(Posted Oct. 22, 2019)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
With the changing of the guard at the Jefferson Township Fire Department in Madison County, two fire chiefs are returning home, in a manner of speaking.
Chris Snyder took the reins as the department’s new chief on Oct. 15. He spent the past 34 years with the Prairie Township Fire Department in Franklin County but got his start at Jefferson Township 36 years ago.
Snyder replaces Paul “Buck” Van Horn, who retired and plans to work part-time performing fire inspections for the London Fire Department where he got his start as a firefighter 27 years ago.
“It means a lot to me to be able to come back to where I started from,” Snyder said.
The West Jefferson resident enrolled in Jefferson Township’s junior firefighter program as a junior in high school in 1974. After graduation, he served as a volunteer firefighter until 1983 when he became one of the department’s first full-time members. Up to that point, staffing was all volunteer.
Snyder joined the Prairie Township Fire Department in 1985. He worked his way through the ranks, from firefighter to lieutenant to captain to assistant chief. He served as chief for the past six years. During his time with Prairie Township, he also served as a Jefferson Township trustee and a Madison County commissioner.
“I was ready to end my career, then Buck announced his retirement. I received an offer about assuming that role,” Snyder said about the Jefferson Township chief’s position. “I put a lot of thought and consideration into it and felt it would be a great opportunity.”
He said the task before him includes preparing the department for the future.
“We need to make sure we stay prepared to meet the needs of the growth pattern West Jefferson is in right now,” he said. That means looking at manpower, equipment, facilities and the budget.
The department staffs 13 full-time firefighters and 20 part-time firefighters.
About his predecessor, Snyder said, “Buck is probably one of the nicest people I could ever imagine meeting. I knew his mom well through several organizations. They’re just a fantastic family with great values.”
Van Horn’s entry into first responder work came in 1976-79 when he worked for Madison County Emergency Medical Services as an EMT. After graduation, he worked for his father’s construction business. Firefighters who did subcontract work for the business talked Van Horn into entering the fire service.
The London resident started as a volunteer in 1992 for the London Fire Department, then went full-time. He was named lieutenant in 1995 then chief in 1996, a title he held until 2002 when he joined Jefferson Township Fire as assistant chief. He was named chief in 2017.
In retirement, Van Horn said he looks forward to spending more time with family, helping out at his church, and performing fire inspections for London.
“I’ve really enjoyed being a public servant, and I’m going to continue to do that with London,” he said.
About his time as chief at both London and Jefferson Township, Van Horn commented, “What I always tried to do was make sure my people had the training, equipment and ability to do their job safely.”
He noted that many agencies work together in the county to ensure the safety and health of the citizens. He said he feels privileged to have been a part of it.
About Snyder, Van Horn said, “Jefferson Township is lucky to have him come back.”