By Tom Tolen /

The Brighton Area Fire Dept. chief has been named Michigan Fire Chief of the Year.

Chief Mike O’Brian was accorded the honor at a virtual meeting of the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs on Tuesday. This is the second year in a row a Livingston County chief has won the award. The 2019 Fire Chief of the Year was Howell's Andy Pless, who is retiring next month after more than 30 years with the department.

As is typical with him, O’Brian was humble upon receiving the award. He told WHMI “We have a great team…and those are the true heroes, from our senior staff to our shift captains to our regular firefighters.” O’Brian says the authority’s board gives him wide latitude to be active in other like-minded organizations, and as a result he is involved with other fire chiefs in Livingston County, state and even national organizations, particularly on legislative and finance issues.

David Glotzbach, the Muskegon Twp. fire chief and immediate past president of the MAFC, says O’Brian was nominated by two other fire chiefs, and after undergoing an evaluation was named Fire Chief of the Year. “(Chief O’Brian) has a wealth of knowledge and has sacrificed a lot of his personal time…Anybody in the fire service looking for help or a resource, Mike has always been there to assist in any way.” O’Brian has been with the Brighton department since 2007, after starting his firefighting career with the Farmington Hills Fire Dept. He gradually worked his way up in Brighton, and was picked to head the department in 2011 by former fire chief Larry Lane, with the blessing of the Brighton Area Fire Authority.

Right now, O’Brian is focused on the all of the building projects that are part of the 0.89-mill proposal that passed in May of 2019. The 12-year millage is expected to generate about $2.3 million per year, based on current property values. The millage was sought to fund an ambitious program to expand or renovate existing fire stations, build an entirely new fire station in the Dorr-Chilson Road area in Genoa Twp. and replace a tiny, inadequate station on Weber Street in Brighton Twp. Also, the existing station on Dorr Road in Genoa Twp. is undergoing a 10,000-square-foot expansion, complete with a firefighter and EMT training room and space for the Howell High School Fire Academy. Also with the expansion, the station will be able to provide 24-hour coverage. The project should be completed in early August. And the small, outmoded Weber St. fire station will be replaced with a new station on property adjacent to it — a project currently in the design phase.

O’Brian also has plans to either renovate and expand the current city fire station on West Grand River, which was built in the 1980s when Brighton was just a city fire dept. O’Brian says the station, though well maintained, is too small and inadequate for today’s fire dept. needs. He says it will either be replaced - if property can be found in the Grand River area of the city - or updated, with an addition. In November, voters will go to the polls to decide on a 1.5-mill operational levy which is a renewal of a millage that is set to expire next year.

From left to right: David Glotzbach, immediate past president of the MI Assn. of Fire Chiefs, and BAFD Chief O’Brian.