Firefighters are heroes in many people's eyes, but for Grandview Heights fire Chief Steve Shaner, his nearly 40-year career was about service, not heroics.
"I guess there's been some big incidents over the years, but none of them really stand out to me," he said. "It's more the day-to-day nature of the job I think about. If you have an appetite for this line of work, what makes you feel successful is being able to make a contribution to the community.
"When you feel like you're good at something and you're able to help people and see good outcomes, that's what stays with you," Shaner said.
Shaner will retire Tuesday, Feb. 25, after serving nearly 32 years with the Grandview Heights Division of Fire, the past 11 as chief.
A reception for Shaner will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, in council chambers, 1016 Grandview Ave.
Shaner started serving as a volunteer with the New Lexington Volunteer Fire Department.
"I was working some odds-and-ends jobs and initially took an EMT class and a volunteer firefighter class," he said. "It was just something I wanted to do for my hometown."
After earning paramedic certification, he began working for an ambulance company in Columbus.
"I found out it was something I really enjoyed," Shaner said. "I just liked the interaction with people and being able to help them in a time of crisis -- especially at a volunteer fire department, where the people are all your neighbors. It's just a fulfilling job."
Before coming to Grandview, Shaner served five years with the Truro Township Fire Department in Reynoldsburg.
He was began working in Grandview on Sept. 20, 1988. He became a captain in August 1993 and was named chief in August 2009.
"There were a lot more fires 30-some years ago," Shaner said. "The fire-prevention effort has really made a difference in making people safer.
"It's been a combination of engineering, education and enforcement that's led to fewer fire deaths," he said. "Fire prevention has come to be a big part of our job."
Once he started working in Grandview, Shaner said, he found it was a place he wanted to stay.
"It was a combination of the community and my co-workers," he said. "The staff here does a really great job. They are very proud and they're team-oriented. When you have a cohesive group that works well together, it's sure to make you want to stay put."
Shaner said he is pleased with the modernization of equipment and training that's been achieved during his time as chief.
"We had a pretty long chunk of time after (the) Big Bear (warehouse) moved out where the whole community was in a financial depression and the city didn't have a lot of money to spend," he said.
The financial rebound resulting from the development of Grandview Yard and other projects has allowed the fire department to bring in new equipment and provide additional training and educational opportunities for fire personnel, Shaner said.
"In this department, the chief's more of a facilitator than a coach," he said. "There are a lot of smart people who work here. They all want to do their job well. It's my job to make sure they have the tools, equipment and training they need to do the job they want to do."
Former Mayor Ray DeGraw hired Shaner as chief in 2009 and said he was a perfect choice for the community.
"He provided strong leadership. The people who work under him know him to be fair and even-handed in his decisions," DeGraw said. "He was always willing to do anything asked of him and the first to step forward to do something extra.
"When we had the hurricane a couple of years ago and some big ice storms that hit the community, Chief Shaner stepped up and initiated our disaster response," DeGraw said. "He made my job a lot easier."
Shaner wore two hats for much of his career in Grandview, also serving as the city's IT coordinator, DeGraw said.
"He did that second job very well and without impacting his role as chief," he said.
Shaner said he will miss "the coworkers and the camaraderie" the most in retirement.
"Firefighters, we're like a big family," he said. "When you start out working a shift, you spend one-third of your life with those people, 24 hours at a time. You're building relationships with those people that are second only to your own family."
Shortly after his last day on the job, Shaner again will accompany a group of high school students participating in First Community Church's annual mission trip to Mexico.
"This will be the 14th year I've gone on the mission trip where we build houses," he said. "I love spending time with the students. They have so much dedication and energy."
Shaner also will work part time as a paramedic for Enhanced Urgent Care in Hilliard.
Serving as a firefighter/ paramedic "is a great career," he said.
"It's still so satisfying when someone sends you a note or stops by to thank you for whatever we were able to do for them."