Heroes of our community: Summers served as Webber fire chief
Editor’s note: Heroes of Our Community is a special feature which periodically highlights an outstanding public service member of Lake County.
WEBBER TWP. — It is with a sense of pride and integrity Aaron Summers served as fire chief for Webber Township for nearly five years. His last day serving as chief will be April 30.
As of May 4, Summers will be moving to Austin, Texas, to spend time with family, as his youngest son will be having his first child. The Webber fire chief position will be filled by Alan Dailey, who will be sworn in on May 1. Dailey served as assistant chief for both Webber and Baldwin fire departments.
On Nov. 14, 2014, Summers began his service as fire chief after three years with the Baldwin Fire Department with only a driver’s certification to drive emergency vehicles.
“When I came on board, the fire department was split in half and in turmoil,” Summers said. “There was fighting at fire scenes, allegations of drug abuse, as well as allegations of theft and misuse of government equipment and funds. The township wanted to have a neutral person come in to clean up the department.”
Summers was administrative chief until fully certified, which took less than a year.
“I was the only chief taking a fire class,” he said. “Until I became fully certified, I took care of management of the department, but did not run fire emergency scenes.”
Through his leadership, the department went from an 8 IOS (Insurance Office Services) rating to a 4 ISO rating.
“There were good leaders on the department, so right away I moved them to officer positions. Al Dailey became assistant chief. Training records needed to improve, so I increased training. We needed the right equipment on trucks. A lot of things contribute to an improved IOS rating, such as water supply and central dispatch location. It helps when a community and fire department combine efforts.”
There are some memories which particularly stand out during Summers’ time as chief.
“My third day on the job was the largest fire in Webber history, when First Choice Auto burned,” he said. “That was a scary situation. I pulled up and saw several explosions. That was a wake-up call. Al Dailey ran the scene, because I wasn’t certified to run fire/emergency scenes yet.”
Summers said tornado aftermath last August was bittersweet.
“The situation was bitter because of all the destruction to property and cars, and it was sweet because everyone was okay and I never saw the community pull so tightly together. People who didn’t have much themselves donated food and other supplies,” he said.
Summers said he will miss working for the community as a whole, and he plans to be back to visit during summers. He loves riding motorcycle and looks forward to riding year-round in Texas, and also the fishing and hunting opportunities.
“I may join a department down there, maybe for a volunteer department. Firefighting is in my blood now. I can go there and be the low man on the totem pole,” he said.
Summers summarized what being a chief meant to him.
“To be a chief, there is integrity. You have people willing to die for you and you’re willing to die for others. You are there during people’s worst moment when they lose everything. You keep people calm while cutting them out of a car, rescue people with broken limbs who are riding the trails. We see death.
“Our hearts are involved in situations all the time, we’re human too. But we go into auto-mode and are professional to get everyone through. People think you’re a hero, so you have big shoes to fill all the time.”