Dover’s Osika takes love of firefighting to different side

Dover’s new fire marshal, Jason Osika, looks right at home in his office at City Hall. He started with the Dover Fire Department as its mascot at 13 years old. He is Dover’s sixth fire marshal since the office was created in 1959. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Dover’s new fire marshal, Jason Osika, looks right at home in his office at City Hall. He started with the Dover Fire Department as its mascot at 13 years old. He is Dover’s sixth fire marshal since the office was created in 1959. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — There is no doubt that firefighting runs deep in Jason Osika’s blood.

Mr. Osika has followed in the tradition of his father, Ray, a past chief at Dover’s Robbins Hose Company No. 1 and his brother, Jon, who is a paid firefighter in Wilmington.

However, Mr. Osika is now in a different role when it comes to fighting fire. He was sworn in by Mayor Robin Christiansen as Dover’s fire marshal on Sept. 14 and his main focus now is on fire prevention and safety.

That’s just fine for Mr. Osika, 38, who said he is happy to be in a job where he can make a difference when it comes to fire safety.

“It’s a different side of things versus firefighting,” he said. “The whole life safety aspect is a different part of the service, but I’m really enjoying it.”

It has been a natural career progression for Mr. Osika, who became Dover’s sixth fire marshal since the office opened in 1959.

“I’m very excited,” the 1996 Dover High School graduate said of his new position. “I’ve been with the city for 15 years and I did 11 years with the fire company as a fire dispatcher.

“Then I came over and was an inspector in the Code Enforcement Division for a short time and then was able to come over to the Fire Marshal’s office as an Inspector I. Then I moved up to Inspector II and most recently the fire marshal’s position.”

There never was any doubt that Mr. Osika would chase down fires when he was growing up. At age 13, he was a mascot for the Dover Fire Department.

“The fire company still has a mascot program,” he said. “When you are 13 — as long as a member nominates you — then you can become a member. So that’s when I became a member, at age 13.

“Back then, you could ride [on the truck] but now you can’t ride. But it helped me with starting my training earlier and learning the equipment. That’s when I started and it stuck with me from there.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, left, gives the oath of office to the city’s new fire marshal Jason Osika on Sept. 14, while his son Jachob looks on. (Submitted photo/City of Dover_

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen, left, gives the oath of office to the city’s new fire marshal Jason Osika on Sept. 14, while his son Jachob looks on. (Submitted photo/City of Dover_

For the Osika family, just waiting to hear that fire whistle howl over the years has been a lifestyle. For them, plans can change at a moment’s notice. His mother, Debbie, has had to keep many meals warm while they were out serving the community.

Mr. Osika’s young son, Jachob, is already showing an interest in firefighting.

“I grew up in the fire service,” Mr. Osika said. “It’s just something I’ve done all my life. It runs in the family. I was fortunate enough. I loved doing fire dispatching [in the past] but some things were happening there where those positions were questionable if they were going to remain or not.

“So I looked elsewhere in the city at that time and that’s when I went to the inspections department with hopes that the next vacancy in the Fire Marshal’s Office would come open, and it did. I was lucky enough to earn that responsibility and just work my way up to where I am now.”

Now Mr. Osika has several different responsibilities. The Dover’s fire marshal is a government official appointed by the city council who creates and enforces fire safety laws.

So now Mr. Osika personally inspects buildings and imposes fines for violations. He also organizes investigations in the case of fire-related crimes and accidents and provides assistance in emergency situations.

It is his responsibility for ensuring that businesses, schools, factories and hospitals comply with fire codes. He helps to perform regular inspections of such facilities, checking for violations or potentially hazardous situations.

“The biggest thing with the Fire Marshal’s Office is life safety,” Mr. Osika said.

“It starts with plan review, to annual inspections, review of fire suppression systems, fire alarm systems that go into new buildings and buildings that are being renovated. We’re involved with the overall general well-being when it comes to fire systems.

“We’re also responsible for the fire safety of race weekends [at Dover International Speedway] and also the Firefly Music Festival. We’re responsible for all of the campsites and things that happen around the racetrack.”

While Mr. Osika’s office might appear to be somewhat cramped at City Hall, he said he wouldn’t change it for anything.

“One thing is for certain, it is definitely nice to be able to enjoy your job,” he said.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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