SIDNEY — An “Office Space for Rent” sign hangs outside of Sidney’s Deputy Fire Chief Cameron Haller’s office door. Fellow firefighters hung the sign as a joke, but it also signifies the end of a chapter in Haller’s career. He is retiring from Sidney’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services on March 2. He is set to begin his next chapter by becoming the new Tipp City Fire Chief on March 18.
“The one thing about firefighters and EMS,” Haller said with a big smile, when asked about the sign, “the practical jokes never stop. So when I made it official, I think that sign was up within a day or two.”
Haller officially notified the city of Sidney he accepted the Tipp City position in December. He asked for a little extra time before starting his new job to ensure a smooth transition for the Sidney Fire Department (SFD).
Haller has served as deputy fire chief for three years and been employed with SFD since November 1995. He is a native of Van Wert, but he and his wife Teresa, have made Sidney their home for the last 23 years. Haller said Sidney has been a great place to raise their three children, Jacob, Collin and Abbi.
In August 1989 after graduating high school, he joined the Navy. It was during his time in the Navy when he “stumbled” onto his firefighting career. Giving a friend a ride to the mall changed the trajectory of his life.
Fellow sailor, Bill Sleeger, now an assistant fire chief at York (Pennsylvania) Fire Department, who was a member of the volunteer fire department Escambia County (Florida) Fire Rescue, encouraged Haller to apply to join the department after their two-hour trip to the mall. In Florida at that time, he said there was no fire/EMS certification process. Haller learned on the job during his year and half with the department.
“I went into the Navy thinking I would learn a trade, and I did; it was firefighting. But it had nothing to do with (the Navy). It had to do with the Navy, because I never would have met him otherwise, but I fell in love with firefighting right off the bat.”
He fell in love with being a firefighter and paramedic because of the instant gratification of seeing the results of helping others, Haller explained. Sometimes the end result does not turn out good, he said, but the overwhelming majority of the time, when including EMS calls, things end more positive than negative.
“In the Navy they say ‘everybody is a firefighter.’ Because if a fire starts, where are you going to go? You are not going to jump overboard,” Haller said. “So they train you up on shipboard and aircraft firefighting, if you are in the right field. So in the Navy, (fire training) was kind of there; everybody is a firefighter, but it was not my specific job.”
After serving in the Navy, he returned to Van Wert, got married, and then worked on the next steps to get a firefighter job. For a few years, Haller worked in a factory while taking emergency medical technician (EMT) classes.
When finished with classes, he applied to fire departments across the entire West Central area and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Haller took the civil service test at St. Marys first, and Sidney later. St. Marys Fire Department was the first department to offer him a job. He worked at St. Marys for about eight months before SFD offered a job.
Haller explained that because he tested at St. Marys before Sidney, he was able to be hired there first. But after talking with his uncle, Dave Kreischer, who was an assistant fire chief at SFD, Kreischer provided some direction for his decision.
“I have no regrets coming to Sidney. St. Marys is a great place. But I have no regrets coming to Sidney. Zero,” Haller said when discussing the personal dilemma he felt when trying to decide whether to leave St. Marys, the department that hired him first.
Several events stood out throughout Haller’s career, but the most rewarding he recalled was a time when he met the father of a little boy who firefighters rescued from a fire from a second floor window.
“I think I was the only one on station and I met him at the door, and he just gave me a great big old hug; a complete stranger. And (Haller was thinking) ‘this is awesome,’” Haller recalled. “I got to receive the hug, but it was a total team effort that night. And that made it stand out as much as anything.”
Aside from fighting fires, Haller’s second favorite task in his work is water rescue events.
“Anything on the river. I love water rescue events. I’m a decent, good swimmer. Assistant Chief Simon at the time was running it and allowed me to get all the training up to technician level through the state of Ohio. And it just became my second favorite; my love, if you will, that wasn’t firefighting,” Haller said.
Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones said whoever is hired to fill Haller’s chief deputy position will have “big shoes to fill.”
“For the past 25-plus years, counting Cam’s military experience, he has dedicated himself to public service. Whether it was when he was in the Navy, or the 23 years he spent here in Sidney, he has dedicated himself to public service and there will be big shoes to fill. But he will do a good job for Tipp City,” Jones said.
Mayor Mike Barhorst said, “It has been my privilege to know Deputy Chief Cameron Haller as both a parent and as a coach, in addition to simultaneously knowing him as a firefighter/paramedic and a fire department officer. Cam is dedicated, hard-working and goal oriented. Speaking as mayor, the city is always saddened when a valued employee decides to leave. Speaking personally, I certainly understand his desire to advance his career, and I wish him all the best.”
“SFD has been a blessing to me personally, professionally, and Sidney is the same way. If I say SFD, Sidney, Shelby County, the whole ball of wax has been wonderful for me and my family.” Haller said. “The people and the relationships (in Sidney) will definitely be one of the biggest things I will miss, because its one of the things that brings me the most joy.
Haller’s family will be relocating to Tipp City or the Monroe Township area soon. However, Lehman High School will remain his wife’s place of employment and daughter’s school.
“It’s a mixed bag (of emotions) because I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had here and my family has had here, but it’s prepared me to go to that next step. I’m excited and nervous and anxious all at the same time to go to that next step, and make that career change,” Haller said.
“I want to go to Tipp City and take the best parts of their department and try to make them better,” Haller said. He also wants to improve the parts that needs improvement with the help of the team down there.
“I always hesitate to say ‘I’ because I’ve never done anything in a vacuum, whether family, to work, to hobbies, I’ve never done anything by myself,” Haller said. “It’s always more satisfying when the team gets to a place rather than you getting to a place. There is always going to be a part of Sidney in me because the team helped me to develop into who I am.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.