He will officially retire as fire chief July 2.
A partner at the Miller Canfield law firm, Ott joined the Northville Fire Department as an on-call firefighter and emergency medical technician in 1985 when he and his family initially moved to Northville. He became “of counsel” or part-time at the law firm when he became chief in Northville in 2014.
He recalled his rather inauspicious beginnings with the department which started when he happened to walk past the fire station. He said he noticed a crew training through the open bay doors and was intrigued.The professional attorney asked former Fire Chief Jim Allen if he could observe the crew training exercises and that led to his eventual joining the department. He said he suspects that Allen was very doubtful about the abilities of a lawyer to handle the rigors of firefighting back then.
Fires, however, had interested Ott for several years, he said. He had watched the action at the fire station next to his dorm at Michigan State University and while studying at Wayne State Law, he awakened one night to a massive warehouse fire nearby. He said he watched in awe as firefighters battled the flames and when he saw an ad to become an auxiliary member of the Detroit Fire Department, applied and was accepted, with subsequent training and supervision.
In the early years of being an on-call firefighter for Northville, Ott and others proposed teaching an EMT class in-house, and Allen agreed. At that time, the department only put out fires, personnel didn't supply any official medical assistance. EMT training sessions initially took place all day, every Sunday for seven to eight months.
That led to the establishment of the current EMT service which now accounts for a high percentage of calls for service in the department.
At the request of City of Plymouth officials in 2010, Northville agreed to man a fire station and service the City of Plymouth following negotiation of a contract finalized in 2012.
“It's a good thing for both communities,” Ott said. “It provides each community with additional resources that you couldn't have with only one station.” Currently, the Northville Fire Department is staffed by four captains, four lieutenants and 60 paid on-call firefighters, with 30 each allocated to Station 1 (City of Northville) and Station 2 (City of Plymouth).
“The department has never been as well equipped as it is now,” Ott said, “We've been able to stay up-to-date on equipment through a variety of means - equipment replacement funds, federal grants for the new rescue truck, and regional grants for new radios and hoses.”
The department has also improved the process of collecting data from each run and keeping track of who has completed training courses by switching from paper forms to an electronic data base. This conversion, using Google docs, now makes it easier to see performance metrics and produce a variety of reports,” Ott said.
“Chief Ott has led so many initiatives that have advanced our fire department, medical response, the partnership with Plymouth, and increased training and professionalism,” said Northville City Manager Pat Sullivan. “He has so much to be proud of. It was a pleasure to work with him.”
In retirement, Ott plans to travel nationally and abroad, and spend more time with his adult children, four grandchildren, and his many friends.
In the seven years that Ott has served as chief of the Northville City Fire Department, he brought the department up to speed with vehicles and equipment, boosted training, and used technology to improve runs and office procedures, officials said.
“A lot of people have stepped up” to achieve these upgrades to the department, Ott said. Under his leadership, on-call firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and lieutenants and captains have gone the extra mile to make sure the department stays top-notch and ready to serve the community, city officials said.