Fairfield deputy fire chief remembered as ‘the go-to guy’

Visitation, funeral services for Tom Wagner are this Thursday, Friday at Fairfield West Baptist Church.

If Tom Wagner was anything, he was “an excellent professional,” said former Fairfield fire chief Don Bennett.

Wagner, who was one of the city’s first nine full-time firefighters and the city’s deputy fire chief in charge of the emergency medical services, was found dead at his home Friday morning. He was 53.

“It’s so hard to condense his career in a few sentences, said Bennett, who retired in August after nearly four decades as the city’s fire chief. Every aspect of the city’s fire service, he said, was impacted in some way by Wagner.

Thirty years ago this year, Wagner was first hired by the Fairfield Fire Department as a part-time firefighter. Then as the city department began hiring full-time firefighters, he was among the first nine full-time firefighters in 1999.

He worked his way through the ranks, being promoted in 2007 to lieutenant and a decade later in 2017 to Deputy Fire Chief of Emergency Medical Services. Wagner and Deputy Fire Chief Randy McCreadie (who was also promoted to the deputy chief’s position in October 2017) worked with Bennett on the plan to transition from a combination to a career fire department.

Fire Chief Thomas Lakamp succeeded Bennett in mid-December, and though Wagner was contending for the top fire job, “he was so welcoming and so helpful.”

“The institutional knowledge that Tom has is going to be irreplaceable,” said Lakamp, who’s known Wagner for 25 years. “Coming in from the outside could have been tough, especially because Tom was up for the (fire chief’s) job, but he literally reached out to me from the very beginning.”

In addition to being one of the first full-time firefighters, Wagner was the first president for IAFF Local 4010 and Lakamp said, “All the benefits these guys enjoy, Tom’s pretty much responsible for that.”

Lakamp echoed what everyone has said about Wagner: he was the consummate professional.

“He’s just a good civil servant. He had the community’s best interest in mind, with a goal to put others first,” he said.

Wagner had been the lead since he was a lieutenant in writing grants for the city fire department, and Bennett said the most recent staffing grants ― the federal SAFER grant and the ARPA funding from Ohio that paid for three firefighters ― “was all due to Tom Wagner.”

The inability to fill part-time firefighter positions is a regional and national issue, and as the city began the conversion to a career department, the Wagner was able to secure a $3.41 million federal SAFER staffing grant and $735,136 in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the state of Ohio to pay for three full-time firefighters.

Fairfield City Manager Scott Timmer told the Journal-News that Wagner “will leave a lasting impact on our department,” adding that his grant writing “allowed our department to transition and evolve due to his hard work and success.”

Bennett also commended Wagner for his persistence because it didn’t matter if it took days, weeks, months, or even years to get it accomplished, “he was always the go-to guy.”

“He was one that was always willing to help others,” Bennett said.


A visitation for the late Fairfield Deputy Fire Chief Tom Wagner is set for 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Fairfield West Baptist Church, 5345 Muskopf Road.

Funeral services are set for 10 a.m. Friday at Fairfield West Baptist. Burial will follow at Arlington Memorial Gardens, 2145 Compton Road, Mount Healthy.

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