After nearly 24 years of service to the Delaware community as a firefighter, Tim Pyle has been appointed to lead the entire Delaware Fire Department as its next fire chief.
Pyle was sworn into the position by City Manager Tom Homan on Monday and was later introduced during the Delaware City Council meeting that night. A Delaware native and graduate of Delaware Hayes High School, Pyle began his time with the fire department as a firefighter in October 1999, eventually working his way through the ranks as a lieutenant, captain and administrative captain.
Following former Fire Chief John Donahue’s departure on Jan. 14 to become the assistant fire chief for Washington Township, Pyle was named to the interim chief role. According to the city, he was one of six finalists identified in a nationwide search to fill the permanent position before ultimately being selected following community panel interviews, an assessment exercise conducted by the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association, meetings with city department heads and union representatives, one-on-one meetings with Homan, and introductions to Delaware City Council members.
“Tim brings great experience and a longstanding commitment to this community,” Homan said in a press release. “I am pleased to see him in this leadership position and am confident he will serve the city well.”
Pyle’s interest in becoming a firefighter took shape after seeing his cousin serve with the Columbus Fire Department while Pyle was in high school. Pyle said after talks with his cousin, and given that he was involved in sports and the junior ROTC program, he knew he wanted a career in something that carried a similar culture.
Pyle was able to get a first-hand look at the responsibilities of a fire chief during his senior year through the school’s Youth in Government Program, which allowed seniors to shadow city department leaders for a day. Pyle shadowed then-Fire Chief Tom Macklin, and the experience was everything he expected, solidifying his intention to one day become a firefighter.
Before he could begin his career in firefighting, however, Pyle enlisted in the United States Army as a senior in high school through the Army’s Delayed Entry Program. After serving three years of active duty, Pyle returned home and began applying to fire departments. He got his start as a volunteer with the Tri-Township Fire Department in October 1998.
“I really enjoyed the volunteer aspect of it, the community service aspect of it, and said, ‘I want to make a career of this,’” Pyle told The Gazette of his time as a volunteer.
Although he never necessarily had a defined goal of one day becoming the fire chief, Pyle was continuously working to progress through the ranks so that whenever a new opportunity became available, he would be ready.
“I was always preparing to do whatever I could do for the next step to be eligible for the next step, not knowing when it would happen,” Pyle said. “I just kept going that route, and in November 2021, our administrative captain, which is really like our assistant chief, retired and that spot came open. … I got in there and just started learning everything I could about that position, and that position really works hand-in-hand with the chief, so I started learning what Chief Donahue was doing and kept asking what else I could learn. And he’s a great mentor. He showed me a whole lot of things.”
Because he had the opportunity to work so closely with Donahue for more than a year, transitioning to the head of the department wasn’t a culture shock for Pyle as he served in an interim role for the past four months. However, he noted the “seriousness of the position is something I don’t take lightly” as the person everyone will now turn to for answers. He added that it helps that the department is already functioning at a high level, allowing him to focus on maintaining that level rather than looking to make changes.
Pyle went on to say, “The thing for me is this is home. When you look at possibly getting someone from the outside, it’s not that they couldn’t be great, but this is home for me, and when I retire from here, this is still home. So I want to make sure that we’re doing the best for home.”
Asked if he’s had the opportunity to reflect on a journey that has seemingly always been leading to this moment, Pyle noted the speed at which Delaware is moving prevents him from fully doing so. Still, he said the moment has not been lost on him.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “I probably haven’t had a chance for true reflection. Delaware is growing so rapidly that there’s no time for me to stop and reflect fully, but I do realize how surreal it is, and the opportunity I’ve been given is amazing.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.