Seymour firefighter retiring after 32 years


Thirty-two years ago when Doug Stickles went to work for the Seymour Fire Department, he wasn’t sure he had the right background, and he knew he lacked some of the skills to even do the job.

“I was a really green when I started,” said Stickles, who worked his first shift in 1986 and his last July 15.

“This was back before firefighting was in the spotlight — pre-9/11,” he said. “I didn’t even have any formal training when I started.”

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Stickles said his dad wasn’t sure about him taking the job or even if it was a good idea.

“I was 33, and working at a plumbing and heating company,” Stickles said. “I talked to Fred Hines (a Seymour firefighter from 1979 to 2011), and he suggested I apply. It was the best decision I ever made.”

That was in 1986. In December of 1993, Stickles was promoted to a first class firefighter to sergeant and was later promoted to lieutenant, a position he held at the time of his retirement.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the majority of runs the firefighters made were for fires, especially trash and car fire, and wrecks.

“A lot of people burned their trash in barrels which led to fires, and cars had carburetors and those caused a few fires too,” he said.

In the mid 1990s, firefighters began responding to medical runs and other emergencies such as downed power lines, tornado damage and other emergencies. All require firefighters to obtain additional training.

One of the largest fires Stickles recalls fighting was the Save-A-Lot fire on Feb. 1, 1987.

The fire, which was later ruled an arson, destroyed the grocery store and damaged a portion of First United Methodist Church in Seymour.

“I don’t think I understood the ramifications of the fire or how big it was at the time,” Stickles said.

Still a relatively new firefighter at the time, Stickles said he remembers working on the fire at the back of the grocery store, when a police officer or someone called him to move to the front to help up there.

“As soon as I rounded the front the biggest fireball I’ve ever seen, probably to this day, blew through the roof and the front windows all shattered,” Stickles said.

The station he worked at use to make roughly 300 runs a year for fire, but after changing to taking medical calls as well, that number has skyrocketed.

Stickles embraced that change explaining that he used the opportunity to continue to learn, talking with the EMTs stationed with them.

“You take the good with the bad, and keep helping anyway that you can,” said Stickles of the change.

“I remember asking one of the guys retiring, ‘How could you decide to retire from such a great job?’ and he told me ‘When it’s time you’ll know.’”

And Stickles said he has realized it is time for him to leave the department and pass it on to the next generation of firefighters.

Looking around the department, Stickles said he feels it is in good hands with the latest additions they’ve made.

What Stickles hopes he leaves to them is a legacy of service and protection for the community.

He offered a bit of parting advice for the newest recruits, telling them not to take the training for granted.

“You get in the habit of going through the motions of some of the smaller actions and gloss over them, don’t do that,” he said. “Everything they teach you is to protect yourself or others.”

With his newly acquired free-time Stickles said he plans to spend it with his family.

His wife, Julia, and their family will move to Daviess County, where they plan to construct a home.

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