August 6, 2014
f or the past 90 years Eagle residents have been certain of one thing — if they needed help, the Eagle Fire Department would respond.
Today, the organization is called the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, but whatever its name, the department is well aware that 90 years is a long time to serve the community. Various celebrations have been held through the summer honoring the department's auspicious 90th anniversary.
"We celebrated at Flight Days in June," said firefighter and public information officer/public relations officer Michele Ziccardi. "Eagle Fire Color Guard led the parade, and all of our apparatus were displayed in the parade." Those included the department's special 1937 pumper, engines, rescue trucks, brush trucks and their 100-foot ladder truck. While today's equipment includes a modern firefighting fleet, Eagle Fire has proudly maintained its original 1937 pumper, and that pumper has proven time after time to be a favorite among both the younger and older set.
Bucket brigade beginnings
The citizen volunteers of Eagle Fire began fighting fire with buckets of water in 1893, and progressed in 1907 when the town purchased a hose cart and several horse drawn fire carts. The hose carts were kept at residential houses where neighbors and friends would meet to assist with a fire.
After neighboring communities experienced several large fires, Eagle's Town Board decided it was time for the community to organize and implement its own fire department. On July 8, 1924, the Eagle Volunteer Fire Company was established with W.M. Wilson as the elected chief and W.S. Brown as the assistant chief.
Through the years, volunteer firefighters and fund-raising efforts characterized the department. The purchase of the 1937 pumper was a particularly proud moment. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the department's fleet included used trucks purchased from other departments. With the creation of the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District in the late 1970s, the organization had a property tax base to finance equipment and training needs but volunteers still constituted its firefighting corps.
Eagle resident John Boyd, served as the department's volunteer fire chief from 1991 to 1997. Boyd said his time there is now a fond memory.
"It was rewarding and an honor to be able to serve the community during those years," he said.
By the late 1990s, the department had a paid chief — Jon Asper — who oversaw operations and administration. As the community grew during the 2000s, paid firefighters were brought on board to provide round-the-clock fire protection service.
Eagle Fire today
Today, Johnny Patterson is chief of the Greater Eagle Fire Department. The operation is now a combination department – which means it includes paid and volunteer members within 45 to 50-member staff.
The Greater Eagle Fire Protection District has evolved over the years as it continues to serve the community with paid and volunteer firefighters, the department now responds to a variety of emergencies such as medical calls, wildland fires, hazardous materials, rescues and structure fires.
The department's mission is to provide prompt, courteous and professional fire prevention, suppression, emergency medical, rescue, and related emergency services to the residents and visitors. The department has a huge presence in the community through both its emergency services mission and its education and outreach programs. The department's vision is to continue to transform today's fire and rescue service into a progressive, proactive, and professional service; a service that will exceed today's demands, and meet tomorrow's needs.
Their values are as follows:
EXCELLENCE: We are devoted to serving our residents and visitors and to exceeding their expectations.
COMMITMENT: We are committed to our members and to their professional development, service, safety and recognition.
SERVICE: We will always strive to provide prompt, courteous, and professional service to the best of our abilities.
EMPOWERMENT: We delegate official authority and trust our members with the power to provide customer service to the level of their abilities and imagination.
INNOVATION: We constantly explore new concepts and methods in order to increase our efficiency and/or effectiveness.
PARTNERING: We aggressively seek and accept partnerships to improve the quality of our organization and service.
INTEGRITY: We act ethically, we are honest, we keep our word, and take full responsibility for our actions.
Overseeing the operation of the department are the elected members of the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District Board of Directors. The list of board members include a lot of familiar names. Alex Mintling serves as president/chairman of the board; Johnnette Phillips as secretary; Mikel "Pappy" Kerst as treasurer/vice president; Ted Weber as assistant secretary/treasurer/vice president; and Eric Peterson as assistant secretary/treasurer/vice president. Board meetings are held the third Wednesday of each month at the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District Station 9.
From the packed annual BBQs in years past to the familiar lemon-colored trucks, the Greater Eagle Fire has provided a feeling of safety and security to people in the community for years. Longtime locals remember learning about fire-prevention and safety from department members while still in school and during summer programs. There are memories of how to escape a house fire, and how to prevent fires while camping. Some of those same kids who learned from the department are now serving the community within the department.
Today's outreach efforts include the Ready, Set, Go program, Camp 911, shoveling snow and raking leaves around the community, and changing out smoke detectors. Every year the department is charged with lighting and then monitoring the annual 12th Night Christmas tree bonfire at Eagle Town Park. The department participates in annual community fund-raisers including the St. Baldrick's event and the Fill the Boot campaign on Labor Day each year.
"We appreciate the support we receive from the community," said Ziccardi.
All members of the department are trained in various areas of emergency service including firefighting, medical, rescue, hazardous materials response and wildland fire. Members know their support comes from community taxpayers, and they give special attention to those community members in the way of station tours, birthday parties and school visits.
Ziccardi said the department's values describe how members approach performing their mission, and how they will proceed toward their vision.
"Our dedication and involvement in our community is pretty unique," said Ziccardi.
And it hasn't changed over the past 90 years.