Covington Fire Department,  Captain Stan Nassano

Capt. Stan Nassano, atop an aerial ladder with Covington’s River Center towers
 behind him, battled melanoma but is back at work.   
The Cincinnati Enquirer/Patrick Reddy

Only cancer could slow Stan Nassano

When Covington firefighters have time on their hands they sometimes cut each other’s hair.

‘‘It’s risky,’’ chuckles Capt. Stan Nassano, who is 46. The captain, a firefighter for nearly 25 years,
 allowed himself to go under the clippers one night in April 2001. Afterward,
 he shaved off the remaining nubs. ‘‘I just kind of did it as a fluke.’’

When the father of two returned home his wife, Helen, was not amused.
 Then she noticed a mole on his head. She urged him to see a doctor,
which led to a diagnosis of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. His was intermediate stage.

Chunks of his scalp were removed during three surgeries.
Last December he began interferon therapy, which stimulates the immune system
 in the hope of killing cancer cells; he felt ‘‘sick as a dog.’’

As a firefighter, he’s been in tough spots before. He almost fell 80 feet while
battling a blaze on a church roof. And once at an attic fire, he fell through a ceiling
and dislocated his shoulder and tore a rotator cuff. ‘‘Just minor stuff,’’ he says.

Now as he finishes his treatment, he waits and hopes that the cancer is gone.
 Melanoma did what no fire could do — knocked him out of commission for nine months, until last March.

‘‘I was glad to get back to work.’’


Sept. 11, 2001, was the day America rediscovered its heroes.

A nation enamored with media celebrities and sports stars was reminded that true heroes don’t make movies or hit home runs.
They lug heavy hoses up ladders and risk their lives battling hellish blazes.

Events of that day gave everyone reason to appreciate firefighters and emergency responders in New York City, and elsewhere.
In the Tristate, firefighters are hardly a homogenous group. They are men and women,
black and white, full-time professionals and part-time volunteers. They are experienced veterans approaching
the end of their careers, and confident young people just beginning theirs.
They work in gritty urban areas and in green, leafy suburbs. They respond to emergencies in
 rural townships and in neighborhoods in the city of Cincinnati, where professional firefighting in this country got its start in 1853.
They rush to brush fires and boating accidents, to factory explosions and burning homes.
They rescue motorists from crumpled masses of metal, jump-start hearts that have stopped beating,
 staunch the bleeding of shooting victims.

And in an age in which weapons of mass destruction and bioterrorism pose grave threats,
they train diligently to answer the call they hope never comes.

Some choose to be firefighters because it’s what their fathers did, and their grandfathers, and their brothers.
Some are drawn by the desire to help others. Some live for the adrenaline rush that comes from walking into a burning building.
Despite the contrasts, Tristate firefighters share a common bond. More so now, perhaps, than ever.

In the city of Mason, that bond is symbolized by a decal emblazoned on each fire engine.
‘‘FDNY’’ it says in large block type, along with the words ‘‘Lest we forget, 9-11-01.’’
Lest we forget, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics
in Greater Cincinnati stand ready to serve their communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer