When the Smoke Clears
Ron Lipps retires after 21 years with the Fishers Fire Department
Writer / Matt Keating
Photography provided by Fishers Fire Department
After serving as a firefighter for 21 years, Ron Lipps retired from the Fishers Fire Department at the end of October.
What he will miss the most about leaving the job is the wonderful people he has met over the last two decades.
“This job is very relationship-based, and I have developed some wonderful relationships with the people in Fishers,” Lipps says. “I’ve learned that if you try to be confrontational, you will not win a lot of friends or influence people. I’ve enjoyed meeting a lot of great folks and being in a job where I was in a position to change the way people think about fire prevention.”
Lipps, a fire inspector for the Fishers Fire Department, noted that when firefighters are on the front line dealing with fires, they often have a short-term interaction with the public.
“It’s good to be able to get out at other times and talk to people about fire prevention and ways to change your home or office to make them more fire-proof,” Lipps says.
Lipps’ co-worker, John Mehling, captain and external affairs officer for the Fishers Fire Department, says firefighters often “see some bad stuff that leaves an impression, and it can build on you. We deal with death and injury, and that can be tough to face after a long time.”
Lipps still remembers fatal fires he fought and having to see badly injured adults and children and, in some cases, death.
“There are some things you never forget, but as horrible as the negative things are, they can be turned into positives by making people more aware of things they can do to prevent fires,” Lipps says. “Sometimes you have to have a bad moment to become a preventable moment later. Taking the time to make sure your home or business is safe can make a big difference later.
“The positive things that happen behind the scenes can prevent the fires and other bad things from ever happening in the first place,” he adds. “That’s why prevention is so important.”
Lipps says he enjoys teaching fire safety and prevention to several elementary schools in Fishers.
“The kids in kindergarten to second grade are great listeners, they are enthusiastic, and they really know to take in what we are teaching them,” Lipps says. “It’s the adults that can be tougher to get through to sometimes.”
There have been occasions when Lipps had to fight fires in multiple locations in one night, and then be ready to attend a fire safety public relations event the next day.
“That’s when Starbucks puts the extra shots of coffees in your drink, and the caffeine really comes in handy,” Lipps says. “Sometimes you can have some long nights putting out fires, and you still need to be ready in the morning to visit a business, a school or a place that needs to be inspected.”
Lipps stressed that code enforcements can often present multiple problems in a business.
“There are so many things people are not aware of,” Lipps says. “We heavily promote fire sprinklers, which are often completely shown on TV as being easily set off. There’s a lot of bad information on social media that puts bad ideas in kids’ heads. Kids see something on YouTube or on TV and do something dumb. I enjoy meeting the kids in the schools and the community and informing them about fire prevention and the right thing to do. I’ve been doing that for a long time.”
“That’s where I first got the bug to become a fireman,” he says. “I was a police scanner buff, and I would listen to emergency calls a lot. I was afraid of blood, but I didn’t let it stop me from jumping into action when someone is injured or needs help.”
He joined the Fishers Fire Department in 1996, and became a lieutenant in 1998 then a Department Fire Marshall and Public Information Officer in 2001.
“Ron has been outstanding in his job,” Mehling says. “He has such a positive attitude. His accomplishments have been numerous, including becoming Officer of the Year in 2001. He has always been upwardly mobile and has achieved a lot through his insightful and visionary ideas. He has seen a lot of growth in Fishers over the years and has been a big part of that.”
During his retirement, Lipps plans to work as a civilian for the Zionsville Fire Department and spend time with his wife, Shawn and their kids.
“I’m also looking forward to still seeing the great people I work with, and the great people in the Fishers community,” Lipps says.