Colo Fire and Rescue volunteers will use the 100th anniversary of their department as a way to celebrate their tradition and thank Colo for a century of support.
For 100 years, volunteers at Colo Fire and Rescue have given of their own time to keep their community safe. The community of Colo has repaid them by supporting the department’s requests for new equipment and a new fire station in 1990.
"Our community is second to none," says Colo Fire Chief Mark Farren, who has served as chief since 1982. "We have businesses and individuals who donate every year."
Most departments call fellow firefighters brother or sister or refer to their department as a family, but this is especially true in a small town like Colo.
"It’s a family atmosphere here - we have several husbands and wives who are both on the department," said Lieutenant Angie Geisinger, whose husband Rod is also a captain with Colo Fire and Rescue.
Farren’s own family is involved. Wife Julie was the first female on the department in 1978. Now the couple’s daughter Kylee Fleming and her husband Brad are carrying on the family tradition.
"It’s a different side of him [at the fire station]," said Brad. "We are very close but here I see him in a leadership element. It’s been nice learning from him."
It can also be difficult to do the kind of work these men and women do when tragedy strikes and it’s almost certain you will know one of the people involved.
"You just have to go into auto pilot and do what you have to do. You want to help; you don’t just want to stand by and watch," says Rod Geisinger, who’s been on the department since 1991. "You think about it a couple days later laying in bed."
"It’s different if you don’t have to deal with the ME [medical Examiner]," said Paul Wilkins.
Wilkins joined the department after he and his wife Mary were involved in a car accident around Christmas of 2002.
The members form a bond with each other by not only going on fire and rescue calls together, but by enjoying their time together as well with outings to Hickory Grove or going out to eat with all their spouses.
Even with the camaraderie among those on the department, it is still difficult for Colo or any small town to bring in and keep volunteers.
"We’re short on people more often than not," said Elden Whitaker, a 20-year department veteran. "It’s harder to find volunteers, so there’s a lot more mutual aid between towns when a call comes over the radio."
Colo volunteers are quick to point out that departments from Nevada and Collins almost automatically go into action when a call comes in for Colo.
"You still have to train the same as if we were in a big city," said Farren. "We have training for both fire and EMS once per month, plus we go to other department’s events or hospital events."
While the spirit of helping others has not changed over the 100 years of the department, the equipment is another story. Farren showed me pictures of the department’s first rescue vehicle - a van.
"I like these PR days, but my main focus is making sure that our people and our trucks are properly equipped," said Farren.
One way Farren keeps his crew well-equipped is to build the department’s fire apparatus with Captain Bob Jamison, a mechanic by trade. Farren says this not only saves the city a large amount of money (a new fire apparatus can easily cost $500,000), but lets the department customize its trucks for maximum efficiency.
Volunteers have kept busy in the past month with cleaning the trucks and the station in preparation for the Colo Crossroads Festival July 11-13 in addition to their regular duties as firefighters and EMTs. Much of this year’s annual Colo Crossroads Festival will take place around the fire station. Photos from years past will be displayed around the building, while fire and rescue personnel host tours and thank community members for their support in purchasing equipment, trucks and gear over time.
The fire station will also put on kids’ water fights and inflatables, games and special entertainment. A fire truck show will take place at 11 a.m. after the parade. Those on the fire department see this as a chance to thank everyone in the Colo community for supporting them and all those that served before them. The department will also host a chicken dinner on Saturday night, from 6-9 p.m.
"One of the reasons we’re doing this is to show our appreciation for their support," said Farren. "It makes our job a lot easier."