The women who keep the engine running

by Mary Helen Darah

The Sylvania Township Fire Department is a continual force of kinetic energy. In addition to responding to the ever-increasing number of emergency runs, the department provides countless community services. Behind the scenes, two women help keep the engine running smoothly, so to speak … Sylvania Township Fire Department Administrative Services Coordinator Jenifer Howard and Administrative Assistant Vicky Loeffler.
Howard has been serving Sylvaniafor the past 24 years. “I worked for three years for the Sylvania Township Administration then bid on this position,” she recalled. “Chief Ramm is my fourth chief. I loved them all, even though one was a bit of a challenge.” Howard’s coworker and officemate, Vicky Loeffler, came into her current role after serving as a firefighter/EMT for 20 years. “I worked for a surgeon’s office before coming here on Nov. 27 of last year,” she stated. “My heart has always been with the fire department. It as like coming home.”

Among their many duties, the two women help manage a $10 million budget, process purchase orders, upload transport incidents, issue open burning permits and reconcile transport payments. “We have a gentleman who writes grants and then it is my responsibility to administer them,” stated Howard. “In addition to managing the EMS state grant annually, we do everything from National Fire Incident reporting to acting as a certified car seat installer.” Her coworker was sursed by the diverse work that comes with their roles. “I tell people that there is nothing about what we do that is extremely difficult but the amount of it is staggering. I was the first female firefighter in Richfield Township. Hard work is nothing new to me. I was put through the ringer. I love being back with the firefighters again and being part of this environment.”
Howard hopes to continue for an additional 10 years. “I love what I do very much,” she said. “I would give one piece of advice and that is not to be too sensitive.” Loeffler agrees with her recommendation. “We work with all men. We have two full-time female firefighters and us. The other 67 members of the department are males. You get used to hearing some colorful language. The guys are like my older brothers and sons. We are like a family.”
The dynamic duo can also be seen out in the community. “Vicky helps me organize our blood drive that we started two years ago with the Sylvania Senior Center along wth Nancy Beckman of the Sylvania Township Police Department,” said Howard. “We also help with fire safety and fire prevention events. There is so much behind the scenes that people aren’t aware of. We’ve even picked up lunch for the crew and taken it to a scene. I also am involved in hands-only CPR and ‘stop the bleed’ classes for the public.”
Both women are amazed at how the fire department has changed through the decades. “When the tunes go off, I still get a bit excited but I prefer being behind the scenes,” said the former firefighter Loeffler. “I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s amazing to see how the fire department has progressed in their scope of practice. It used to be that you just went on a run. Now it is all encompassing. The training needed for the job is vastly different after 9/11.” Howard would concur. “I never thought we would be purchasing ballistics vests for our crew.”
One thing does remain constant for the women who help keep the engine running–their love of the job. Howard offered, “We are all so close and supportive of one another. We are fortunate to be part of such an incredible department. It’s our home away from home.”

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