Editor’s note: The Herald/Review is highlighting first responders from various local fire departments throughout our area.
These unsung heroes utilize skill and compassion, and are a small sample of those who are there at a moment’s notice to help those in need.
SIERRA VISTA — He says he became a firefighter/paramedic by accident, but now his career is the only thing Mike Shamas wants to do for the rest of his life.
“I just really fell in love with it,” Shamas said recently about the career he’s been involved with for the last five years. “I just fell in love with different aspects of the job and it became something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
The father of two, who has worked as a firefighter/paramedic for the Fry Fire District for just over two years, recalled when his wife Meredith — a registered nurse — encouraged him to look at becoming an emergency medical technician, or an EMT. At the time, their family was living in Kentucky.
“I was working in construction and she encouraged me to do something different,” the 33-year-old Shamas said. “She told me to look into emergency medical services [EMS] because she thought I had the personality for it.”
So Shamas began taking EMS classes. He worked for private ambulance services and hospitals while in Kentucky. Then he and his family moved back to Sierra Vista almost six years ago and Shamas earned his fire certification.
“I’m from Sierra Vista originally,” Shamas said. “I didn’t get into the fire service until I came back here.”
He started with the Bisbee Fire Department as a firefighter/paramedic and stayed there for almost three years, then moved to the Fry Fire District.
His boss, Mark Savage, chief of the Fry Fire District, sang Shamas’s praises.
“He’s super,” Savage said.
Savage said he hired Shamas from the Bisbee Fire Department. He said the father of two has “taken the lead” in several citizen training programs, including Stop the Bleed, CPR and First Aid.
While firefighting and emergency medical services are his passion, so is his family. Shamas said one of the challenges of his work is the balancing act that comes with home life and career.
“This job takes you away from your family for days at a time,” Shamas says. “I’m a husband and father. We’ve got two kids, (ages) 8 and 6, and they’re getting to that age where they’re doing a lot of different things. My son plays baseball and my daughter plays softball.
“So, being able to separate work and home and being the father and husband that I want to be and coming to work and being able to work and being the firefighter that I need to be, it’s a challenge a lot of times.”
But the rewards the job brings are worth the challenges, Shamas says.
“The reward is the people we interact with,” he said. “Whether it be the people we work with or the public we serve, being able to have that interaction and hopefully make someone’s day a little better.”
Another reward is the variety the job brings, Shamas said: “Whether it’s the rescue side or the firefighting side, as much as you want to be involved with the fire service, you can be involved with it.”