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Greenfield fire chief wins top honor

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James Roberts, chief of the Greenfield Fire Department, displays the medal he received for being named Indiana Fire Chief of the Year. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)
James Roberts, chief of the Greenfield Fire Department, displays the medal he received for being named Indiana Fire Chief of the Year. (Tom Russo / Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — James Roberts would sure like to know who wrote that glowing recommendation letter.

Two and half pages, single spaced, the nominator’s description of Roberts’ contributions to the Greenfield Fire Department have earned the him a special distinction: Indiana Fire Chief of the Year.

Roberts learned a few weeks ago that he had been nominated for the Indiana Fire Chiefs Association’s top honor. He’s read the letter, the one that touts his “great integrity and personal character that is representative of what fire service leaders should possess in Indiana and all over the country,” but he doesn’t have a clue who was behind the nomination.

“Nobody’s letting off of it,” Roberts said.

Roberts learned late last week that he’d been awarded the honor at the Indiana Emergency Responders annual conference in Indianapolis.

Roberts was up against the chiefs of some sizeable departments, he said, so he was surprised when the biographical information the announcer began reading during the ceremony matched his background with GFD.

“At that point, I thought, ‘Well that’s quite a coincidence,’” Roberts said. “My wife reached over and grabbed my leg and said I was shaking.”

That’s when Roberts realized he was the one the announcer was recognizing.

“It’s just a good feeling that I’m thought of that way,” he said. “Kind of makes you feel great about what you’re doing.”

Roberts, who joined the department in 1994, was tapped to lead the department in 2007 after longtime Chief Louis McQueen retired.

Since that time, he’s made a number of notable changes, including introducing the firefighter cadet program; implementing the tactical rescue team; and providing hazardous materials training for a core group of firefighters.

Roberts oversees 46 career firefighters and 19 volunteers.

He also serves as president of the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center board of directors.

Roberts’ award should be looked upon as a proud moment for all the city’s public safety officers, Greenfield Police Department Chief John Jester said. Jester said he hopes the citizens of Greenfield recognize Roberts’ award as a sign of the professionalism displayed by its public safety leaders.

“It is a tremendous honor,” Jester said.

Mayor Chuck Fewell attended the banquet at which Roberts was recognized late last week. He said he was pleasantly surprised when he realized Greenfield’s fire chief had won top honors.

“When they said that he was president of the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center, well, that kind of gave it away,” he said. “We were really pleased.”

Fewell took a moment at Tuesday’s Board of Works meeting to recognize Roberts’ accomplishment.

The fire chief clearly wasn’t accustomed to such public praise.

“He just kept getting redder and redder,” Fewell said. “He was crimson at that point.”

Fewell said having quality public works employees has been a goal of his since he took office, and Roberts has set a fine example.

“It’s very noteworthy that Jimmie would be selected,” he said. “He really does a fine job. Glad that we can have that type of person representing the city.”

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