Salem Fire Dept. promotes 1, hires 1

SALEM -The Salem Fire Department celebrated the promotion of Lt. Ken Vernon and the hiring of Firefighter Kyle Kyser with a swearing-in ceremony Thursday at city hall inside council chambers.

Lt. Rod Hughes’ retirement created the need to promote an inspector or firefighter to the lieutenant spot and hire a new firefighter to fill the hole on the overall roster. Vernon scored the highest on the promotion exam administered by the Salem Civil Service Commission earlier this month, earning him the new title.

“I think he’s going to do a great job,” Salem Fire Chief Jeff Hughes said after the ceremony.

He said the department has a young crew and they all do a good job. He’s expecting the same from Kyser, remembering how he used to come to visit the fire station when he was a young boy.

“I think he’s going to be a great addition,” he said.

The chief’s brother, Rod, finished his final shift with the department at 8 a.m. today, bringing an end to a full-time firefighting career that spanned 23 1/2 years. The brothers started around the same time in 1990. The department includes the chief and 15 full-time firefighters, with three captains, three lieutenants, three inspectors and six firefighters.

Both Vernon and Kyser said they wanted to be firefighters since they were kids.

A Beloit resident and 1995 graduate of West Branch High School, Vernon has been with the city department nearly seven years and had the rank of firefighter before the promotion. He’s been a firefighter with the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department for nine years.

He comes from a family of firefighters. His brother George was recently promoted to assistant chief at Damascus and their late father, whose name was also George, had a 35-year career as a firefighter, serving 20 years as chief of the Beloit Volunteer Fire Department. Vernon and his brother both got their start with Beloit. All three Vernons started at age 16, with Ken recalling being part of an explorer group for teens.

“I’m happy,” Kyser said.

He took his oath of office from Mayor John Berlin in the same spot where the old fire station stood, where he used to come to visit in his childhood and they let him spray water from the hose.

A 2005 graduate of Salem High School and a Salem resident, Kyser took the firefighter civil service exam last spring and completed the physical agility test in June to get on the list of candidates considered when an opening occurred. He’s served two years with the Damascus Volunteer Fire Department and previously worked in construction before being hired full-time by the city.

After the swearing-in, while he posed for photos with his family members, he learned from his grandmother, Rose Marie Crookston, that his great-grandfather was a firefighter for the city of Salem.

Kyser was also accompanied by his wife, Jessica, his mom, Debbie Thomas, his dad and stepmom, Ken and Sue Kyser, and his sisters, Kelli Brenneman and Kari Newburn.

Vernon was accompanied by his wife, Julie, and their 2-year-old son, Jensen.