Lessons Learned from Long-Time Rochester Fire Chief

July 09, 2018 07:16 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Long-time Rochester Fire Chief Ollie Mertz, who died in May, left behind quite a legacy. His policies and personality shaped Rochester.

Ollive served 43 years on the Rochester Fire Department. 

"He worked very hard, and Mom was the inspiration behind him,” said Ollie’s son, Greg Mertz.

"He'd say 'I love you' more than anything. Those were his last words to me. I can still see him look at me as he faded away," said Barbara Mertz, Ollie's widow.


Barbara met Ollie when she was 13 years old.  
"I always noticed that when he walked, he always had money is his pocket. I used to tell him I like that jingle," said Barbara Mertz.

For kids growing up in the Depression, that was a big deal.   
"He grew up in the Depression and made something of himself," said Greg Mertz.

In 1965, Ollie became Rochester’s Fire Chief. 

"He took every test in the fire department and came out first, every test," said Barbara.

Ollie retired from the department in 1990.

"The young guys don't know him.  They know his legacy," said Greg.

That legacy is changing local regulations to require virtually all new buildings to have automatic sprinklers, easing concerns about fire safety in high rise buildings.

Barbara says he was lucky to have a job that never felt like one. 

"He liked the fire department, he liked the men, and he was strict, but he was fair," said Barbara.  


Talia Milavetz

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