Engineering student finds his niche as member of local volunteer fire department


Missing the brotherhood he found in the military, former Ohio Northern University student Max Roberts, BS '19, discovered that bond as a volunteer firefighter with the Ada-Liberty Township Fire Department while pursuing his degree in construction management.

Working with the fire department has given me a sense of belonging,” says Roberts. “I am working with people who have similar experiences to my own, including military veterans and those from law enforcement. 

The camaraderie of his colleagues in the fire department has not only helped Roberts connect to the community and University, but also shaped him into a better student. “They are 100 percent the reason for my success in college,” says Roberts.

Roberts is a 2014 graduate of Ontario High School. He joined the Air National Guard at age 17, the summer before his senior year. After graduating, Roberts attended Basic Military Training and Tech School for a year before deciding to enroll at ONU. 

Roberts “This has become a big part of my college experience,” explains Roberts. “The fire department filled a gap I never knew I had.” 

Roberts is a fully certified firefighter in the state of Ohio. He has taken extensive classes and training courses but knows to never grow complacent. “The training never stops. When you’re unprepared, someone could get hurt.”

Working with the fire department has taught Roberts how to manage his hectic schedule and take advantage of the little free time he now has. 

“Like any college student, I used to procrastinate and wait until the last minute to do my homework,” Roberts says. “Now, I never know what will happen within the next minute. The pager could go off in the middle of the night or in the middle of a meal, and I could be on site for seven to 10 hours.”

Most importantly, the fire department enables Roberts to be the best person he can. Each call affects him differently and teaches him life lessons he could never learn in a classroom. 

It helps me put things into perspective,” he says. “As a college student, it’s easy to stress over daily tasks and academics, but when you see people in their worst moments, you start to understand what really matters in life. 

Roberts admits firefighting is a difficult job. However, he has developed a sense of pride and responsibility for the Ada community. “Seeing how appreciative the people of Ada are makes it all worthwhile. When someone needs help, I’m honored to be the one they call.” 

It all comes back to his military roots. 

“The No. 1 thing is service before self,” says Roberts, before listing the core values of the Air Force. “The military molded me into who I am, and working for the fire department has refined me.”

Roberts currently serves in the 200th RED HORSE Squadron of the Ohio Air National Guard and plans to continue volunteering with the Ada-Liberty Township Fire Department until graduating from ONU. 

“I am not sure where my firefighting career will lead, but it will be difficult to turn in my pager and hang up my gear for the final time,” Roberts says. “I am considering a future in civil engineering, the military or the fire service.”