Photography by: Matt VanSteenis
Less than ten hours into his 48-hour shift, Matt VanSteenis is on his way back from a 911 call, one of many he and his crew have already responded to that day. The temperatures are below freezing, and snow lays on the ground, but the well-trained men are prepared for any potential obstacles.
Situated in the heart of Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, the Sutton’s Bay/Bingham Fire Department responds to all emergency calls within a region inhabited by about 3,000 people, and this little fire department, that owns only two ambulances and responds to just 800-900 calls a year, is far from typical. In actuality, around 70% of the calls that come into this department are medical emergencies and have nothing to do with fires at all. “We are smaller, so we have a combination department, meaning that everyone who works here is trained as a firefighter and an EMT,” explains Matt. “A fire call could be a house fire, a wildfire, a car accident or an oil spill, but that makes up only about 30% of our calls. So, we are all licensed paramedics.”
In fact, Matt says that there is so much crossover between the two roles that when they leave on a medical call, they also leave prepared to fight fires. “There’s only one hospital that we bring people to,” Matt says, “and sometimes, depending on where the call is, we can run to the hospital in the ambulance for 20-30 minutes with the sirens on.” Because of this, Matt and his team always have their fire gear and Stealth Shovel tucked away in the ambulance. That way, if a fire-related call comes in while they are on their way back from the hospital, they are ready to respond right away.
Matt, who has been working with the Sutton’s Bay/Bingham Fire Department for five years, is a modern-day superhero— the man who does it all. A snowboarder, fly-fisher, surfer, construction worker, husband, paramedic, firefighter and father of two, Matt is the type of guy who likes nice tools. And just like one might expect, there is no better shovel for someone like Matt than the DMOS Stealth Shovel. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Stealth Shovel is Matt— in shovel form. Strong like a firefighter, multi-functional like a man of many jobs, and easy to bring along, like a guy with a good personality, the Stealth Shovel is the perfect outdoorsy tool for the adventurous, outdoorsy person.
And though Matt originally bought the Stealth Shovel for personal use, after taking on the role of ordering supplies for the fire station, he knew that the shovels needed to be put in the ambulances. “We see some really gnarly driveways and a lot of people don’t clean their walkways, so we use [the shovels] a lot for digging out snow,” says Matt. “For EMS workers, the number one injury is a back injury. You have to deal with walking on ice and carrying patients, so it’s ideal having a tool that’s multifunctional, chips ice and packs down into a little setup, saving space in our ambulance, where we have a lot of gear.”
Plus, Matt mentions, Sutton’s Bay/Bingham Fire Department sits in the middle of a little county, so although traditional tools work well, they don’t have space for them, nor do they need that much gear. Not to mention, for Matt and his team, no shovel tools have been as useful as the Stealth. “All of our fire trucks and both of our wildland trucks carry some sort of shovel,” explains Matt, “but the problem is that you have set lengths on handles, so where do you store them when you have minimal space?” The answer to that question is outside, open to the elements. Matt, knowing that putting the Stealth Shovels in the ambulances would be nothing but beneficial to both himself and the rest of his team and, being a man who is constantly trying to better the world around him, he quickly brought the tools to the attention of his chief.
Unsurprisingly, aiming to do better is how he got started as a firefighter in the first place. Matt joined the fire department shortly after getting married, searching for ways to improve himself and the community around him. “I had always really liked helping people, so I was originally training to be a nurse,” says Matt, “But pretty quickly I realized that I didn’t like to be inside all the time. So I started looking at the EMS side of things. I joined the department as a volunteer and they put me through the fire academy.”
Matt now works full-time at the fire station, as well as part-time as a construction worker and a snowboard instructor at Crystal Mountain Resort. He says the Stealth Shovel has benefited him in these fields as well. “I used my shovel the other day on a bathroom while we were tearing it out. I broke up the tile floor with no problem. Plus, at the resort I work for, the park crew picked up a couple Stealths this year and they’re super stoked.” And despite how busy he is, Matt loves the jobs that he has. Working at the Sutton’s Bay/Bingham Fire Department, he says, is especially rewarding. He explains, “It can be scary, running into a situation where you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into. But it’s our job. We’ve chosen to do this job. People don’t have to thank you, but when they walk out of a hospital after you’ve been giving them CPR and come and thank you, there’s nothing more rewarding than that.”
**A special thank you to all of the men and women who fight fires and save lives each and every day. Come see DMOS Collective at Firehouse World 2018, at the San Diego Convention Center, March 4th through 8th**