MONROE — Two fire departments are mourning the loss of Erik Shouse, a Mill Creek paramedic and a Camano Island fire commissioner who died this week.
Shouse served most of his 15-year career assigned to a medic unit at Station 76 in Mill Creek. He suffered a cardiac arrest at his home Sunday, according to Snohomish County Fire District 7. He was 40.
Shouse grew up in an Alaskan fishing town, in poverty, without the kind of stable background of many people who end up in the fire service, his friend Lt. James Hammeren, of Fire District 7, said Thursday.
He was certified as a paramedic at Central Washington University, and hired in Snohomish County early 2003. At the time he was living out of a beat-up Chevy Blazer.
Hammeren and Shouse were a two-man team aboard their rig for about four years in Mill Creek. They clicked and became close friends on and off the job, in part because they both had a rough upbringing, Hammeren said.
“He cared for the downtrodden,” he said. “You come into these teeny trailers and busted-up apartments, and you’ve got these single moms with two kids. You see a bit of yourself. And you give them a glimmer of hope that they’re going to grow up to be something good.”
With a job that paid well, Shouse had a chance to travel. He flew to Germany for Oktoberfest, and proposed to his wife in Greece.
At home, he likely helped to save hundreds of lives from stabbings, heart attacks and other scary medical emergencies. He had a knack for keeping a cool head.
“We can train these guys on technical aspects, but we can’t train attitude and demeanor,” Hammeren said. “That’s something that’s born and raised in you.”
In the ambulance, Shouse and Hammeren had many conversations at 2 a.m. on the way back from calls. They talked about how they wanted their kids to have the advantages that they didn’t have, growing up.
“He was so focused on being a good dad,” Hammeren said. “It shows in his daughters. At their age, you can already see they’re the type of kids who share and do selfless acts.”
Shouse lived on Camano Island with his wife and their two girls. He would wake up before everyone to make coffee and breakfast. He was elected as a commissioner for Camano Island Fire & Rescue in a tight race in 2013.
“I greatly respected his ability to see both sides of an issue,” Camano Island Fire Chief Michael Schick said in a statement. “I will always remember him as a champion for our firefighters and our citizens, as well as a devoted father and husband.”
In his downtime, Shouse loved to fish. Often he would go out on Puget Sound four or five times a week. On a YouTube channel, he showed off videos and pictures of trips on his boat, the Lazy Coho, with a soundtrack of his favorite rock and metal bands. He ate fresh crab and salmon daily at times.
He had a goofy sense of humor. For awhile, he was stationed with a crew that had a reputation for not laughing much on the job. As a parting gift, he bought them custom coffee mugs, printed with glamour shots of himself.
“Shouse had a contagious smile and drive to serve his community,” read a statement from District 7. “He had a passion for fishing, but most of all he loved his family.”
Fire District 7 Chief Gary Meek said his fellow firefighters will miss his humor and the quality of care he gave to patients.
A private service is planned Sunday.
A memorial fund in Shouse’s name will go to his family. Donations can be made online at snocounty ffunion.com, or mailed to IAFF Local 2781, P.O. Box 12893, Mill Creek WA 98082. Checks should be made out to the “Shouse Memorial Fund.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.