New mural paints the history of the Dayton Fire Department in comic book style

A new mural will tell the history of the Dayton Fire Department with a unique twist — each segment will be painted in vintage comic book style.

Dayton Fire Fighters Local 136 has teamed up with mural artist Tiffany Clark to create a 20-panel mural along Buckeye Street between Main and Warren streets.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

The timeline begins with bucket brigades and horse-drawn steam engines and highlights the department’s role in Gem City history through the modern era.

The Great Flood of 1913, the 1987 Sherwin-Williams fire and a 2018 fire at Salar, an Oregon District restaurant, are among the notable events recreated along the 600-feet long retaining wall.

Members of the firefighter’s union brainstormed with Clark, who has created more than 100 murals in Dayton, and came up with the novel idea.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

“I appreciate the old Marvel, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee era of comics,” said Jim Burneka, a Dayton firefighter and paramedic. “As many murals as Tiffany has done, she hasn’t done anything quite like this. It’s unique and a different way of spinning our history.”

Clark studied vintage Marvel comic books for months to replicate the artistic style for painting the first responders. “Their sole job is to save people, so my mind went to superheroes right away,” she said.

One of the panels recreates a 1980 photograph of civilian medics and reimagines them as the Fantastic Four superhero team.

Fire Man, a muscular superhero in training armed with a hose, flies from the cover of his own Dayton-styled comic book. The cover reads “And Now It Begins….!”

Randolph Jones Tams, the first Black member of the department appointed in 1907, will be immortalized in a recreation of an original Black Panther comic book cover.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

The firefighters chose scenes that helped change the city and influenced firefighting techniques across the country.

In vivid colors, Clark has painted a burning warehouse with dark smoke billowing into the sky. Below the scene are three layers labeled ground water, confining layers and aquifer.

In May 1987, a Sherwin-Williams paint warehouse, located at the Concourse 70/75 Industrial Park off Wagner Ford Road, caught fire and threatened the area’s drinking water.

Dayton fire officials made the decision to let it burn unchecked for almost a week because they believed pouring millions of gallons of water onto the flames would cause well field contamination, as the water carried chemicals into the aquifer.

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

“It was quite controversial at the time,” Dennis Bristow, Jr., a member of the union’s executive board, said. “Back in 1987 dealing with hazardous materials was new to fire departments.”

“It was a groundbreaking decision made that day and one of things we wanted to make sure was depicted.”

Near the end of the mural at Warren Street, Clark will paint the Dayton Fire Department Line of Duty Memorial, a monument dedicated to firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

The mural, financed by the firefighter’s union, will be completed in September.

The firefighters intend it to beautify the street and hope it will also be a reminder of their dedication to the community, Bristow said. “We’re here to serve and proud to serve.”

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