With busy lifestyles that take people all over the place, the makeup of the Anamosa Fire Department has become more fluid over time. So, when firefighters were honored for their years of service in a ceremony last month, it was cause for celebration.
Members of the Anamosa Fire Department were honored with certificates for those that had reached milestones fighting flames. Honorees included: Chuck Barnes, 60, Chris Ruhl, 20, Tom Campbell, 25, Matt McNamara, Dan Frank, James Moeller and Lance Handel, 10, and Matt Tapken, five years.
Campbell said to reach 25 years was a “great accomplishment” and he hoped to serve for many more. For Ruhl, longevity is one of the big changes he’s seen in the department over the years. When he started, the department was older and didn’t have much turnover. Now, 10 years is a milestone, with about one-third of the department with a decade of time in, which makes Barnes’ six decades stand out even more.
“I can’t outgrow it. I’ve quit three or four times, until the pager goes off the next day and I’m right back at it,” Barnes said. “I’ve had my best days with the fire service and I’ve had my worst days.”
For Barnes, who started his firefighting career in Springville where he served for more than 30 years and his father was the former chief, firefighting is a way of life.
“From the time I could walk, I was down at the fire station,” Barnes said.
He helped out wherever he could to be able to spend more time at the station.
Similarly, Campbell got into firefighting because of his father, who put in 34 at the Anamosa department.
“My father was a big part of why I joined, and to serve the community, which is what he did,” Campbell said.
That’s not always the case, though, as Ruhl can attest. He was drawn in by his common acquaintances.
“I had a lot of friends in (the department) and it piqued my interest,” Ruhl said.
While, initially, it was the adrenaline that hooked him, over time it’s the pride in being able to serve the community is why Ruhl keeps up.
Over the years, the trio have seen many things change. Both Ruhl and Campbell noted the changes in the amount of training required and how quickly fire can take now and chemical dangers brought about by materials now used in homes and household materials.
“When a house burns now, it burns faster. It causes more issues for us with toxins,” Campbell said.
That was a far cry from when Barnes first started.
“Back in our days, you didn’t put on an air pack because you were a chicken if you put on an air pack when you went in the house, but you weren’t dealing with the gases and stuff,” Barnes said.
Things were a lot more rural, with a farmhouse about every mile and a lot more barn fires with the way hay was stored back then. With wood-burning fireplaces, chimney fires were a lot more common.
Back in the day, by the time the fire department got there, neighbors had most of the time pulled everything out of the house. With the way houses are constructed now, it’s cut the time in half that a house can go up in.
The one thing that hasn’t changed for Barnes is the rush that he gets when a call comes in.
“You either have it or you don’t have it. People think we’re crazy, and they’re right to some degree,” Barnes said.