Brad James is totally committed to Tarentum’s Eureka Fire-Rescue-EMS
Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series that features Alle-Kiski Valley residents and the notable things that they do.
Little things matter to emergency medical technician and deputy fire Chief Brad James.
“I’ve always paid attention to the little things,” said James, of Tarentum’s Eureka Fire-Rescue-EMS. “In the big picture, if you pay attention to all the little pieces, it helps bring the puzzle together.”
Little things like making sure equipment is clean and works properly, and rescue crews are prepared to respond.
“When you have many different people and personalities and pieces of equipment, it sometimes takes a little attention to detail,” the lifelong Tarentum resident said. “The fire service is a lot like the military. We like continuity. I like things always to be the same so that they’re ready the next time.”
Between working and volunteering, James has given 36 years of emergency service to the borough through Eureka Fire-Rescue-EMS, headquartered along Third Avenue.
“I like this town,” he said. “It still has good people in it. I think there’s a certain fit for everyone’s character. … I would like to slow down sometimes. (But) I don’t know how. I would like to think we can get some people in the community to understand it’s a good calling.”
Now 52, he joined the department in 1983 at 16. He rose through the ranks and was named deputy fire chief in 1991. He was hired as an operations supervisor in 2008.
He previously worked as a firefighter for Allegheny Ludlum, later Allegheny Technologies Inc., at its Brackenridge Works in Harrison from 1990 through 2007.
James graduated from Highlands High School in 1985 and from Washington & Jefferson College in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Even though he studied economics, the fire service was James’ true calling.
“When I was younger, I was always attracted to the service life that the fire service would provide,” he said. “The energy and excitement of what the fire department did. … I was probably that kid that thought the fire trucks and equipment were cool.”
The training received through Eureka, coupled with a desire to help people in danger, instilled a willingness to respond to calls at anytime.
“Along with the fire and rescue training, get the EMS training, because that’s what this company does,” James said. “I think any decent firefighter, any responsible accountable first responder cares about their organization.
“People brought me along. People were mentors here and taught me the value and the importance of caring about the organization, and caring about your company first. I want to come to work. … I want to help all the other people succeed, as well.”
He learned from the late Allegheny Ludlum fire Chief Bill Cani and the late Eureka fire Chief Richard Scholl. Eureka’s current fire chief is Rich Heuser.
“I’ve always looked to him as I rose through the ranks and worked underneath him,” James said about Heuser.
James’ cousin, Tim, is also a Tarentum firefighter. When not on a call, James can often be seen at the station with Ashes, Eureka’s 2-year-old Dalmatian.
“She’s good with everybody,” James said. “She’s a good girl. She keeps us in line.”
James has a 25-year-old daughter, Tori Howells, and 2-year-old granddaughter, Aria Howells.
He said being an emergency responder with a family can be challenging.
“It is extremely difficult,” he said. “It takes an understanding family, and the whole way of life has to be understanding. People that are in public safety have to have the ability to not be selfish. No matter what we want to enjoy, if someone needs help they need help — no matter what the situation (and) no matter what time. It takes strength.”
Eureka has 18 active volunteers and 12 employees, including five full-time positions.
It’s one of three fire companies in Tarentum and its only ambulance service. Eureka responded to more than 3,200 EMS calls and 350 fire calls last year.
More information about the company is available at eurekafirerescue.org.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .