Maryland, there wasn’t much for a young man to do in the 70’s so he became of member of the Sharpsburg station in 1977 at the age of 15, he said. By age 16 he was able to actually ride the trucks—a highlight he can remember well.
“The fire department at that time gave me structure and surrounded me with positive role models,” said Griffith.
Very early on, Griffith knew firefighting was going to be his lifelong career.
“I saw the face of a mother after we revived her son from a near drowning,” said Griffith. “I knew that we as a team made a difference and changed a life.”
From then on he continued this path to make a difference. He also hoped that his actions of helping others would come in handy and others would remember him if he or his family ever was in need.
For the past 24 years he continues to serve as fire chief at the First Hose Company of Boonsboro.
Times have changed as he looks back at the past 20 years.
“Today, the young people have so many opportunities that we didn’t have. Recruitment and retention are an obstacle we all face, said Griffith. “If we continue to ask them what they can do for their communities, we will have success.”
Firefighting as a career has also evolved. When Griffith first started, you were able to stand on a roof for half an hour and fight a fire or slide down a pole in a station. Now, those in the profession have continuous safety training, even to slide down the pole. There is training on construction to learn effects of fires and how they spread. Equipment has changed and technology is integrated into a lot of the daily duties of a firefighter.
“As in any profession, you have to change and adapt to be successful,” said Griffith.
“Even though I am the one receiving the accolades, it is definitely because of the people I surround myself with and the support of my wife. Without her and my family none of this would have been possible. It takes a strong person,” said Griffith.
Federal firefighters retire by age 57. As he starts to think about what to do after his service to this installation he has many options including working on the Appalachian Trail identifying and mapping way points for emergency access to make search, rescue and recovery faster.
But for now, Fort Detrick is the proud home of the 2014 Maryland Firefighter of the Year, Oley Griffith.