Firefighter Friday: Chief of the Stittville Fire Department Neil ‘Suds’ Sutherland
For this week's "Firefighter Friday," we feature a firefighter with a very moving story, who won't let a cancer diagnosis stop him from doing his passion.
Meet Neil, aka "Suds" Sutherland. He's the Chief of the Stittville Fire Department, and has been with the fire station for over 50 years (52 years to be exact). Suds has been chief of the department for the last 20 years, although this year is his last, he'll be stepping down for personal reasons. But just because he's stepping down, doesn't mean he won't be a firefighter anymore. He still plans on being involved with the fire station.
We asked Suds what his favorite part of firefighting is, and he says it's the closeness, the "brotherhood" that the fire station shares. He explains that a lot of the firefighters have family members who are also involved in the fire department. Actually, Suds has a son and daughter who are firefighters at Stittville Fire Department. Naomi Lynn thought this was pretty cool, to which Suds replied that it is cool, but nerve-racking as well. He went on to say...
When you go to a structure fire and you have to send your own kids in, as a chief, it gets pretty hectic at times.
Can you imagine having to make that call? Can you imagine sending in your own children into a fire because you're in charge and that's what the job calls for? But Suds is the chief and he needs to make those calls. He says, when their at a fire or at the fire station he's "Chief," not dad. And that's probably the best way anyone could keep their heart out of certain situations, and just do what needs to be done.
We also asked Suds about a memorable moment as a firefighter, and we were not disappointed. His memorable moment happened when he was 19-years-old, riding on the back of a fire truck, and almost falling off! You can hear the story in the video (at the top of this page), and you're going to want to hear it. It's SO great!
Now this is where we get into the REALLY moving stuff. Even more moving than have your family involved in the fire department with you...
Earlier in the interview (and in the video above), Suds mentioned that he would be stepping down as chief for "personal reasons" and for getting sick. We asked him what happened...
I was diagnosed in the third week of July with pancreatic cancer...
We asked if this had to do with his lifetime of firefighting...
...And it does.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the top cancers diagnosed in firefighters.
Let's take a moment to realize that Suds has spent his life dedicated to protecting the community and helping people in their time of need. And as a volunteer firefighter on top of all that. And now, the thing he loves the most, has made him sick. AND he's still dedicated and passionate about it, and continues to serve as a firefighter.
This left us speechless.
Suds went on to tell us about how the firefighters (and not just in their department) have stepped up to help with fundraisers and other events. He mentioned some of the items that have been donated to be raffled off at events. All these fundraisers and events, to help him continue to pay bills and of course get medical treatment. Believe 271 has also helped, to which Suds said "They're one hell of an organization."
I know when they gave me the check, I made the statement that I always believed in that organization, but I never thought in my wildest dreams I'd need to take money from them.
We wanted to end things on a lighter note, and something that Naomi was curious about since the nomination form came in, we had to know where the nickname "Suds" came from. He explains it to us in the video (at the top of this page).
For all that Suds has done, spending 52 years of his life serving the community, and everything that he has been through, and yet keeps his passion and dedication to firefighting, for all that he is as just an unbelievable person, we're extremely proud to recognize and feature him for this week's "Firefighter Friday."