175 years of fighting fires 10.1

Written by David Green.

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.

History

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.

Satisfaction

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.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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