Thursday, March 22, 2001

A somber time in firehouses

Colleagues mourn dead firefighter

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        In different firehouses on opposite ends of Hamilton County, Wednesday was anything but routine.

        Firefighters in Anderson and Miami townships did their daily workouts, cleaned gear and fire trucks, and held regular meetings. They also hugged and, sometimes, cried.

[photo] Bill Ellison's helmet and turnout gear hang in Anderson Township Station 10 as firefighter Mike Meiners talks in the background.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
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        Their minds were on Bill Ellison, a superb paramedic, co-workers say, who eagerly shared his knowledge and was a mentor to younger firefighters.

        Mr. Ellison, 38, died Tuesday night of burn injuries suffered while searching for a possible victim in a blazing Miami Township house March 8.

        “It's just a somber mood today,” said Anderson firefighter Pat Hancock, acting officer at the Salem Road firehouse where Mr. Ellison had been stationed since January. “We're going to try to maintain as routine a day as we can. We've just got to take it one moment at a time.”

        Mr. Ellison, a Union Township father of two, had worked full time at Anderson Township and part time for Miami Township.

        It was not clear Wednesday what benefits Mr. Ellison's family would receive as a result of his death in the line of duty on a part-time job.

    Bill Ellison's funeral will be 10 a.m. Friday at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral, 8th and Plum streets in downtown Cincinnati. Burial will follow in St. Stephen Cemetery, Fort Thomas.
    Blood drives in honor of Mr. Ellison will be held Saturday and Monday.
    • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Anderson Senior Center, 7970 Beechmont Ave. Information: 474-9761.
    • Noon to 6 p.m. Monday at Harrison Fire Department Station 2, 10250 West Road. Information: 367-2222.
    Donations to the Bill Ellison Fund for the firefighter's family can be made at any Fifth Third Bank branch or mail a check to: Firefighter Bill Ellison's Fund, Fifth Third Bank, 38 Fountain Square Plaza Cincinnati 45263. Fort Wright, Ky., firefighters will donate a portion of the proceeds from their April 6 Fish Fry to the fund. The fish fry will be 5 to 8 p.m. at the Fort Wright Civic Club.
        Miami Township officials Wednesday said they have filed a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation on behalf of Mr. Ellison.

        “We're looking at every possible avenue to help Victoria and the two daughters,” Miami Township Fire Chief Jim Hughes said.

        Several fund raisers and blood drives to help the Ellison family are scheduled. And donations can be made to the Firefighter Bill Ellison's Fund at any Fifth Third Bank branch.

        “He was a character,” said Miami Township Fire Capt. Matt Bishop, who regularly worked a 24-hour shift with Mr. Ellison. “He was a real quiet guy, but he's always got a little "gotcha,' a big-time prankster.”

        Capt. Bishop recalled a time when the fire station's grill ran out of propane. Undeterred, Mr. Ellison got some firewood, stoked up the fireplace in the station's living quarters and proceeded to cook his dinner steaks over the wood fire.

        Fellow firefighters gave him the nickname “Doc” because he was always reading thick medical books.

        “If there was a serious patient, he was the one you'd want to have work on them,” Mr. Hancock said. “He just made everybody that worked with him that much better.”

        “I can't think of anybody that didn't like Bill,” Capt. Bishop said. “You could approach him on anything. We always kidded around.”

[photo] Talking about Bill Ellison was hard for Miami Township fire Capt. Matt Bishop.
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        When he was at work, Mr. Ellison would regularly call home and talk to his two daughters, Marissa, 9, and Michaela, 5.

        Wednesday afternoon, Miami Township Assistant Fire Chief Harry Hinson stood alone, head down, hands in his pockets, at the basement door of the burned-out Jordan Road home. He had helped pull his gravely injured friend from this door two weeks ago.

        He walked back to his wife at the foot of the driveway, put his arms around her and broke down, sobbing.

        After composing himself, he explained: “It's the first time I've been back. And I had to come back.”

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