SIDNEY — The Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services is commemorating 160 years of service.
“For 160 years, it’s been an honor to meet the citizens’ needs. We are looking forward to continuing in the future with our organization’s growth with a third fire station and expanded services,” said Fire Chief Brad Jones.
According to Fire Deputy Chief Cameron Haller’s press release, the department dates back to 1857, when Sidney was served by four companies of volunteer firefighters. After a disastrous local fire in 1879, Sidney’s first fire chief, Michael Smith, was appointed. The Shelby County Historical Society lists Smith’s official title as chief engineer.
The fire department reports responding to 25 fire calls in 1897. It responded to 931 fire calls in 2016.
The Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services first took up residence in the Monumentual Building, at the northwest corner of Court Street and Ohio Avenue, until the new Municipal Building, at 201 W. Poplar St., was built in 1940. The fire department expanded in January 1982 by opening Fire Station 2 on Vandemark Road. Then in 1996, the department moved to the newly built Fire Station 1, which is located across the street from the Municipal Building, at 222 W. Poplar St. The city is currently working to fund a third fire station to be built in the north section of Sidney on Wapakoneta Avenue.
“Sidney was ahead of the curve in 1962, as well. The department started emergency victim care (EMS) out of a van-type vehicle. They responded to 34 calls for service that first year. In 1963, the count climbed to 98. In the year 2016, the department responded to 3,152 EMS calls, comprising 77.2 percent of all calls for service,” the release said . “We have all come a long way from our humble beginnings.”
In the 1980s, the fire prevention office, hazardous material and technical rescue were added to the existing fire department.
The fire prevention division is responsible for the administration of the Ohio Fire Code through life safety inspections, education and investigation of fires. In 1992, the division was reorganized from when it was created in 1981, and the department promoted the first deputy fire chief, Bob Guillozet. The department reports its education programs will reach over 4,000 citizens this year.
The hazmat team was formed in 1986. The team is a shared resource and a joint venture between Shelby County and Sidney. The team comprises firefighters from county departments and the Sidney fire department.
According to the release, “technical rescue is a bevy of six different and unique disciplines including rope, confined space, trench, water, structural collapse and vehicle machinery. We have an operational readiness in all six disciplines. We are the primary confined space rescue back-up team for our city’s industrial base.
“The Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services is an organization with a rich and proud history. At the sound of the bell, siren, or radio dispatch alert, emergency responders react with purpose. The response is quick and efficient and concentrated on serving the needs of our city. Throughout the 160 years of service to the community, the sacrifices made by the emergency responders and their families in serving the community are too numerous to mention, but should never be forgotten,” the press release said.
Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services’ most senior member, retired Fire Chief Joe Geuy, said a lot changed during the years he served, from 1966 to 1992. During his career, the fire department was located in the Municipal Building and there were only two crews versus the three crews currently operating.
“When I started, we answered our own phones, monitored the alarm systems for factories and sprinkler alarms. Calls went right into the fire department, along with the fire phone (calls),” Geuy said. “We didn’t have nearly as many calls back then.”
Geuy, who served as fire chief the last five years of his career, said he didn’t have a secretary, and at the end of his career, the only other 40-hour per week person with the department was the fire prevention officer.
“It was the best job I ever had. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You never knew what was going to happen. No two days were the same,” Geuy said.
The fire department’s longest member currently serving is Firefighter Steve O’Meara, who was hired in November 1987. He also described many changes over the years, such as moving locations to the newly built Fire Station 1, going from hand-written reports on paper ledgers to using computers and the dramatic increase of call volume, which has nearly tripled since he began.
The biggest change O’Meara reported is advancements with paramedics’ skills and changes in patient care out in the field. He said “Technology has come a long way,” and now paramedics responding to a call is a part of the team caring for the patient. Medics, now, send information to the EMS doctor about to receive a patient to begin the process of care, as opposed to the process’s starting over from the beginning when the patient arrives at the hospital.
“With all of the changes, the new guys keep me on my toes,” O’Meara said, when also commenting on being grateful for what he does for a living.
Haller’s press release said members of the department are grateful for “the gift” of “the support and trust of the citizens of Sidney. We are eternally grateful to all of the past, present and future generations of Sidney.”
“I am blessed to serve at Sidney Fire and the city of Sidney. We frequently refer to our predecessors. Comments generally include how good we have it, due to their diligent work and effort over our history,” Haller said in an email to the Sidney Daily News.
“On behalf of the men and women constituting the Sidney Department of Fire & Emergency Services, we express our gratitude to the citizens of Sidney for your support of the city and department over our 160 years. We will continue to strive for excellence and fulfill our mission statement: ‘The mission of the Sidney Department & Emergency Services is to serve and protect the community by preventing the loss of life and property through education and the utilization of a highly trained and equipped work force,’” the release said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.