By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
This is the first feature in a three-part series about recent Monticello Firefighters and their sons who have taken their places on the department.
Brian Hinrichs said taking over for his father, Jerry Hinrichs, on the Monticello Fire Department was just a natural progression.
“I grew up with it,” said Brian.
After 32 years on the MFD, Jerry said it was just time for him to retire. He said there is an age limit at which firefighters on the MFD retire at, allowing for others to join the team as volunteers.
“It’s a physical job,” said Jerry. “I’m not as agile as I used to be.”
Jerry joined the department due to recommendations from friends who were firefighters on the MFD.
“I put my name on the list and I got on within the next month,” explained Jerry. Now, it may take quite a few years to have the opportunity to join the department. Brian said his name was on the list for four years until now.
Jerry also had an uncle Leroy Hinrichs who served on the MFD in the 1960s.
“He would tell me what a great organization it was,” Jerry recalled.
When Jerry joined the department, he said there was not as much training involved then as there is now.
“You learned as you went along,” he said.
Through the years, though, Jerry said they had specialized training. With two training officers, they were able to train locally versus leaving town.
With over 30 years on the department, Jerry said some moments will always stick with him. He recalled the Super Valu fire in 1981 where Family Foods used to be.
“I was fairly new then,” he said. “We didn’t go in to fight the fire; we fought it from the outside.”
There was also the First Presbyterian Church fire in 2008.
There were also numerous barn fires, where some farmers lost livestock, hay and machinery.
Our volunteer firefighters not only fight fires, but they also assist when needed at the scene of an accident. Jerry remembered a fatal accident that took place on what was Highway 151 (now Business 151). He said many times, living in a small town, when you are on the scene of an accident, you tend to look at the license plate “to see if it is someone you know.
“That can be the hardest part,” said Jerry.
Aside from the hard work Jerry said he was glad to be a part of three Iowa Firefighters Association conventions that were held in Monticello over the years.
“It’s a fun time to come together,” he said.
Today, firefighters have pagers to know when they are needed. The city also has a fire whistle that is set off in time of a fire or such. Jerry said he remembered when some firemen had a bell in their home, hooked up to the phone system. When that bell went off, you would contact other firemen, sort of a phone tree-type system.
At the age of 27, Jerry’s son Brian could not be more pleased to take over for his father on the MFD. In fact, Brian took on his father’s number and uniform. Being a firefighter is a norm for the Hinrichs family. Jerry’s brother, Jeff, has also been a volunteer in Monticello for 28 years. Jerry’s older sons, Mark and Chris, are also firemen in Marion and Cedar Rapids, respectively.
“Growing up in it,” said Brian, “it’s just the next thing you do.”
Seeing his family running to the scene of a fire, Brian said he grew more and more curious as to the career of a firefighter.
Now that he’s on the department, Brian will spend time training. He said as he progresses, he’ll be able do more and more.
“It will take a number of years to get comfortable with it all.”
Having been on the list for quite some time, Brian said the itch to be a fireman never really wore off.
“It means a great deal to take over where my dad left off,” he said. “There’s pride in that. I’m looking forward to helping people in a time of need.”
Brian looks forward to being a part of the MFD team.
“I grew up around them all,” he said.
Brian hopes to stay with the department for years to come. He figured if he stayed on for 30 years like his dad, Jerry’s number would be in use for 60 years.
PHOTO: Jerry Hinrichs recently retired from the MFD after 32 years. Here, Hinrichs passes his helmet and number onto his son, Brian, a new member of the MFD. (Photo submitted)