Leo Wermer, a native of Essex, is new fire chief for Saint Michael’s Fire & Rescue
He started young and has extensive experience in emergency services, both medical and fire, and says his present campus crew is "strongest group of individuals I have worked with"
The new Fire Unit Chief at Saint Michael’s College, Leo Wermer, has worked in emergency services for the last 15 years. The Essex, VT, native has had an interest in public safety, specifically fire and emergency medical services, from a very young age. “I was interested in where the fire trucks were going,” Wermer said, “so my initial motivation was just my curiosity in this world.”
Since becoming a junior firefighter with Essex Town and Fire at the age of 15, Wermer has trained, joined, and climbed the ranks of various fire departments in Vermont. At 16 years old, Wermer started riding in the back of the ambulance and later joined the fire side of the emergency services in 2009. Eventually, he became a full-time paramedic in 2013 and later a full-time paramedic/ firefighter for the city of South Burlington in 2014.
After moving to the Champlain Islands, by 2016 Wermer had moved up the ranks of the South Hero Fire Department. In time, he became the Assistant Chief for the South Hero Fire Department, while simultaneously working as the union president in South Burlington. Now, in 2021, he has claimed the title of Fire Unit Chief at Saint Michael’s College Fire and Rescue.
“I heard the fire chief here was leaving his position and I put in for it because I was motivated by the idea of working with an entire department full of people who want to work here every day,” said Wermer. “This is as young and as motivated a fire department as you can get. That is my ideal working environment: people who want to go on calls, train, do anything to improve the department.”
Wermer plans to do just that. “John Keating (Rescue Chief) and I are working to create a bigger and better Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue. We enthusiastically encourage anyone who is interested in checking out what we do, to go through our rookie process. There’s no penalty, [so if you are interested] please come to the information sessions and talk to our senior members.”
So, what does Wermer want you to know? “We are in the process of refining and building a better Fire and Rescue Department,” he said. “This is the time in your life to try something new. I want you to come try Fire, Rescue, or even both.”
As a Vermont native, Wermer appreciates the fact that at St. Mike’s, the community you surround yourself with is also the community that takes care of you. “I will say this — this community produces a number of outstanding individuals. I have been working in emergency services for 15 years, and, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, this is the strongest group of individuals I have worked with,” he said.
“It is most definitely because everyone is young, engaged, and motivated. They still love to be here, which is a wonderful environment to work in. We are always looking for people to join the family. There have been 650 amazing individuals that have gone through this program, but we could always add to that number — it’s just a wonderful place to work.”