SIDNEY — Retiring after 29 years, Thursday was the last time Sidney Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Kenneth Girod’s alarm clock was set for 5:30 a.m. to serve the city of Sidney.
On Nov. 15, 1987, Girod joined the Sidney Fire Department after previously serving six and a half years in the U.S. Navy, working for the hospital and doing construction. He is a “seasoned driver/pumper” and served on multiple occasions as acting lieutenant.
“I’m ready,” Girod said of thoughts on retirement. “I’ll miss some of it. I’m going to miss the guys, because it’s like a big family. You eat and sleep with these guys 24 hours a day.”
But he is not going to miss the 3 a.m. alarms that wakes them from “a dead sleep,” or the frequent dinner interruptions. Even Girod’s retirement celebration was in danger of being postponed, as a call came in on a structure fire on Thursday afternoon during his open house prior to the ceremony.
However, becoming a firefighter seemed like a natural career path for Girod, as his father Myron Smith is a former Sidney firefighter and grandfather was also firefighter in Piqua. Girod was able to work with his father during the first couple of years of his career.
Sidney firefighters work 24-hour shifts; on 24 hours and off the following 48 hours. When not responding to emergencies, the first eight hours of the work day are structured with vehicle maintenance and training. The following part of the shift is more relaxed, but firefighters are expected to be in gear within a minute of the alarm sounding, regardless of time of day.
Girod said over the span of his career two major events in particular stand-out to him most: the string of arson fires set within one day in 1988 and the scene of a wreck on Interstate 75 during an ice storm.
Just into the first year of his career, Girod recalled working an over a 24-hour day fighting numerous arson fires set around Sidney by one individual that destroyed the Goodwin Furniture Store building. The former building location is now a parking lot across the street from the fire department.
“Probably the most memorable thing in all was the Goodwin fire. Someone set several arson fires. … We (Girod’s crew) were up at the warehouse fire up on Cook Street. Early in the morning, we got called down there (to the Goodwin building) because the incoming crew, at 6:30/7 a.m. found it as they were coming on. We just dropped everything up there; unhooked all the hoses and left them lay and came down there, and was down there for the next 24 hours,” Girod said.
Girod said another memorable event was a time he was injured on the job.
“On Thanksgiving morning 2004, there was a car accident during icy, nasty weather. … While we were there with the patients, a pick-up truck headed to Detroit slammed into the back of a highway patrol car, veered off out of the median strip and back in between the car and the truck and the whole crew was there with these people, and that truck came at us and we all dove over. And I wound-up 30-feet down under the embankment. Messed up my back. The last thing I saw was headlights at my feet as I was headed over. Everybody was asking, ‘Where is Kenny?’ They didn’t know where I was.”
Several people spoke of Girod’s value, that he will be missed and of how different it will be without him.
“It’ll be quieter. — Not as much spice. — He will be missed.” Assistant Fire Chief Chad Hollinger said with a chuckle, before getting serious when asked about Girod.
During his final week, several firefighters joked about Girod in a brotherly fashion, but also echoed Hollinger’s sentiment that he will be missed.
At Monday evening’s Sidney City Council meeting, Mayor Mike Barhorst honored Girod by proclaiming Thursday, Feb. 2, as Kenneth Girod Day in the city of Sidney. Barhorst said the proclamation is in recognition of the community’s appreciation for his more than 29 years of service.
During his next phase of life, Girod said he will continue to work, at least part-time, as an electrician wiring new homes for Emerson-Wagner. He also enjoys outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. He and his wife, Jean, plan to do some traveling and take cross-country trips starting in the summer.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.