Marion Fire Department Station 1, also known as Central Station, is located at 186 South Prospect Street in downtown Marion. Central Station is home to three crews of 35 cross-trained firefighter paramedics and emergency medical technicians, more commonly called EMTs. Station 1 has been at the Prospect Street location since 1912. It was also one of the first fire stations to appear in the Marion area and is the oldest operating station in the City of Marion. When initially opened in the 1900s, the station operated using horse-drawn fire engines. Even today, visitors to the station today, can see the area where the horses were kept.
Captain Wade Ralph is quick to emphasize how important it is for crew members to properly fuel and take care of their bodies. This is where the weekly meal traditions have come into play. Making meals at home can sometimes be a struggle for those packing for multiple days at a time. Eating together at the firehouse takes stress off of the crew.
Each week, the members of the station pitch into a fund which is used to stock the firehouse kitchen. Central Station shares crew favorites such as Brunch Sundays, Spaghetti Bake Thursdays, and Smokin’ Saturdays, where members of the station contribute to one big barbeque. Occasionally, on Friday evenings, the station will order pizza and invite the surrounding stations over for Pizza Fridays!
The Marion Fire Department employs 56 full-time firefighters who work 24 hours on and 48 hours off. Within the last year, Marion Fire Department received more than 7,500 calls–averaging 22 calls per day. With a short-staffed department, the increase in runs certainly takes a strain on each shift.
“As tired as they all are, it is always a job well done,” said Ralph. “Knowing at the end of the day that a life was saved is the most rewarding part.”
When not on-call, crew members keep busy training. Whether it be in the gym, classroom, or out in the practice field, crew members are constantly learning, getting stronger, and perfecting their craft. Although most crew members only work two 24-hour days a week, they each battle a perpetual, and rather abnormal, sleep schedule. While sleeping at the fire station, multiple times throughout the night the fire crews slumber is abruptly interrupted by sirens, lights, and bells notifying them of a call. Some nights the crew does not sleep.
Despite the strenuous work and days without sleep, the Central Station Crew admits that they love their jobs and wouldn’t like things any other way. Captain Ralph takes pride in the sense of community the fire department has been able to create. In their free time, families of the fire crew like to get together and spend time with one another. Family is a very important value to the station. Crew member Josie Kaltenbach said that the people she gets to spend her days with are the best part.
“I know I could call anyone at any time and they would be there in a minute,” said Kaltenbach. “It’s nice to be around people who understand you, and look after you, like brothers.”