MADISON (WKOW) — Fire Chief Steven Davis of the Madison Fire Department will retire on Friday after 32 years of service to the community, according to a blog post by the City of Madison Fire Department.
Davis wanted to be a firefighter from a young age, saying it was a calling that never faded.
“That’s all I ever wanted to do,” Davis said. “Fire trucks are big, loud and smelly, but they are also a symbol of peace, of comfort, of relief. When people see a fire truck pull up, they know it’s going to be okay. There’s something very romantic about it.
Davis began working for the Madison Fire Department on August 21, 1989. Early in his career, he was a firefighter, paramedic, and training officer.
“Probably my favorite time in my career was when I was a paramedic,” Davis said. “Every day brought a new challenge, and it was fun to make such a difference in someone’s living room every day.”
Davis’ career had common themes of training and team development, with Davis teaching others and improving the department, regardless of his position. According to the post, Chief Davis also helped pioneer many new initiatives and ideas that cemented the Madison Fire Department‘s reputation as one of the most progressive departments in the nation.
Despite all of the department’s accomplishments, in his time as chief Davis said he was most proud of the department’s emotional growth, noting the untimely death of Lt. K-Tal Johnson in 2006, firefighter/paramedic Richard Garner in 2018, and Device Engineer Todd Mahoney in 2019 as defining moments for the department.
“When you lose a member in the line of duty or you lose a member on active duty, it really has a lasting impact on the organization,” Davis said. “If there’s a positive side, I’d say those times really bring people together and people look at each other more.”
The Madison Fire Department has taken this mindset to heart, working with Fire Department Local 311 to create the Peer support program in 2018 to normalize the trend of emotional well-being for first responders. The program was readily accepted by department staff and is regularly used to this day.
As he neared retirement, Davis reflected on his legacy, inspired by former fire chief Ed Durkin who hired the department’s first female commissioner in 1980, and Davis worked to bring diverse voices to the department to creating equitable change. As the youngest person in many of his positions and the youngest person in the department’s history to reach the rank of lieutenant at age 30, Davis said he identifies with marginalized people.
“As a youngster in this career, you feel marginalized,” Davis said.
With this in mind, he facilitated improvements in the department’s hiring and promotion processes and expanded the range of uniform sizes and equipment for staff.
As he passes the torch to future chief Chris Carbon, Davis is optimistic about the future of the department.
“I think Chief Carbon is going to bring in a lot of fresh ideas about community engagement, staff retention and recruitment, and really getting the fire department out there in the community,” Davis said. “I’m excited to see where the CARES program is going; it will be nice to see him take this to a whole new level.
Although he is looking forward to spending time with his family without having to worry about an emergency that might take him away, he said retirement might “be a little difficult.”
““Over the past six months, I’ve tried to re-imagine Steve Davis, and for some reason I still imagine myself in a fire truck,” he said.
Davis will end his career with a ride home aboard Tiller 1, a romantic conclusion for someone who has spent so long in love with fire trucks.