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Medina FD promotes Higgins to captain

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 December 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Jonathan Higgins, an active local firefighter for 25 years, is a new captain with the Medina Fire Department.

MEDINA – The Medina Fire Department has promoted a veteran local firefighter to captain, the department’s second in command.

Jonathan Higgins has been an active local firefighter for 25 years, since he joined the Carlton Fire Company when he was 20. Higgins became a paramedic when he was 25, and he served as paramedic at Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance in Albion for 17 years.

He also worked as a paramedic in Batavia for United Memorial Medical Center and then the city of Batavia for 14 years altogether. Seven years ago he joined the Medina Fire Department as a paid firefighter.

That proved to be good timing because a year later the city of Batavia got out of the ambulance business and laid off many firefighters.

Medina at that time had a grant to add staff while it took over western Orleans ambulance coverage from Rural Metro. Higgins has a been a leader for the department from day one, Fire Chief Todd Zinkievich said.

Higgins has the respect of his fellow firefighters and the community, the chief said.

Higgins has represented Medina and Orleans County at local, regional and state EMS councils. He took the lead locally in getting a helipad paved for the Medina Memorial Hospital, and also in the design and dedication of a firefighters’ memorial outside city hall in Medina.

Higgins helps douse the flames at a carriage barn fire in Medina last month. He has extensive experience fighting fires and responding to ambulance calls.

The department has 13 paid firefighters, including the chief and two captains. It has been without a second captain for about two years since R.J. Morgan retired.

The Village Board held off on the promotion but agreed to fill the spot after the firefighters’ union agreed to cost-saving concessions. The biggest savings will come from a new policy that only one of the 13 firefighters can be on vacation on a any given day. The previous policy allowed for two people to claim vacation the same day. The new policy with only one person off will reduce overtime costs, Zinkievich said.

Higgins will lead a platoon with five other firefighters while Mike Maak, the other captain, leads a group with five firefighters. Maak will also focus on the EMS for the department while Higgins leads firefighting efforts. Higgins not only has firefighting experience, but he brings an extensive paramedic background to the captain’s position.

“He’s going to be a super leader,” Zinkievich said.

Higgins and Zinkievich said staffing is a challenge, given the rising number of calls. The department has applied for a federal grant to add two paid firefighters.

When Zinkievich pitched the ambulance plan to the Village Board in 2007, he anticipated running anywhere from 1,500 to 1,700 ambulance calls. Immediately, the department exceeded that, pushing 1,800 to 1,900 calls in its first year. The department so far in 2013 is well ahead of the pace for the record 2,209 calls last year.

Altogether, with fire and ambulance calls, the department will respond to about 2,700 calls this year, the most ever.