A member may be eating supper, taking a shower, attending church services or asleep. The alarm in each member's pager triggers a mass rush for firefighters and EMT personnel to arrive at the fire station in a minimum amount of time. An alarm to respond to a vehicle accident on I-70 will generate a call for both fire and rescue vehicles.
Fire has been with mankind since the beginning of time. Holy Scripture tells us God rained fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout the centuries, many large cities have fallen victims to fires. Rome and London nearly burned completely down.
"Firemen are a special breed of men," said Fire Chief Mark Tolias. Once an applicant is approved by his peers, that applicant, now a rookie, undergoes a one-year period of probation.
The "rookie" is closely monitored by his peers. During that first year of probation, he cannot drive a fire engine to a fire or fight fires with a water hose.
He handles water hoses and other support activities at a fire. He listens and learns from other firemen. After a year's probation, the rookie's peers vote on his being accepted as a full-fledged fireman.
That vote must be approved by a two-thirds vote of his peers.
There are two meetings each month and at one of these meetings the rookie fireman will be given an opportunity to drive a fire engine at a training location. At first, he must drive very slowly.
The fireman is likely to be booted out if he missed three consecutive meetings, without proper justification.
A bond is gradually built up between the firemen/EMTs who need to depend on each other to make the right decision under emergency and stressful conditions.
Not just anyone would be successful as a fireman.
According to Tolias, "A fireman/EMT has to have a yearning to serve his fellow man under emergency conditions, and to be in control of his nerves under emergency conditions to be successful."
The work is dangerous. Eighty-two firemen lost their lives in the line of duty and hundreds more injured, in the United States, last year.
Firemen must retire at age 55, but there is no such restriction for the EMT personnel. EMT personnel must take a variety of courses, passing related tests and take continuing credit hour courses to keep their state license current.
Only the secretary is salaried, firemen receive $11 per call for those who arrive at the fire station and fill one of the authorized slots in emergency vehicles. All firemen and EMT personnel are issued radios and pagers.
All receive the same emergency notice from the sheriff's 911 desk in Lexington.
Only the chiefs -- there are three -- can respond by the radio, a necessary requirement to keep out unnecessary conversations so command issues can be relayed. If the chief arrives at the incident and finds it's only a fender bender on I-70 and no one has suffered injuries, he can "turn around" excess firemen or EMTs that won't be needed on the call.
Last year, the CFPD received 360 ambulance calls and 150 fire calls.
Tolias said, "The average response time from receiving the 911 emergency call until the first responder arrives and has the engine started and ready to roll is four to six minutes."
It will be a challenge for new rookies to improve their response time arriving at the fire station on an emergency call.
By state statute, the State Fire Marshal must be notified in the event there is a death that occurs at a fire or if there is deep suspicion as to the cause of the fire.
The CFPD has two ambulances, eight fire trucks, four pumpers, one tanker and three bush trucks. The CFPD includes approximately 10-square miles in which 5,000 citizens live.
Besides the fire station in Concordia, one is located in Emma. The Emma and Concordia facilities both respond to the same fire calls. Patients requiring transport by ambulances are usually sent to the nearest facility -- normally I-70 Community Hospital.
Once a fireman's or ambulance red light is activated and the siren is turned on, a state statute comes into force, requiring other traffic to yield the right away to emergency vehicles.
Much of the Concordia Fire Protection District is rural and "dry hydrants" are installed in ponds on those farms, with owner permission.
This provides a source of water for fighting fires on farms that don't have access to city water.
Tolias believes the firemen and EMTs have bonded together.
Beside official and training functions, the "Fire Family" as the chief calls them, meet occasionally at happy times at social functions and help share the grief at times of sorrow when a fireman or EMT is deceased. This was visibly evident at the recent funeral of fireman Jeff McGinnis.
The ISO, "International Standards Organization" has rated Concordia with a six as far as compliance with fire rules. This is an old decision; a committee from the CFPD is working on bringing Concordia's fire status up-to-date, in hopes of getting a better fire rating.
On the chief's wish list is a "rescue hydraulic tool" for prying open jammed car doors or ripping open a car ceiling for rescuing distressed passengers.
The new device will cost $30,000. Donations to this project are welcomed. The present device is 16 years old and out-of-date.
The budget for the Concordia Fire Protection District is $142,000, the same for each of the last five years. The chief said, "We believe in conserving the taxpayer's money."
The fire chief reports to the fire protection district board. Terry Kammeyer is board president, Dennis W. Meyer and Dale Dieckhoff are members of the board.
Citizens in the Concordia Fire Protection District owe a debt of gratitude to the 37 volunteers who take time to become and remain proficient in fire fighting and emergency medical services.
These people come from all walks of life -- some are farmers, some businessmen, others are workers of various trades -- but all have one purpose, to serve the 5,000 citizens who live in the Concordia Fire Protection District.