Firefighter Robert Fisher Named 2023 KP Citizen of the Year

“We witness so many awful situations that we can’t control, but through helping others I can somehow find a balance.”


The Key Peninsula Lions Club honored local firefighter/EMT Robert Fisher as its 37th KP Citizen of the Year during an annual awards ceremony March 23 at the KP Civic Center.

Since 1984, the Lions Club has collected nominations from the community for anyone whose work — professional or volunteer — deserved recognition for its impact on the Key Peninsula (excluding the COVID-19 pandemic years 2020-22), but the award recipient is chosen through secret ballots cast by Lions Club members.

The 2023 award was given not for Fisher’s duties as a firefighter, but for his off-time work in the community helping KP residents.

Fisher, 65, said that though he has received many awards over his 27-year career, beginning with Volunteer Rookie Firefighter of the Year, none meant as much to him as Citizen of the Year.

He began volunteering for KPFD in 1997 and was later hired in 2006. Though he lives in Steilacoom, he said the award is a statement about what it means to be a KP citizen involved in the community, supporting local businesses, and helping people where they live.

Fisher was born in Ohio, but the family relocated to Wautoma, Wisconsin, where he was raised in a family of five sons. Eventually making his way to Washington state, he met and married his wife, Lola. Now married for close to 30 years, they are a tight family, with two daughters and a son, and a couple of grandchildren.

He began his working life laying carpet, a skill he learned from his father. As time passed, Fisher knew he had to make some changes in his life and settled on firefighting.

But it is the time and attention that Fisher gives to the KP at large that earned him the Citizen of the Year award, he said. Fisher has spent his own time and at times his own money, to improve the lives of others.

Some years ago he was on a call and saw that the resident had no electricity and was unable to pay her bill. Fisher went home, discussed the situation with his wife, and then paid to restore the resident’s service.

Some other projects included rebuilding a kitchen floor that had been held together with duct tape for a couple using a wheelchair, building a deck and staircase for a fellow firefighter in need, rebuilding a bathroom for a young woman whose toilet was falling through the floor due to leaks, rebuilding a deck and ramp for an individual with limited mobility, providing Thanksgiving dinners for some community members, and cleaning roofs and decks.

Fisher sometimes works alone on a project and is sometimes assisted by other firefighters.

KPFD Public Information Officer and Volunteer Battalion Chief Anne Nesbit said Fisher “is wonderful to work with, and dedicated to supporting people as they age in place.” He notices what someone might need, she said, and then provides it, like installing grab bars or railings to prevent falls.

“He did not win as a firefighter but as a citizen,” she said. “Out in the community on his own accord, he goes back to help people in need.”

Battalion Chief William Sawaya has worked with Fisher since 1997. “He serves with humility and compassion every day,” he said. “He treats everyone he comes in contact with like family. I’ve learned a lot from him — how he conducts his personal life parallels his professional life.”

Fisher credited his family culture and Catholic upbringing for his desire to help people. He said he still feels a strong sense of compassion for people, who “we see at their worst” on their hardest days. He said he will silently pray on some of those calls and believes many other first responders do too. He has made tokens with the acronym ISAP, “I Said A Prayer,” which he sometimes gives to people during his 48-hour shifts.

He described the time a young mother with three children in her car on their way to Tacoma pulled into the fire station. The fan and fan belt had come apart, and the crew at the station put their skills and resources together to get the young family safely on the road again.

“You’ve got a bunch of men and women who are all a bit of ‘jack of all trades,’ so somebody knows something about everything. We can always help someone. I think the guys see it and enjoy doing it. It brings you back to a balance of good and bad together and hopefully the good outweighs the bad.”

Fisher said that comradery is a favorite part of his job. “It’s like working with a bunch of brothers and sisters and we meet these people by happenstance.

“As a firefighter in a small community, we witness so many awful situations that we can’t control, but through helping others I can somehow find a balance,” he said.

“Most importantly, in some small way, it allows each of us to go home, reset, and return to work the next rotation fresh and ready for what life throws at us and the community we are dedicated to.”