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.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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