Working together toward progress

By LISA BOWERS

Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING – The modern day volunteer firefighter is a breed all its own, combining a sense of duty and tradition with innovation and technology.

The Ishpeming Fire Department stands out as an organization that finds way to be self-sufficient.

The department has called the fire hall at 100 South Lake St. in Ishpeming home for over 100 years.

“My grandfather used to drive horses out of here in 1912,” fire chief Ed Anderson said.

The city recently upgraded heat and electric, and added a locker room, showers windows and bathroom facilities in the building earlier this year as part of a $1.3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture community faclities project.

Anderson said he is happy with the positive changes the USDA allowed the city to make, but pointed out there are still issues that need attention.

“We spent a million dollars,” Anderson said. “But there is still a lot that needs to be done.”

So IFD volunteers just started doing it, using a wide variety of skills and some good old-fashioned determination to remodel their kitchen on the second floor of the building they share with the Ishpeming Police Department – a space that hadn’t been remodeled in 30 years.

“There was laminate counter top and it was de-laminating, the sink was leaking, The guys had made some old sliding doors at the end of the sink out of particle board – it was rough; far from a working kitchen,” Anderson said.

Anderson said all 30 of the firefighters had something to contribute to the kitchen project – calling it a completely volunteer effort.

“There is no city money involved in this at all,” Anderson said. “We have been fundraising for this for quite a while.”

Costs were further reduced by local businesses and craftsmen donating product and time to the project.

“One of the firefighter’s friends drywalls on the side – he did the drywall for nothing for us,” Anderson said. “New flooring was donated by Carpet One here in Ishpeming and one of the firefighters works there – and he installed it.”

Anderson himself made new cabinets out of solid cherry with all the modern amenities like self-closing doors – providing some much needed storage space.

“It seemed like everyone had an hand in it. Whether it was just taking all of the old cabinets and hauling them down to the dumpster, or ripping out all the old plaster and lathe,” Anderson said.

Anderson said many local businesses have found a way to provide discounts on materials or donated them.

The last two parts of the project are the granite counter top and the stove and refrigerator, Anderson expects those elements to be added by the end of this month.

Anderson said the kitchen is not used as frequently as it was in the past when the city had a staff of full-time firefighters, but there are occasions where it is necessary.

“The kitchen is used for meals after training sessions. Sometimes we hold business meetings up here and it helps to have a working kitchen,” Anderson said.

The Ishpeming Fire Department’s Insurance Service Office public protection classification went down in from a 6 to a 5 effective July 1, Anderson said.

According to its website ISO is a for-profit organization that provides statistical information on community fire protection services. Once the data is analyzed communities are ranked on a scale from 1 to 10. A rating of 1 represents exemplary fire protection services, and a ranking of 1 means the area’s fire suppression program does not meet ISO’s minimum criteria.

Anderson said the department has continued to try to make progress on the ISO rating, a task made more daunting since the department became an all-volunteer organization 10 years ago.

“There was a lot of work involved even dropping to a 5,” Anderson said. “Too get much lower, to get to a 4 we would need another fire-truck, one with an aerial ladder.”

Anderson said when the last ISO audit was done in 1995 the department had seven full-time firefighters on staff. At that time, IFD ranked a 6. The last time department had any full time staff was in 2005.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.