It seems as if Andy Fissel and Mark Layman have known each other their entire lives.
Andy Fissel and Mark Layman (PHOTO | KENTON TIMES)
They attended classes at Hardin Central Elementary together and graduated in 1993 from Kenton High School as classmates before going their separate ways.
But the paths of the two men blended again at the Bellefontaine Fire Department, where Fissel was sworn in earlier this month as chief and Layman as his assistant chief.
Fissel’s childhood was influenced by a close friendship with his neighbor, Chris Blue, son of Kenton Fire Department Chief Russ Blue.
“We spent time with Chris at the Kenton department growing up,” said Fissel.
“It was Chris that later got me interested in taking some EMT classes with him.”
He worked for a time as a paramedic with BKP while attending college classes. His training as a first responder led him to a career in firefighting, said Fissel.
“If you are going to make a living and support a family as a first responder, being a firefighter or a paramedic is the way to go,” he said.
Fissel applied at about ten fire departments throughout the state to take the training to be a firefighter and was accepted at Bellefontaine. He recalls working one day and seeing a familiar face at the station. His former classmate Mark Layman also was seeking a job at the department.
Following graduation, Layman’s career path had not started with firefighting. He originally planned to become an educator like his father, Jerry, and taught agriculture education at Indian Lake for one year, before changing his mind.
“I wanted a safer job,” he joked.
While selling John Deere farm equipment at a store in Findlay, Layman volunteered for the McGuffey Fire Department. He doesn’t really recall any special moment or influence that inspired him to make that decision.
Layman, too, had applied for training at some fire departments throughout the area and was responding to a call from Bellefontaine when he heard a familiar voice call out to him in the hallway of the station.
“Andy gave me a lot of advice,” said Layman.
The guidance of his classmate helped Layman land a job with the department and the two have worked together since then.
“I’m happy to be here,” said Fissel. “I’m still close to home and my family.
This is a great bunch of guys to learn the trade from and they’ve become like a family.”
“Being here, I am able to do what I want to do and be 20 miles from where I grew up,” added Layman. “When you live with someone a third of your life, you get to know each other well. Living together, six strong-willed men will have their differences, but the good times together are overwhelming to that.”
When Bellefontaine Fire Chief J.P. Schulz retired earlier this month, Fissel replaced him as chief and Layman moved into fill the open spot as assistant chief. The swearing-in ceremony at the department attracted a large crowd of family and friends, including Chief Blue from Kenton.
“It’s pretty impressive for our hometown boys to succeed in that area,” said Blue. “I remember Andy playing in our back yard as a boy. He has done a fantastic job and moved up rather quickly.”
Both Fissel and Layman said they are sure they made the right choices in their professional lives and can’t imagine working at any other job than firefighting.
“I don’t know how people get things done working just 40 hours a week,” said Fissel.
“I couldn’t sit at a desk all day or work in a factory,” said Layman. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”