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Falcon Fire Department celebrates 30th anniversary

The scene was 30 years ago, but former Falcon firefighters Earl Fox and Ken Wulf easily recalled the day neighbors on Owl Lane in Falcon waited in vein for the fire department as they watched flames pouring from the Beck family home. By the time the fire trucks arrived, nothing was left of the home. In those days, the closest station to Falcon was on Vincent Drive near Interstate 25 and Woodmen Road.The Beck fire motivated 20 citizens to form the Falcon Fire Department, and on July 2, past and present FFPD members celebrated 30 years of service to the community.With no building, equipment or tax revenue, the original 20 members faced a daunting task. Phyllis Anderson’s resume is an example of how residents multitasked to provide emergency services to Falcon. Anderson wore many hats for 14 years: firefighter, dispatcher, fundraiser and department secretary. She then became a fire district board member and historian.An interview with Anderson and an article she wrote for the 10th anniversary of the FFD, now preserved in Penrose Library, tells how the FFD began. “Conover’s old mule barn near Highway 24 on Cotton Trail Drive was our first fire station; the building was a wreck! Volunteers had to install electricity, wallboard, a heater and a floor.” The first fire truck, an open-air 1947 Dodge Army weapons carrier, came from the forest service. Jerry and Barbara Smith, owners of Latigo Corp., donated a 1948 International pumper truck; and the Department of Civil Defense donated a 1,000-gallon tanker the firefighters nicknamed “Big Bertha.”The fire department began operating in July 1975 and had three fire calls the first day. Sparks from a Rock Island train started a grass fire along a large section of track. Firefighters responding to the scene quickly realized they needed more equipment. Anderson rushed home and gathered brooms, shovels and wet mops to help put out the fire. Next, a fire started at the dump on Highway 94. Later on, they were called out again to a second dump fire.Eldon Boyer, who later became Colorado Springs fire chief, was Falcon’s first. He conducted training sessions, teaching volunteers firefighting techniques and emergency first aid. A pager system alerted firefighters to medical emergencies, fires, auto accidents, plane crashes and natural disasters 24 hours a day, seven days a week.After a few years, firefighters decided the “old mule barn” was inadequate and they made plans to build a larger, more modern fire station. Jerry Manley, the Falcon fire chief from 1979 to1983, organized volunteers and helped procure the site. Volunteers dismantled three buildings to obtain materials to build the new station.The Falcon Fire Auxiliary, a group of Falcon women headed by Nancy Manley, provided meals to volunteers while they constructed Station 1. Many of the women spent hours chiseling concrete off the recycled cement blocks used to construct the building. Over the years, auxiliary members also held bake sales and fundraising events to purchase building materials and firefighting equipment.Bob Jardon, former firefighter who owned a steel company, donated the doors and other supplies. Jerry Marriot, one of the original 20, said, “I have documents showing I put in 1,000 hours into building and maintaining that station, and my wife can confirm that.”The result of the many volunteer hours is today evidenced at Station 1, located on the corner of Highway 24 and Meridian Road.In December 1981, the Falcon Fire Protection District formed and voters passed a bond allowing the department to purchase two new fire trucks and better equip the station. They formed a board of directors to oversee the distribution of tax money.Volunteering for the fire department was a family affair. Rick and Kathy Wildman, now owners of Wildfire Merchandise, were both firefighters. Vern Kauffman, fire chief in the early 1980s, his wife, Ester, and their son, Curtis, responded to medical calls and fought fires. Firefighter Bud Kucera, a mechanic by trade, repaired the trucks. He became fire chief for a number of years, and his wife was a member of the auxiliary. Their son, Mark, became a paramedic for American Medical Response, the ambulance service currently stationed at the FFD.Jeff Petersma, today a deputy chief for the FFD, was just 1-year-old when his father, Chuck, became a founding member of the department. Chuck Petersma logged more years of firefighting than any other volunteer, and retired with more than 20 years of service. Jeff Petersma’s mother, Pam, an auxiliary member, at the department’s 30th anniversary celebration, said, “I was glad Jeff was born in 1974 because his father spent so many hours volunteering; if the department started a year earlier, well, Jeff wouldn’t be here.”The FFPD -as it is called today – has grown since those days. The department now has three stations, with three more on the drawing board. Records show there were only 13 fire calls during the month of January 1984. Deputy Chief Petersma said that last year the department averaged 144 calls per month.What’s changed the most over the years, Chief Trent Harwig, FFPD’s present chief, said, is how volunteers are trained. Falcon now has four categories of firefighters: nine paid firefighters who typically work 56 hours a week, 12 unpaid reserve volunteers on duty for 12-hour shifts; 17 regular volunteers who respond to calls when they are in the district; and 12 rookies who go through a nine-month training period before responding to calls.Only a few volunteers held EMT certification in the past, and today all the volunteers are EMT certified, and many have a paramedic certification.Harwig talked about the need for more stations. The Claremont Ranch subdivision is a target area. “That area is now second in the volume of calls we receive, but by build out it could become first,” he said. Claremont Ranch needs a manned station because emergencies could occur where manpower and equipment is needed in both Falcon and Claremont Ranch at the same time, Harwig said. He said the Santa Fe Springs subdivision also will need a station. And the Black Forest and Falcon fire departments would like to construct a shared facility on Hodgen Road.Despite the changes and the need to expand, one thing hasn’t changed, Anderson said.”You could trust your life to any one of those people.”

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