175 years of fighting fires 10.1

Written by David Green.


“It’s like having a whole other family.”

“I enjoy being part of the family that is formed in the fire department.”

“Working alongside my son.

”I got to work alongside my dad and brother.”

Family is word that comes up often when you speak to volunteer firefighters.

There’s the extended family that’s grows among the members; there’s the family they often leave behind for training and for emergencies.

“You have to have support from your family,” said 38-year veteran David Lonis of the Morenci Fire Department.

Initially, that’s from the 266 hours of training required to become a full-fledged department member. Then there’s the required monthly training and the monthly equipment checks.

There’s optional advanced training, such as heavy duty truck extrication, flash-over fire suppression techniques and rapid intervention team techniques (RIT).

There are annual fire hydrant checks and community relation projects such as Fire Safety Week.

And then there are the times that all the training is designed for—leaving the comfort of a warm bed or leaving the family on a Saturday afternoon to fight a fire.

The time demands are huge, Lonis said, but that’s part of what brings the volunteers together to create the fire department family—a family that often includes brothers, fathers and sons.


The history of fighting fires in Morenci mirrors the history of the community, dating back to the early bucket brigades when the village was settled in 1833.

Nearly 40 years later, the first organized volunteer department—the forerunner of today’s department—was formed, named Hook & Ladder Company #1.

At that time, joining the department was a popular thing to do, with 75 members on the roster. The first floor of the new city hall was designated as a place to store the new human-powered fire truck, known as Sitting Bull, plus the truck and hose cart.

The first motorized truck was purchased in 1914, followed by a second unit 10 years later. In 1934, a Dodge joined the department and that unit still serves as a parade unit.

Since then, pumpers, a tanker, brush units and a heavy rescue unit have joined the fleet.

In 1986, the department moved out of the old city hall building and into a new building on the south side of Main Street.


It’s not only the camaraderie the department members enjoy. The statements at the beginning of the story were written by department members during the recent series in the Observer highlighting members.

They also spoke about the satisfaction that comes with doing their job.

“Helping friends when they need help.”

“The satisfaction of knowing we made a difference.”

“The adrenaline rush and leadership that takes place when it is needed the most.”

Morenci’s department members will continue to train and prepare for the next emergency—just like dozens of volunteers over the past 175 years.

  • Front.cowboy
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  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
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  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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