Kelly Stirn

Kelly Stirn

“[I bring] a lot of history, a lot of years, and a lot of dedication.”

Kelly Stirn

Kelly Stirn

Where are you from? I am originally from Ohio, from outside of Cleveland, and I moved here permanently 34 years ago. 

Why make the move? I was in California with my wife and when we had our son, California was getting a little too crazy for us. We wanted to bring our child to a smaller town and raise him there.

What do you do for work? I own and operate the R Lazy S ranch and have for about 30 years. Prior to that, I was working in California for computer companies; I worked for Apple for about eight years. When we moved out here, I worked for the ski resort as part of their IT department. I was hired to develop a bunch of custom software for the resort.

What do you do in your free time? I pay bills for the Wilson fire department. No, I’m kidding. Umm…nothing really specific. Bicycle riding a little bit, going on great walks, doing some hobbies, nothing in particular. I like to travel once in a while when we can in the winters and we hope that will change with our sons taking over. 

How long have you been a part of JH Fire/EMS? Well, that’s a hard question, because before Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, it was Teton County EMS, so I’ve been with both of these groups for about 30 years. I started as a driver for TCEMS. That’s when we were stationed out of the hospital as just EMS. I worked a lot with Mike, Chief Moyer, and then I became a director of TCEMS with Mike and some other folks until we disbanded and became part of the fire department you know now. 

What initially made you want to join? Our youngest son was premature, and we were in Denver for a while in the hospital. There was a lady there who was a driver for the ambulance system and she was like, ‘how would you like to do this?’ Well that would be great, I thought, that would be fun. TCEMS was trying to get drivers because the hospital was using the maintenance department folks to drive the ambulances at that time. In the beginning, I worked two, six hour shifts a week and I worked in the ER. Eventually, I got my medical certifications instead of just driving.

What is your role in the department? I’m a first responder, and I respond significantly to the Village, to the Village Road, and to Wilson. In the earlier days, we didn’t have a station. Well, we didn’t have medical response out of Station 6, so most of the ambulances were coming from town. We played a big role back then. With more people and good medical response at station 6, I’m still just responding as a first responder and to get involved in larger incidents. All of us who came from TCEMS were grandfathered in and we were given the option to go into fire or not. Some went into the career side of the department and got their fire training, and then those who weren’t interested in that stuck with the medical side. Most of us still go to fire trainings, though, just so that we’re familiar. 

What are your current certs? Emergency Medical Responder (EMR). 

What are your future goals in the department? Retiring.

Do you have future goals for the department? Yeah! I would love to see the department going back to giving new recruits the option of concentrating in one field or another so that they can choose medical or fire. For the paid folks, it makes sense obviously, but a lot of people do it all in the beginning and then they drop out because it’s too much. I think we’d be more successful if we went down that route. 

What would you say is your favorite part of volunteering? I could say what everyone says, you know, helping the community, but for me it really is helping those who are seeking help. They’re calling 911 for a reason. Even as a first responder, showing up and comforting them and letting them know that medical help is on the way is really rewarding. I love driving, too. I mean, I started there. You can give me the biggest storm and the most traffic, and I just love it. I really really love the camaraderie as well. This is the longest I’ve been with any organization and even the thought of retiring is really hard. 

What about the most challenging part? There’s a lot of training involved. A lot of hours go into training…It’s a lot of hours!  

What advice would you give new recruits? Realize that you’re making a huge commitment, and at the same time, that the department is making a huge commitment to you. It’s huge, especially the amount of hours it takes to come out of probation. Once you’re through that, though, I think it’s really rewarding. Also, ask a lot of questions. I’m not sure the mentoring program is working as well as it could be. I know that when I joined, we didn’t even know what questions to ask! I think there needs to be a little bit more hand holding for the new recruits. 

What is the most valuable skill or trait for someone to have in this line of work? Compassion. You know, our patients call 911 for a reason, and sometimes some people approach people very mechanically and just do what they’ve been trained to do. Sometimes the patient needs some more compassion.

What do you think you bring to the department? A lot of history, a lot of years, and a lot of dedication. Nowadays, I’m the director of the Wilson Volunteer Fire Department: I’m their treasurer. In addition to that, my availability to respond is a contribution.

Who is your mentor? Chief Moyer. It’s hard to call him Chief because I called him Mike for so long. Wendy Blair, who’s now retired. I worked a lot along with Scott Courser and Chris Stiehl, but Mike is for sure a mentor of mine. 

How do you and your family cope with the crazy hours required? Well, they’re used to it now! It’s funny: when I first started, I would remember every detail of every run, and it helped to talk to my wife about it and go over everything and how I felt. After a certain time, through, I stopped remembering them all. You don’t concentrate on them as much. The joke now is: I’ll go out in the middle of the night and my wife doesn’t even know I’m gone! My family completely supports what I do at any hour, whenever. They know.