Marion Fire Dept. Capt. Paul Thompson III dreamed of becoming a firefighter like his father to continue his family legacy, and like the men he idolized at the fire station near his home growing up in Marion.
In 1989, one year after his father retired from MFD, Thompson III was hired and immediately began training to achieve various first responder skillsets during an evolving time where responsibilities of firefighters were changing. He became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), joined the Water Rescue Team as a certified SCUBA & Rescue Diver, got certified in Hazmat, and obtained state and national certification as a Fire Service Instructor which he said he has utilized the most. “This certification has allowed me to meet many like-minded personnel locally and throughout the U.S., and I’ve been able to work alongside them in teaching. It has been very rewarding.”
As an instructor and mentor to each new MFD firefighter, Thompson explained it has been his passion and duty to share his knowledge to do the job of helping others in their greatest time of need. “When they call us on their worst day, they expect us to be at our best. Therefore, we always have to be at the top of our game.” He always shares an acronym he formulated with his fellow firefighters: PATH. “Have Pride in yourself, your department, and even your equipment. You’re going to be confronted with challenges, but if you keep a positive Attitude, it will spread amongst your crew and in public. You never know when you’ll be tested to react, so that’s why you should Train well and rely on it to kick in. T is also Tradition. If you know the tradition of our department, you will be able to share it and know why we do what we do. Finally, keep your occupation close to your Heart to prevent doing something to jeopardize it.” During his 25 years of instructing, Thompson found a need to teach Fire Safety Survival. He extensively trained utilizing techniques from U. of Illinois Fire Service Institute, and taught his department, the county, and helped develop curriculum on the state level.
Thompson was awarded by MFD for saving a girl from drowning in the Mississinewa River in 2006, and received a heroism award through Firehouse Magazine, a national publication, for saving an elderly woman from a house fire in 2008. He has been named “Firefighter of the Year” by the American Legion of Grant County in 2008 and the Evening Exchange Club of Grant County in 2014.
Thompson was active in the Honor Guard, and performs eulogies for fallen firefighters. As a first responder at Ground Zero on 9/11/01 for recovery operations, he has also organized a local 9⁄11 memorial ceremony for the past 20 years.
In retirement, Thompson will continue to teach Firefighter 1 & 2 courses at the academy, and expressed interest in joining boards or committees pertaining to public safety. Thompson also looks forward to time with his wife and family.
Fire Chief Paul David reflected on Thompson as one who strived to not only better himself as a firefighter but share with others the knowledge he obtained to better the department. “Capt. Thompson dedicated 100% to his profession, and filling his shoes will be a task. He always had a passion for wanting to do his best for the citizens. I personally thank him for the knowledge he shared with me, his dedication, service, and pride he had in his position with MFD.”
Mayor Jess Alumbaugh said Thompson’s departure will “most definitely be felt by the Marion Fire Department. His dedication to the profession and assistance he provided to his fellow firefighters will be greatly missed. I am, however, pleased to know that Paul will continue to teach firefighters in the future. His knowledge and leadership will prove most valuable to those hoping to become firefighters.”