It was 1973, and his father, Cyril, was the town’s mayor. One in every of his first days on the job was July four, and he remembers youngsters crowding him in his gear and rubber coat at a public occasion. He was proud to be a firefighter, and when his first name got here, he piled onto an engine, seizing his probability to be a hero.
When his crew arrived, a tiny grass hearth proved the job would not all the time be as glamorous as he’d hoped.
“We put the dang factor out with brooms,” he stated.
O’Neill’s profession carried him by way of greater than 4 many years, throughout which he rose via the ranks from “pipeman” to fireside chief, wading by way of the floodwaters of 1997 and overseeing the division’s enlargement right into a model-new station within the south finish. His retirement Jan. 5 comes simply after his 2017 induction into the North Dakota Firefigher’s Museum Corridor of Fame and at a ultimate wage of $133,786—and one month after his division acquired an elite nationwide security score.
“He is a gentleman,” former Metropolis Council President Hal Gershman stated, praising not solely the brand new firefighters coaching middle O’Neill helped launch, however the brand new south-finish station that opened in 2016. “You all the time felt he was telling you the reality. I all the time had an awesome relationship with him. He’ll be missed.”
O’Neill graduated from Grand Forks Central Excessive Faculty and briefly labored as a surveyor and development inspector earlier than becoming a member of the native hearth division. He was the mayor’s son, and, requested if it got here with any fraternal ribbing, nodded and laughed. He joked that he wasn’t allowed to work at headquarters, lest he inform his father all about it.
O’Neill’s profession has left him with an extended record of tales. He recollects saving a cat from a burning constructing and handing it to a fireplace captain, who returned it to an proprietor and acquired all of the credit score—together with free meals at an area restaurant for a yr.
He additionally remembers the times of the 1997 flood, and chasing fires throughout the town. Ultimately, he stated, metropolis energy needed to be shut off to stave off the electrical shorts sparking blazes. It was a calculated determination with a excessive value, leaving householders with sump pumps to observe their basements flood.
The firefighting recreation has modified through the years, O’Neill stated. Not solely has the town expanded, however lighter constructing supplies that burn extra shortly have grow to be commonplace. Firefighters are extra rigorously educated, and now often reply in medical emergencies. It is from the division he joined.
Metropolis Administrator Todd Feland has stated a brand new hearth…