2008-07-31 / News

Jim Bryer gets back to the basics for a better department

He follows in his father's footsteps as Jamestown fire chief
By Sam Bari

Fire Chief Jim Bryer inspects the newly installed fire alarm panel at the Lawn Avenue School. Photo by Adrienne Downing Fire Chief Jim Bryer inspects the newly installed fire alarm panel at the Lawn Avenue School. Photo by Adrienne Downing Fire Chief Jim Bryer said that a consistent training program for all firefighters, both veterans and new members alike, is crucial for the department to work together as a team. Bryer, who is startinghis fourth year as Jamestown's fire chief, has made training his first priority.

"Since being chief, the deputy chief and I have made an effort to get the department back to the basics with regular training sessions," Bryer said. "A well-trained department has fewer injuries and better results in every situation. Everyone needs to know what they are expected to do at all times. The repeated drills and comprehensive instruction on up-to-date techniques has turned our firefighters into a confident, competent department."

"When I was first elected some of the veterans had left," Bryer said. "The way we are running the department now is apparently working because some of the older, experienced members have returned, and the new recruits are benefiting from their experience."

Bryer believes it is important for the firefighters to take pride in the station where they work. When they aren't training, members donate their time and talents to make improvements to the facility. They have worked hard to restore the building to its original condition, he said.

During his tenure as chief, Bryer has been instrumental in acquiring a new pumper, two new tankers, a new special services pickup truck, and the installation of a truck ventilation system to clear the air of fumes when trucks are in the building.

Last year, BankNewport presented Chief Bryer with a $2,500 check to purchase a thermo energy camera. BankNewport's Jamestown Branch raised the funds by hosting four "Narrated Historic Cruises" aboard the Jamestown Ferry. All the profits went to the Jamestown Fire Department, plus a $900 gift from the bank, making the purchase of the camera possible.

Bryer encourages his 65-member department to participate in community affairs whenever possible. He personally volunteers his time to give fire safety classes to students at island schools.

The department plays a major role in all of the town parades and provides volunteers and equipment for the annual fireworks display. They also co-sponsor an annual blood drive with the Arnold Zweir Post 22 of the American Legion and Memorial Post 9447 of the VFW at the Holy Ghost Hall on Narragansett Avenue.

Although the call logs are strong indicators that Bryer's management skills have steered the department in the right direction, Bryer credits the department's success to the volunteer members.

"We have a terrific team," Bryer said. "There isn't a chief in the world who has a more dedicated, hard-working, and committed team of firefighters. The men and women in the Jamestown Fire Department are exceptional human beings who give up a major portion of their lives to consistently give their town the best service possible."

Bryer has made many sacrifices to assure the department's success. His wife says he has a full-time job with part-time pay. "But he loves what he does," Lisa Bryer says. "He enjoys helping people, and I don't begrudge him a moment." She said that he has been a fireman as long as she has known him.

Lisa couldn't help but laugh when she said, "The only thing that has changed since he's been chief is that he no longer keeps his firefi ghting gear in our dining room. He gets a car." She said that whenever the horn sounds, Bryer is up and running out the door, often in the middle of the night. "The family is used to it," she said. "We're well acquainted with three o'clock in the morning."

When Bryer was first elected chief, the term was for one year. "The department has its annual meeting the first Thursday in May," Bryer said. "We used to vote the chief in for a one year term. But nobody can get a lot done in one year, so we've extended the term of offi ce to two years."

Bryer's re-election in May of this year marks the beginning of his second two-year term and his fourth year as Jamestown's fire chief. He joined the department when he was 16-years old as a trainee.

"I wasn't a full member until I was 18," he said. "It wasn't allowed. When I was a full member, I started as a fireman. Then I was appointed lieutenant of rescue, followed by captain of the rescue squad," Bryer said. Before his election to chief, he was a training officer as well as a lieutenant and captain of a pumper.

When Bryer isn't working for the fire department, he runs his own successful home design company. "We do everything from total renovations to putting additions on existing homes," he said.

Bryer's father was his inspiration for becoming a fireman. The senior Bryer has been with the department for about 40 years, according to his son. "He was chief for several years before me," Chief Bryer said. "He taught me a lot."

Besides being fire chief and running his own business, Bryer manages to coach the 13 to 15-year old Babe Ruth baseball league. "I coach the Ali's Run, Newport- Jamestown team," he said. He also enjoyscoaching his 12-year old daughter, Rachel, around the country to race sailboats. She recently participated in the Opti class national sailing competition.

Chief Bryer and his wife Lisa live in Jamestown with their children, Rachel and Ian, age 8. When they have time off from busy work and volunteer schedules, the Bryers enjoy sailing, skiing during the winter, and snow boarding.

"Occasionally, I even get in a round of golf," Bryer said.

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