March 9, 2016
Dedication, pride drive city fire chief
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland Fire Department Chief Charles Glover is shown in front of the department’s main station on Court Street Friday. Glover has served as a paid firefighter for 30 years, including six years as fire chief.
Firefighting is one of those professions that can be traced through some families for generations, and it’s not uncommon for those who’ve done it for decades to use rationale like, “It’s in my blood,” or “I was born to do it” to punctuate a long career.
City Fire Chief Charles Glover might not have been born with the firefighting gene like some of his peers, but he has grown to love the job and after 30 years, it’s is as much a part of who he is as anything else.
Glover said he was drawn to become a volunteer in 1977 by the camaraderie and the pride firefighters displayed.
“I think back then there was so much more of a social aspect to the companies,” he said. “I was just meeting new people that were interested in a common goal, which was helping the community. It was different.”
He was officially hired onto the career staff in 1986, promoted to captain in 1993 and transferred to director of code enforcement in 2000 before becoming chief in 2010.
Some of his most vivid memories involve ice and snow.
“There were some pretty catastrophic fires when I was a volunteer,” he said. “They were in the winter and I can remember going home and chiseling all the gear off me with an ice pick because all the water spray and it being freezing.”
He was even snowed in at his fire station during his first shift as a captain during the Blizzard of 1993, a freak March storm that dropped 3 feet of snow on the county.
In the six years he’s been chief, Glover has overseen major changes.
He helped secure funding for the department’s bunker program, which has brought manpower and potential career firefighters to the department, as well as funding to keep the city safe by installing free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in homes. The fire station even won best float in the annual Dairy Parade in 2014 under his watch. But from his office Friday afternoon, it was difficult to get Glover to talk about his achievements over the last six years, or even his past three decades of service to Cortland.
Instead, he attributed successes to training and reliableequipment, giving all the glory to the career and volunteer fire staff.
Glover said one of his most significant accomplishments has been helping keep the fire department modern and efficient with equipment and technology.
“We’ve gone pretty much from the dark ages of pen and paper to electronic management,” he said. “We have taken on a lot of stuff in the last six years.”
“That’s one of the things that Chief Glover is good at,” said Assistant Chief Wayne Friedman, who has worked with Glover for 13 years, six as assistant chief. “Finding solutions, discussing things and making it work. I think working together to better the fire department and the community has been our goal since day one. It’s a privilege to be part of this.”
Mayor Brian Tobin presented Glover with his certificate of recognition on behalf of the city during a meeting of the Common Council last month.
Tobin said Tuesday that when he was first elected to the Common Council in 2007, his focus was on improving housing in the city and through that effort he got to know Glover, who was then assistant chief in codeenforcement.
“He’s a consummate professional and when he stepped into the role as fire chief, he brought that same demeanor,” Tobin said. “The city is very fortunate to have somebody of Chief Glover’s capabilities.”
Doing 30 years of anything will have its low points and the firefighting trade isn’t any different. Fires are dangerous and lives can be lost. Glover’s had to deal with the pain of losing residents.
He still remembers one of the first calls he went on as a volunteer. A little girl was hit by a car and by the time help arrived, there was nothing he or anyone could do. When that happens, he said, no matter how long you’ve been a firefighter, it’s like dealing with it for the first time. You never get used to it.
But there are also good moments, too. It’s those memories that keep him committed.
Less then a week ago, two Cortland firefighters assisted two off-duty Homer and Ithaca firefighters and saved a man having a heart attack on Tompkins Street.
He later received a phone call from the family thanking thedepartment.
“Those are the kinds of things that make the job worthwhile,” Glover said. “There are a lot of dark memories but they’re overshadowed by moments like that, where we’ve made a hugedifference.”
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