MESOPOTAMIA, Ohio (WYTV) – James Loza — sworn in as Mesopotamia’s fire chief on Monday and introduced to the community Saturday — is no stranger to the department.
He started his career as a fireman back in 1996 and has served in almost every role over the last 20 years.
Now, he’s thrilled to be taking on this latest challenge. And a challenge it is — volunteer fire departments struggle to stay in operation nationwide.
Mesopotamia’s volunteer fire department started with a single truck in 1977 and has grown year after year. But even with the addition of volunteers and new equipment, they still face the challenges of being a small rural department.
“I’ve seen a lot over the years — we’ve come through a lot, new improvements at our stations,” Loza said. “We’ve gone through a lot of old trucks to get new trucks, updated trucks, new personnel at the department — good guys.”
“It’s tough, but I’m still gonna run calls,” said former Fire Chief Joseph Pavlic. “I can’t give it up completely — it’s still in my blood.”
Pavlic stepped away from the job in January after 25 years — 41 in the fire service.
“I wish him the best of luck — it’s a tough job,” Pavlic said. “It’s not for everybody, it takes a special person. So I wish him the best of luck and he’ll do good. I’ve known him for a long time.”
Between the two of them, they’ve seen the department go through — and overcome — tough times.
“The biggest thing is trying to get our volunteers here,” Loza said. “The one good thing is that we have mutual aid departments around us that do help. We’ve got a lot of good communities around — we work a lot with Farmington, Bloomfield, Windsor, Bristol — it does help a lot with those other departments. And that’s what keeps us going.”