Nearby hostage situation results in Oberlin fire department changes

By Valerie Urbanik -

A police escort will go on every Oberlin fire call as a result of an October hostage situation that found three South Amherst at gunpoint.

The incident, along with one in 2014 where a Camden Township man threatened paramedics with a bow and arrow, has shaken Oberlin fire chief Bob Hanmer.

He said his top priority is keeping firefighters safe.

“The incidents are becoming more frequent so we want a police presence,” he said. “If we’re going to go to a call we want to see a police officer there.”

At least one uniformed officer will be dispatched on all fire calls. Hanmer said the job will entail watching over the scene and helping with traffic and crowd control.

“As soon as we determine things are OK, then they can leave,” he said.

The change comes just weeks after Roy Griffith Jr., 53, of Amherst, threatened firefighters who responded to a blaze in the woods near his Hornyak Court home in Amherst Township. He kept them at the end of a rifle barrel for hours until SWAT convinced him to let them go free.

During the incident, police learned the gunman had a record of mental illness and hadn’t taken his medicine for days. When Griffith repeatedly demanded more beer, one firefighter was set loose on the promise to return with a six-pack.

No one was injured.

Griffith entered a not-guilty plea in Oberlin Municipal Court. His case was bound over Thursday to the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas.

Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.

By Valerie Urbanik