Thursday, October 19, 2023

28-year veteran township firefighter retires

 Not every fire Capt. Chris Madzik put out throughout his 28-year career with the Northville Township Fire Department involved flames. 

On one memorable run to Northville High School several years ago, he assisted a student who “was having a bad day, a really rough day” behavior wise, Madzik explained. He transported him in an ambulance to the hospital, where he learned the teen had ADHD. 

“I talked to him the whole way there,” said Madzik, who is a father of two, and immediately made a connection with the stressed student. 

“When we got to the hospital, I grabbed the upset mom and I just said, 'You know, I have ADHD, too. And I'm okay. Your son is going to be okay. He's going to be fine. He just had a bad day. Everything is going to be okay.' Hopefully, I made their bad day a little better,” Madzik recalled. 

Madzik's concern for others is part of the legacy he left when he retired from duty Oct. 16, after nearly three decades of helping township residents. 

It's one of the reasons, at 53, he is ready to pass the baton after being one of the first full-time township firefighters. He cares about the next generation of Northville Township firefighter/paramedics, he said.

“It's time to clear some space for other guys to grow and develop and advance their careers,” he said. “I mean, I've been here more than 25 years. It's just time to let other people have their shot.” 

The thought of becoming a firefighter/paramedic didn't occur to Madzik until he was 25, fresh off a radio job in Washington, D.C. He returned to his hometown of Livonia and a friend of his sister's was a firefighter. 

“I liked that every day was different,” he said. 

Northville Township Fire Department
Capt. Chris Madzik, one of the first full time
 firefighters in the department, officially
retired Oct. 16 after 28 years on the job.
He joined Northville Township in November 1995 because they were offering free training for a three-year commitment to the department as a paid on-call firefighter. He became a full-time firefighter in April 1998. In 2002, he was promoted to sergeant, then to a lieutenant in 2003. He became a captain in 2017. 

“At that time, there was the building boom going on,” Madzik said. “Northville Township was one of the leaders in population growth, so I knew that the fire department was going to have to change and grow, and I wanted to be there when it did.” 

He said his public safety career has opened doors he never anticipated. About 12 years ago, he rediscovered his love of music. Growing up, he performed in choirs and musicals, but as an adult he put it aside until his wife urged him to get back in the spotlight, he explained. Currently, he sings tenor in Livingston County Choirs and in concerts for the Expressions Music Academy in Novi. He's frequently asked to sing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at first responder nights for the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons. 

“Singing at the Tiger game, I loved it,” he said. “That was the first time I've ever sung in a venue that big where I had to worry about that much (sound) delay. I very much loved that experience.” 

Madzik's about to perform for a new crowd. He plans on working for Howell Public Schools as a paraprofessional who assists impaired children. 

“I have a skill set that can be valuable for kids with physical and emotional impairments,” he said. “In this job, I've always done very well helping kids needing specialized care, so I think that'll transfer into the classroom.” 

He will balance his new career with fun, too. He will spend more time with his wife, Julie, their 19-year-old daughter, Josie, and their 13-year-old son, Reed. He said he plans to fit in more golf, more music and hiking, too. 

He'll also be thinking of his friends at the fire station. 

“I'm going to miss the guys,” he said. “I'm going to miss the day-to-day stuff. These are guys that I've been with well, some of them for most of my adult life.” 

The feeling is mutual, said Northville Township Fire Chief Brent Siegel. “With 28 years of service, Capt. Madzik has a lot of institutional and operational knowledge,” he said. “He has contributed to the forward progression of the department and his presence will be missed.”