Tim Hill had long wanted to join the Lowell Area Fire Department, but it wasn’t until five years ago that he got his chance.
“There used to be a rule that you had to live within 5 miles (of the station),” Hill explains. His family’s home was just outside that radius, and he was turned away when he initially applied. Some time later, he ran into the then fire chief — at a car accident involving his wife no less — and was told to go ahead and apply again. The rules had been changed.
The change not only gave Hill a chance to become a firefighter, but it also meant the Lowell Area Fire Department was able to welcome a valuable new member.
“He has the all-in all the time mentality,” explains Fire Chief Shannon Witherell. “He’s one of the first to raise his hand and step up.”
That’s one reason why the command staff named Hill as the 2021 Firefighter of the Year at the department’s annual year end banquet. It’s an honor that Hill says was a surprise to receive and that Witherell says was very much deserved.
Public Service Always a Goal
Like many who pursue work in public service, Hill says his family has a history of helping others. His relatives include military members, law enforcement and EMS professionals.
“I wanted to do the Marine Corps after school, but life took a different path,” Hill says. That involved meeting and marrying his wife Susan and raising three children – Brenden, Amaris and Zack. In addition to his work as a paid on-call firefighter, Hill is employed by the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Although Hill joined the LAFD out of a desire to serve the community, he has found it to be personally fulfilling as well. He says one of the best things about being a firefighter is the camaraderie between members that goes beyond simple friendship. “When you’re in a pinch in the middle of the night, these guys will come help you out,” he says.
Hill also says that being a firefighter has resulted in some memorable experiences. He recalls one year when a mother wasn’t able to go on rides with her young daughter at the Kent County Youth Fair. Instead, firefighters accompanied the girl on the rides and that has resulted in a special bond between the fire department and the family, with the girl dressing as a firefighter for Halloween and opting to have her birthday party at the station.
More Training, Honor Guard Up Next
Of course, there are challenges to being a firefighter, and one of those is the amount of training needed. Firefighting is more than driving a big red truck and putting out fires, Hill notes. “We are the first one to respond for medical emergencies.”
That means Hill has taken classes to become a medical first responder. Last summer, he took an online course, something he jokingly refers to as a “horrible idea.” While studying between work and family obligations can be difficult, the benefits for the community to have highly training firefighters are tremendous.
Still, Hill says he couldn’t do it without the support of his family. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here,” he says.
The LAFD is starting an honor guard and in keeping with the “all-in mentality” Witherell describes, Hill was quick to volunteer for that as well. Being a part of the honor guard has meant extra training hours each week, and the community should get their first look at the guard during the City of Lowell’s Memorial Day Parade.
Hill is humble about his work. “Tim is a very quiet guy,” Witherell notes. He’s the person behind the scenes mentoring the new hires and isn’t the type to look for special recognition. However, Hill’s commitment to excellence and service can’t be ignored, and so there was no question that he should be selected as the 2021 Firefighter of the Year.