Community, Latest News

Ten MFD firefighters promoted; new chief among positions filled

MORGANTOWN — The moment Eugene Deem first found out paid firefighter positions existed, he began looking for ways to make it his career.

Deem became chief of the Morgantown Fire Department this week. He replaces Mark Caravasos, who announced his retirement in May after 34 years of service.

About 35 years ago, Deem started out as a volunteer firefighter while attending college. He later began working in communications and corrections in Gilmer County. One night, while looking through the West Virginia Blue Book, he found out about the paid firefighter positions.

“I always really wanted to try to stay somewhat close to home,” Deem said. “I ended up doing like Capt. Lemley did; I tested in different departments in the state and in ’93, I was offered a position to come here.”

Deem is among 10 firefighters promoted to new positions within the Morgantown Fire Department last week. After years or even decades of work for some, the camaraderie, helping others, and the adrenaline rush of being a firefighter are among the reasons the newly promoted team has pushed themselves to keep climbing the ranks.

John Lemley, who has been promoted to captain, has a similar story to Deem. Lemley started out as a volunteer firefighter when he was 18 and also began attending college. 

He didn’t have a solid direction of where he wanted to go with his degree, but was drawn to the feeling of adrenaline he got when volunteering as a firefighter.

“It was just like things clicked for me that that’s what I want to do,” he said.

That’s when he began casting a wide net to see where he could land a job. He was presented with the opportunity to test for a job in New York City and for another one in Morgantown. Wanting to stay close to his family, he chose to call West Virginia home. 

“There’s definitely been some tough days here dealing with different people or dealing with bad calls, serious traumas, and people suffering,” Lemley said, “but largely, if I could have done this from the time I was 18 until I was 65 when they force you out the door, that’s what I would do.”

Anthony Stake, who is among those promoted to firefighter first class, joined the department about three years ago. By the time he graduated high school, Stake had taken a vocational course and had a bit of volunteer experience in the field under his belt.

Originally from Virginia, he joined the Marine Corps after graduating high school and later studied at West Virginia University. After falling in love with the mountains and the Morgantown area, he decided to stay. He pursued a different job for a few years, but it didn’t take long for him to decide to find his place within the MFD.

“Once I found out that Morgantown had a paid department, I put an application in,” he said.

For Stake, firefighter first class is a stepping stone to continue working his way up the ranks.

“I’ve still got a long way to go to be a captain or a chief,” he said.

Others officially promoted in the department are Jason Ganoe, Eric Nickelson, Mitchell Beall and Ashely Jenkins to lieutenant; Colby Ware and Aaron Giles to firefighter first class; and the appointment of David Ross to deputy fire marshal.

Deem said along with the work dedication of those promoted, their family members are often just as important in supporting the department.

“They’re the ones that make the true sacrifice to support the personnel that’s in the field,” he said.

TWEET @DominionPostWV