If not for family and friends, Clallam County Fire District 3’s “Firefighters of the Year” may not be where they are today.
In January, fellow firefighters voted for and honored Firefighter/Paramedic Ivan Hueter, 37, and Lee Oman, 66, as 2019’s career and volunteer firefighters of the year.
Hueter, known for his humor and dedication to fire district staff, said he was “humbled and honored and shocked.”
Oman said he felt similar, adding, “I thought there were more people worthy of it than me.
“But it was quite a surprise and I was actually honored to have that happen,” he said. “It just means I have to work harder again to get it again next year.”
Both men, leaders now, followed someone’s suggestion or example in joining the fire district. For Hueter, it was a friend in the Explorer program.
“I had a buddy who I played baseball with as a kid, that was an Explorer. He kept trying to get me to come and I finally caved to get him off my back and I fell in love after that,” Hueter said.
“Then it was pretty easy to figure out what to do with my life after that.”
Oman said he didn’t want to miss the excitement his wife Marion Wagner was experiencing. She was a career firefighter in Germany for 11 years and, in 2012, joined Sequim’s volunteer program, he said.
“She got out of recruit school and got issued a pager and was going out to calls at 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the morning,” Oman said. “I thought, ‘Oh geez, I want to go.’ I was feeling left out.”
More on Hueter
Becoming a firefighter may have been on Hueter’s career path as a child for a short time, but so were a lot of other things.
“What I wanted to be changed in my mind every couple of months as a kid,” he said.
However, he joined the Explorer program in July 1998 as a high school student working his way to become a full-time firefighter in January 2014.
Hueter said he attributes some of his knowledge to fellow firefighters Marc Lawson, Len Horst and Mike McAneny. He also serves with his brother Jack Hueter, albeit on different shifts.
One of his roles for five-plus years includes keeping the district stocked with medical supplies, which is essential with more than 80 percent of the district’s calls being medically-related.
“I order everything from drugs (non-narcotics) to defibrillator pads to auto-pulse bands to everything respiratory and trauma-related, and anything EMS-related (Emergency Medical Services),” he said.
Assistant Fire Chief Dan Orr said Hueter “has done a fantastic job of ensuring our medical staff has the resources needed to be able to treat our patients” at its seven stations.
“He treats his patients professionally with humor and compassion; he is the person you can count on to get things done,” Orr said.
Hueter said he believes “everyone gets into (firefighting) to help people in need.
“I still love it,” he said. “You form this tight bond with your coworkers who become your family. That brings your back.”
Over his years of responding to calls, Hueter said there are a lot of calls that stand out but he didn’t want to get into specifics.
“Sometimes we get nasty calls and sometimes easier calls. It’s cyclical,” he said. “We all deal with it. We all get impacted if you stay long enough.”
To keep things light, Hueter said he tries to remain himself.
“It’s easy to crack jokes with the crews,” he said. “I try to maintain some brevity to the situation.”
More on Oman
A pilot and mechanic first, Oman joined the fire district in Jan. 2013, as a volunteer in Carlsborg. He’s lived in the area for 23 years and owns Blue Ribbon Airport off Kitchen-Dick Road. He continues to work on airplanes and perform wing-walking at airshows with his wife in their 1941 Stearman airplane.
He said he’s always had an interest in firefighting, from playing with a toy fire truck and watching firefighting shows as a child, he said.
“I always liked helping people,” he said. “If someone is stuck on side of road, I’ll usually pull over and give them a lift or help them fix it.
“The fire service is similar to that.”
Prior to him becoming a volunteer, Oman and his wife would workout at the fire station a few times a week. He inquired unknowingly on deadline day about volunteering, and he was able to fill out paperwork and receive medical clearance the same day.
“From there, it was just cool,” he said.
Oman said Wagner’s first call on her pager was for a minor airport crash, so he went too because of his background with planes. His first call on his pager was three houses down.
“The odds of that are pretty small,” he said.
Orr said Oman “has been a constant performer and a true professional” at emergencies and a reassuring force for younger firefighters.
“He has a very keen sense of attention to detail and is always attending training to further his knowledge, skills and abilities,” Orr said.
Oman said it’s fun to pass along information, and one of his newest experiences includes teaching how to become a drive/pump operator.
“It’s a cool job,” he said of firefighting. “You get to play with all these neat tools. If you’re interested in driving big rigs, there’s a place for that too. Some guys here, that’s all they do is drive a rig.”
He said being a combat firefighter is “almost like being an astronaut because you put on all the gear and breathe on your own supply, and you’ve got your own radio.”
“You may not see the person next to you because the smoke is so thick but you’re always with a team,” he said.
For more general information about Clallam County Fire District 3, call the fire department at 360-683-4242 or visit ccfd3.org.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.