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.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • 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.

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