Firefighters from all over southeast Iowa came out to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Mt. Pleasant Fire Department and 50th anniversary of the Henry County Fire Department on Saturday, May 11, with an open house and training session.
The department brought in a simulation and training trailer from the Fire Service Training Bureau to train firefighters and inform the public about what the kinds of training the firefighters have to do. Joe Campbell, firefighter and department secretary, said the rich history of the fire department is what makes Mt. Pleasant’s unique.
The Mt. Pleasant Fire Department was founded on May 12, 1869, after the city council decided to fund it. The city purchased a hand pumper for $300 and about 50 men in town purchased badges for $1 apiece and became the first firemen of the department.
Campbell said he was glad to be able to open the doors and welcome the community into the building because he wanted people to be able to see what firefighters do every day.
“One-hundred-fifty years is a good length of time for any fire department,” he said. “Our goal was to focus on training firefighters today and we’re lucky the state of Iowa brought this trailer down and we get people in to look at it.”
The trailer was set up to resemble a house with a sofa, tables and furniture arranged to be like it would if firefighters needed to enter a home. A live fire was set inside the trailer and the firefighters worked together to get the fire out, effectively sharpening their skills.
Firefighters from the surrounding area, such as West Burlington and Ft. Madison, came down to train on the equipment and demonstrate to the public the kinds of training they have to do weekly. Campbell said it’s important to show people how hard firefighters need to work because he wants people to have an appreciation and understanding for what they do.
“I think people in the community need to see how their tax money is being spent because none of this would be possible without property taxes,” he said.
Doug Kolkman is a fire service training specialist with the Fire Service Training Bureau and said he was glad to see people out and learning about the jobs of the firefighters. He said the training equipment was brought to the fire department at no cost as it was paid for out of the general fund from the State of Iowa.
He said it’s important people realize their tax dollars are being used for training and helping the community because the fire department could not operate without the financial support. John Kraemer, Bureau Chief of the Fire Service Training Bureau, said the trailer goes to different locations weekly and is used to not only train firefighters but inform the public about what they do daily.
He was glad to see the Mt. Pleasant community come out and learn about the department.
“I think it’s important to show the public the training that is necessary to be a firefighter,” he said. “I think it’s an excellent idea for the public to see what the firefighters locally train, the tools and the resources they have to help them become better firefighters, and also it shows the community what they do.”
He said fire departments now are “all hazard” response teams and respond to everything from fires to car crashes, and was glad to see the public out asking questions and showing support.
“This is a neat event,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to show the public what we do.”