March 17–Longtime Ames firefighter Steve Buser, a champion of emergency medical training and fitness, was found unresponsive in his fire station’s workout room Friday morning and later pronounced dead. He was 51.
“It’s been devastating, to be honest,” said Rich Higgins, an assistant chief with the Ames Fire Department. “It’s been a tough day for the whole department.”
Buser joined the department on Nov. 18, 1999, and was in charge of training his fellow firefighters in CPR and defibrillator use. He and his crew had responded to a call Thursday a little past 7 p.m. before they returned to Fire Station No. 2. Friday morning, firefighters found him lying in the station’s fitness room.
“The crews were just at the station cleaning up, and they walked back into the fitness room where Steve had been working out, and they found him unresponsive on the floor and began CPR and got an ambulance coming that way,” Higgins said.
The ambulance took him to Mary Greeley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Higgins said much of the department was at the hospital and rendered a salute as an ambulance took Buser away. His cause of death is so far unknown.
Buser was known within the department as someone who was passionate about his health and often exercised — sometimes multiple times per day. He’d eat healthily, too, and Higgins said a tell-tale sign of Buser on duty was the smell of fish cooking.
‘We’re all surprised when something like this happens to somebody who’s dedicated to making sure other people know how to save lives and then also to health and wellness,” Higgins said.
Everyone in the department knew Buser, whether through working with him on duty or sitting in one of his CPR classes — another one of his passions. Higgins called him “one of those all-around great guys you wanted to hang around.”
He also trained other groups and organizations on how to conduct CPR and use defibrillators, including Ames’ city employees who he taught how to use defibrillators.
“He really was passionate about defibrillator training and how it could make a difference,” said Susan Gwiasda, who got to know Buser through his class.
That’s one of the ways firefighters got to know him over his more than 17 years at the department, making Friday all the more sad.
“We’re trying to stay strong for the family,” Higgins said. “Steve has a wonderful family. We’re trying to be there for them and support them and make sure we honor Steve’s memory as best we can.”
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