SIDNEY — Retirement marks the end of a life-long relationship for Doug Stammen with the Sidney Fire Department (SFD) after growing up around and spending a third of his adult life at the department. Stammen recently retired as a senior firefighter with “B” crew of the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services following 29 years of service.
“I kind of grew up there. My dad was a Sidney firefighter for 25 years. I was always running in and out of there as a kid,” Stammen said, reflecting on memories at Sidney Fire. “I will miss the camaraderie and helping people in the community.”
Although knee surgery put him on leave from the department since May, Stammen’s last official day as an employee of the city of Sidney was Aug. 14, 2020.
Stammen always knew he wanted to be a firefighter by following in his father, Hershel Couch, and grandfather, Chester Steed’s, footsteps.
“It was one of my ultimate goals (to become a firefighter) and do the job. But I knew it was hard to get on,” he said.
Stammen said Steed was one of the founding members of the Ansonia Fire Department.
“I enjoyed when I would get up in the morning and get ready for school, and Dad would come home and be drinking coffee in the morning before he went to his next job. And I would listen to the stories he would tell and thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ And of the things they got to do and to help people. And the camaraderie, you could tell between the guys (at the department). … And I would always be there (at SFD),” Stemman said.
But before becoming a firefighter, his dad recommended he first learn discipline and obtain life experience in the military, so Stammen joined the Navy.
“I loved it. I enjoyed my time; got to see the world. I graduated third in my class and after boot camp I got premium duty. I got to go to Keflavik, Iceland. Iceland was a great place,” Stammen said, with a laugh. “And my dad said I would get points (when testing for firefighter jobs) for being in the military.”
Stammen served six years in the Navy — four years active, and two years inactive. After leaving the military, he worked odd jobs and helped his dad on construction jobs. He well remembers the day he tested to become a Sidney fire fighter in October 1989, because it was the day after his wedding day, and he admitted with a laugh to being slightly hungover. It took a little while before a call came with the job offer, but Stammen remembered being thrilled when it finally came.
“I was ecstatic. Joe Geuy called me, the chief at the time, and asked if I wanted to take the job at the Sidney Fire Department, and I was like, “Yes!” I pretty much turned in my two-weeks notice right then because they were ready for me right away,” he said with a chuckle.
A lot has changed, from literally how they fight fires and rescue people to the technology, training and equipment used. When Stammen’s dad served and when he started with SFD, they worked in the part of Municipal Building that faces Poplar Street, across from where Station 1 is currently located. Other than fighting fires, they only conducted river rescues back when he joined SFD. Over the years they added several technical rescue types to their job, such as rope, confined space, trench rescues, and also learned to become a RIT or rapid intervention team. RIT utilizes special skills to rescue firefighters in distress.
“We’ve went leaps and bounds from the turnout gear to the equipment. Technology has gone so fast,” he said of the changes.
When asked about any specific incidents that stood out, he said there were a lot, but he tries not to think about them because so many are heart-wrenching, but he did recall one medical call.
“I remember one incident where a gentleman was having a heartattack and we were doing everything according to protocol, and we were not getting a response from this guy. And when we take off and run for the hospital, we have used up most of our drugs, and we know we got to go. We were not getting a response like we should have been, and a pastor showed up from the church they were going to and started praying. And when he started praying, ‘Dear Jesus,’ — suddenly we got a ‘bump-bump-bump’ (sound of his heart) … ,” Stammen said. “And that was one of the good ones. It happened as we were just about to load him up. I just sat up and said whatever you guys are doing is working, and they just kept praying and that guy actually came back.”
Other than people, he said they also saved lots of dogs and cats, and even a turtle during his time.
Stammen said it’s bittersweet to leave Sidney Fire because he will miss the guys at the department. He expressed gratitude for the relationships with his fellow firefighters, who covered many shifts while he was at the hospital for his sick son. Several of them joined him in shaving his head as sign of support for his son who was fighting stage four cancer — anaplastic large cell lymphoma.
“Doug will be missed,” Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones said, “he was an integral team member on emergency scene. His skills and knowledge will be hard to replace.”
He looks forward to spending more time with his six children and two grandchildren, including one on the way, which he shares with his wife Robin. They also look forward to traveling and fixing up their home together.
Stammen said his wife is his “rock” and she is happy for him to be home more. He joked that he can finally get to his honey-do list.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.