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J. Eric Larson has just jumped into the hot seat as the new fire chief for Lake Township, but he's already fully immersed in the job he says he loves.
Though the red screensaver on the computer in his cluttered office still says "Lake Township Fire Chief Mike Buzza," Mr. Larson officially took over last week and still has a lot of unpacking to do.
The bookshelves are mostly full with binders, coffee mugs, and toys - including a firefighter GI Joe - but boxes and files are still scattered on the floor, topped off with pictures drawn by his two daughters and that have yet to be hung.
Mr. Larson, 47, of Bowling Green said he's working on getting his office in order between trustee meetings, ambulance runs, and meeting the township's about 75 part-time volunteer firefighters.
After meeting each member, he said his first plans involve ensuring there is good communi-cation and consistency between firefighters and evaluating the equipment.
"It would do a disservice to the department if I would come in and make edicts," he said. "We'll build on what's right and correct what's wrong."
He said his first professional love was fire fighting and emergency medical service, which is why he jumped at the chance to become the township's new fire chief.
"It lets me get back into what I love to do," he said.
Trustees unanimously voted to hire Mr. Larson on June 13 - just six days after Mr. Buzza resigned for personal reasons after serving as fire chief for just nine months.
Mr. Larson is the only full-time employee in the fire department and will be paid $52,000 a year.
He was born in 1958 and grew up in Perrysburg Township.
After graduating from Rossford High School, he became a firefighter and aircraft mechanic while serving in the U.S. Air Force in South Carolina from 1976 to 1980.
"I actually found what I love to do early on," he said.
So he continued doing what he loved in Perrysburg Township as a firefighter and worked his way up to become the EMS director after he had a smattering of college classes.
Then in 1994, he moved over to the Wood County Emergency Management Agency, where he served as director and answered to the Wood County commissioners.
"He's a very personable fellow, very friendly, and willing to help," said Commissioner Jim Carter, who said he has known Mr. Larson since 1981. "His range and his ability to coordinate things has been just great. Eric's going to be tough shoes to fill."
In addition to his new job, Mr. Larson is the EMS outreach coordinator at Wood County Hospital and teaches EMS material to classes at local schools.
"I love my job," he said. "After 30 years, I haven't lost interest."