Chief applauds firefighters promoted in rank Thursday

January 19, 2019

HUNTINGTON — Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader celebrated two firefighters being promoted in rank Thursday, as well as five firefighters completing a one-year probationary period.

In a pinning ceremony at City Hall, firefighter John Nicholas was promoted from lieutenant to captain. In his spot, firefighter Steven Ross was promoted from private to lieutenant.

Nicholas said achieving the rank of captain is a profound moment in his career. A little over a year ago, he was unsure where his life was Nicholas headed.

He had taken six months off from his job, battling an alcohol addiction that stemmed from dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Nicholas had been on the scene of the Jan. 13, 2007, fire at the Emmons Jr. apartment building, which claimed the lives of nine people. The horrors of that night had affected his mental health.

He now looks forward to helping other firefighters who may be battling PTSD or addiction, he said.

“I’m available to all of them to talk,” he said.

During Thursday’s ceremony, City Manager Cathy Burns said she enjoyed getting to know Nicholas’ wife, Adelle, who offered advice on ways to improve insurance coverage for other firefighters. Nicholas said it was important to see his wife recognized for her behind-the-scenes advocacy.

“It feels great,” he said. “She is one of my biggest supporters in dealing with my PTSD.”

Rader said she was Nicholas’ training officer when he was hired years ago.

“It was pretty evident early on that he had leadership skills,” Rader said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this individual for what he’s done in his career and what he has been willing and able to overcome and the resiliency he passes on to all that he is in command of now.”

Ross said Thursday’s ceremony was an exciting day in his career, highlighting some of the challenges he faces in his new leadership role.

“It’s a tough time to be a young officer right now in the Huntington Fire Department. We’re still short staffed daily and we had a huge turnover of guys retiring in the past few years,” Ross said. “We’re a very young department, so hopefully we are moving in the right direction to get back to being an elite department, and I think we are.”

Five firefighters were also officially recognized for completing a required one-year probationary period: Jeremy Pitsenbarger, Mark Roby, Christopher Darby, Christopher Antosiak and Tanner Butcher.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

Update hourly