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Ellsworth Fire Department will serve Maiden Rock

For the third time in recent history, the Ellsworth Fire Department's service territory has been expanded.

Effective this month, Maiden Rock has contracted for fire services.

"This first time, we'll go for two years and see how it works," Chief Brent Langer said about the new renewable contract.

He said Maiden Rock could no longer support its own fire department, which he found logical considering the high cost of maintaining such a unit today and the small size of the operation in this case. Membership there has dwindled, the equipment is minimal and the fire hall is being used for other purposes.

The Ellsworth Fire Department will service Maiden Rock through its South Station, headquartered 11 miles west at the Red Wing Regional Airport near Bay City. Backup will be available from the main site in Ellsworth.

Mutual aid agreements have been reached with the Lund and Plum City fire departments to cover Maiden Rock, too, he said. Among the three outfits, he believed the village should realize quality service; a potential exists for all three to be paged to respond there simultaneously.

Langer, who's been with the department for 28 years, can remember only two other instances when the Ellsworth department has undergone expansion during his tenure. Once was when the Martell area switched six-to-eight of its sections to Ellsworth, bringing all of that vicinity under one agency for fire coverage. The other was seven years ago, when the Ellsworth Fire Services Association was formed and the South Station was opened to serve the Bay City-Isabelle area.

The association encompasses eight towns and two villages, with the Maiden Rock agreement being its first contract, he said. There are 59 volunteers on the Ellsworth roster, and the unit is in good shape for equipment and facilities, he added.

"We have no plans to buy any equipment for a year or two," Langer said, expecting it might then be the acquisition of a water truck.

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@Normal1: In the 1940s, the Maiden Rock Fire Department consisted of one truck and no trained firefighters, according to Mick Julian of Maiden Rock, who was with the unit from 1982 to 1995 and its chief the last 10 of those years.

"Whoever got to the hall first responded," Julian recalled about those years.

In 1982, about 20 volunteers organized a more formal department. Ron Schiller and Jerry Ganley served as Julian's assistant chiefs. The volunteers were schooled at Eau Claire and Ellsworth, plus through correspondence courses. They learned how to use various tools and cope inside burning buildings, he said.

Once more established, the members built four trucks, Julian said, including a pumper, a tanker, a brush truck and a van. A village-owned building became available when the local ambulance went off by itself.

The department held street dances and Las Vegas nights to raise money for equipment. A lot of it was bought and quite a bit came from Red Wing's department, he said. Included were turnout gear and air packs.

One of the most memorable fires for Julian occurred at the former local furniture store and mortuary, he said. It was 30 degrees- below zero that night and firefighters were on the scene from approximately 1 a.m. until early the next afternoon.

"We had our hands full," he said, indicating the fire marshal eventually ruled the blaze was electrical in nature.

The former chief said the department will be missed, acknowledging the change will make a difference in insurance rates. But he admitted the original members have gotten older and many have moved away. He praised Ellsworth's department for its assistance over the years.