by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND-- In 1909, two devastating fires almost wiped out downtown Midland. So it could be said, it's thanks to them, the Midland Fire Department has made it this far.
"That's usually what ends up happening. Something bad happens or a large fire or a disaster causes people to think, hey we need something to happen here," Fire Chief Russ Conley, said
What started out as a volunteer fire department is now bigger and better equipped to handle any fire emergency. Chief Conley has been at the helm for the last 3 years, "Today we're a fire department of 9 fire stations, 1 out at the airport, 8 in town; 6 frontline ambulances; 11 pumpers; 2 ladder trucks and several other pieces of rescue and other type apparatus."
Monday's celebration brought what Conley called, "the living history" of the department, together with the present. He says, he's got some pretty big shoes to fill, "All of them were great men. They all had great contributions to this fire department. Trying to live up to what they've been able to provide the Midland Fire Dept. and what the citizens of this community deserve and expect everyday is quite a challenge."
One of those men, Retired Assistant Chief Eddie Klatt says, firefighting is in his blood and that he's always had the utmost respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, "We've always had good people in the fire service. As a child, a young boy growing up in a firefighter family, I remember those men and women and they were wonderful people."
The equipment may have gotten better and and the number of stations has grown, but the reason to become a firefighter in the first place remains the same.
"That's because they want to help people. They wanted to help people," Klatt explained.
Part of the celebration was the unveiling of a commerative coin, unique to the Midland Fire Department, connecting the past with the present and carrying on to the future.
According to Chief Conley, "We, the Midland Fire Dept., really appreciate the community of Midland. We try and strive hard, everyday, to live up to the image that they have of their firefighters."
The first 2 motorized fire trucks purchased for the department have been restored and are now on display at the museum at the Central Fire Station. One of those cost the city a whopping $7,000.00.