Joe Goetz


After volunteering for the Monticello Fire Department for almost 20 years, Joe Goetz has certainly found lifelong friends through community service.

Goetz is originally from Dubuque; he moved to Monticello after meeting his wife Kris, who owns The Styling Barn. After moving here, he started working for Star Building Systems. Goetz said there were a handful of guys working there who were also on the MFD at the time.
“I wanted to start getting active in the community and joining the department interested me,” said Goetz. “So the guys encouraged me to put my application in because they thought it would something I’d enjoy doing.”
Goetz said at the time, there was about five or so applications ahead of his on the waiting list.
Like many of the other firefighters here, the three biggest fires Goetz recalled were the Smothers Equipment fire in 1996, shortly after he got on the department; the Presbyterian Church fire in 2008; and the latest major fire in downtown Monticello in November of 2012.
“The Smothers fire was my first fire, and it was a long day,” he recalled. Goetz said many of the guys were getting ready to head to the fairgrounds to offer assistance during the demolition derby when the call came through for the Smothers fire.
“I thought it was just an alarm,” he said, not thinking it was anything major. “When we got there, it was fully engulfed. I knew we’d be there for a while.”
While on the scene of that fire, Goetz assisted with running the rescue unit, changing out air packs and getting tools for the other firefighters.
“We finally got home about 14 hours later,” he said. “It was a big fire.”
When the MFD arrived at the First Presbyterian Church fire, Goetz said the smoke was thick and heavy inside the church.
“You couldn’t even see your own hand right in front of your face,” he said of the scene. “I remember it was very hot and lots of obstacles inside.” He said the drop ceiling (in the education center) had fallen down.
Around the time of the downtown fire, Goetz was recovering from surgery due to a torn ACL. He did not accompany the fire department to the downtown fire, but went on his own accord to monitor the situation. The Styling Barn is located on the block where the fire was, so Goetz said he and his wife were worried the fire could spread all the way down the block.
“I thought the whole block would go,” he said.
Goetz’s salon took on some smoke. They gathered all of Kris’ personal items just in case something worse should happen.
Even though Goetz wasn’t able to assist on the scene, he did what he could to lend a hand by getting anything the other firefighters needed and calling Fareway for bottled water.
“With a big downtown fire like that,” said Goetz, “you just hope it’s not too major and try to get an offensive attack on it. You need to get a handle on it before it gets away from you.” He said the MFD, as well all those who provided mutual aid that morning, did a great job in protecting the rest of the First Street businesses.
In November of 2002, Goetz said he was at home on Thanksgiving Day pulling his turkey out of the fryer when his pager went off for a fire in Langworthy. Midwestern Bio Ag, a fertilizer company, was destroyed in that fire. Goetz said they were on scene for about four hours before returning home to enjoy their Thanksgiving meals.
Through his 18 years on the department, Goetz has seen equipment and training changes, as well as how they fight a fire. He said vehicles these days are all so different, and when using the Jaws of Life to rescue someone in an accident, they have to be careful with electric and hybrid cars when cutting through the doors.
When attacking a structure fire, Goetz said the techniques have changed over the years, as well as how to ventilate the building or home.
The MFD continues to have rope rescue trainings every Monday. This type of training is used for a variety of circumstances. Goetz said they’ve been called to assist in rescues at Pictured Rocks Park before, where rope training comes in handy for sure.
“We’re the only department with rope rescue training in Jones County,” he said. “We need to stay up on it otherwise you lose the knowledge and techniques.”
Goetz said they also tour a building or structure in town once a month to familiarize themselves with the layout of the building. Last month, the MFD toured Orbis.
“It’s a good idea to know where the shut-offs are and the lay of the land,” said Goetz, should the MFD ever get called to a fire at one of the many facilities in town.
Goetz knows a thing or two about the training it takes to be a volunteer fireman. He’s received seven training awards since the award program started in 2001. The awards signify how many hours each firefighter has acquired.
“It takes a lot of training to do our job,” he said.
When the MFD started its junior firefighter program, Goetz’s son Jesse, 20, served in the program for about two years while in high school.
“It was a lot of fun for him,” he said.
Now, his son attends Kirkwood Community College, enrolled in the fire science program.
“He wants to go professional,” said Goetz of Jesse’s aspirations. He is also working on his paramedic certification. Jesse has his name on the MFD waiting list, hoping to get on by the time he turns 21.
“There’s just something about walking in the front door here that I look forward to,” said Goetz. “It puts a smile on your face.”

[Read more…]

Shed Fire

Shed Fire

During the evening hours on Sunday, June 1, the Monticello Fire Department was called to a storage shed fire at 22258 Bowens Prairie Rd., the home of Doug and Diane Monck. Their storage shed and contents were ruled a total loss. inside were multiple tractors and a vehicle. According to Fire Chief Don McCarthy, the cause is still under investigation. From left to right are Monticello firefighters Tommy Norton, Brian Hinrichs and Jon Snyder. (Photo by Mark Spensley)

Nick Kahler

he’s made

Posted June 4, 2014 at 1:33 pm


Nick Kahler has been a volunteer firefighter in Monticello for seven years. He said it’s great to be a volunteer for an organization that helps everyone on or off duty. His boys, Gavin and Beckett, have aspirations to be a firefighter some day like their dad. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

The series titled “Heroes of Our Community” is intended to introduce residents to the police, fire and ambulance crews who serve Monticello and beyond.

You can certainly tell that being a volunteer on the Monticello Fire Department is like having an extended family.

While interviewing fellow firefighter Nick Kahler one afternoon at the fire station, his sons Gavin, 7, and Beckett, 1, run off some energy as they explored the truck bay. Perhaps they’ll take after their dad and grandfather and become a firefighter themselves one day.

Kahler said after he met his now-wife Mackenzie (Snyder), he learned that her father, Scott, was on the MFD.

“I wanted to get on before he retired,” said Kahler of his father-in-law, who retired from the MFD in 2012. At that time, Snyder’s son Jon took his place on the department.

“I waited five years to get on,” Kahler said. When he turned 20, Kahler’s name was added to the waiting list. In 2007, he joined the department.

Through local department training and trainings offered elsewhere in Iowa, Kahler has worked his way through Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications.

When asked why being a firefighter was something he felt compelled to do, Kahler laughed and said, “I like fire.”

He added, “Being a firefighter has always interested me; I’ve wanted to find a way to help people,” said Kahler. “It’s a good group to be around.”

When Kahler first got on the department, his first call was the Fawn Creek fire at their office location on Highway 151 outside of town.

He said during the First Presbyterian Church Fire in 2008, he assisted fellow firefighter Billy Norton in the basement of the church, attacking the fire from inside.

“The whole place was just full of smoke,” he recalled. “It was fun and exciting at the same time. We were on scene most of the day.”

When Monticello had the downtown fire in 2012, Kahler was on the first truck to the scene.

“I helped hook up hydrant lines right away,” he said. “I also helped search apartments with Jon Snyder to make sure everyone was out.”

Kahler said they attacked the fire by pulling the ceiling down from within the Monticello Carpet & Interiors building.

He also assisted the Maquoketa Fire Department with mutual aid when their downtown was on fire in 2008.

“I remember we got the call at 3 a.m. that they needed help,” he said.

Kahler said the MFD takes part in local training opportunities every month, with a different objective every time. He explained the firefighters are placed in different scenarios such as rope rescue from a cave or a water tower, for instance.

The upside to being on the MFD for Kahler is the friendships he’s made and experiences he’s had as a volunteer firefighter.

He said the early morning calls are something he can live without, but it’s all part of the job.

“It comes with the territory.”

Kahler said people in the community would be surprised to know just how much time the MFD puts into training, which then benefits the entire town and more.

“The amount of time we put into training is huge!” said Kahler. “A lot of guys have over 100 hours invested in this.”

For Kahler, his goal at some point is to add a leadership position to his name within the department. “Some day…,” he said.

He thanks the community of Monticello for all of their support in the fire department.

“We do a lot outside of just fires,” Kahler said, mentioning their presence at the Great Jones County Fair and helping provide Monticello with a great Fourth of July celebration, not to mention assisting residents with smoke alarms and teaching fire safety at the schools.

“We help where we can.”

Kahler works for the City of Monticello in the water department. Working in town, he said he’s normally able to run to a fire call any time.

“It usually depends on the day, what I’m doing at the moment, but the city is great about letting us leave for a call,” he said.

Mark Cigrand

Cigrand dedicates time to both fire and ambulance departments

Posted May 8, 2014 at 8:19 am


PHOTO: Mark Cigrand of Monticello has been a volunteer firefighter for 20 years and a volunteer EMT for five years. He praised all of the fire and ambulance volunteers for their hard work and dedication to the job. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

The series titled “Heroes of Our Community” is intended to introduce residents to the police, fire and ambulance crews who serve Monticello and beyond.

Dedicating your time to one emergency service is one thing, but for Mark Cigrand, he gives his free time to both the Monticello Fire Department and Ambulance Service.

Cigrand joined the MFD 20 years ago. He recalled when department volunteer Joe Oswald approached him to see if he’d be interested in joining.

“I was excited to do it,” Cigrand said. “I always wanted to help out my community in one way or another.” Cigrand was born and raised in Monticello, even raising his own family here as well.

Like many of the other firefighters, Cigrand was on the waiting list for a while until he got voted on the department.

Throughout his initial years on the fire department, he attended fire school at Kirkwood Community College. He also attended school in Ames at the Fire Service Training Bureau. “We were taught basic firefighting skills,” he said.

Aside from serving on the fire department, Cigrand has also been working for the City of Monticello on the streets department for 20 years. Working in town all these years, he’s been fortunate enough to run to an emergency call when needed.

“The fire department has always told us what our priorities are,” Cigrand explained, meaning family comes first, then your job, and then the fire department.

Cigrand said if he was plowing snow, for instance, he couldn’t just stop work to run to a fire call. “There’s always plenty of guys who can go,” he said.

The first in his family to serve on any fire department, Cigrand’s own children have shown interest in this field as well. His son Logan enrolled in the paramedic program at Kirkwood after he graduated MHS in 2012. He’s now moving onto the nursing program at Mount Mercy University this fall.

“He still wants to be a firefighter some day,” Cigrand said of his son.

His daughter Jordyn, who will graduate from high school in just a few weeks, has been enrolled in the health sciences academy at Kirkwood’s Jones Regional Education Center. Cigrand said both his kids took the courses, wanting to get into the health field in some way after high school, a goal that’s made Cigrand quite proud.

Throughout his 20 years with the MFD, Cigrand, like many of the other firefighters, he recalled similar events that have left an impression on him: the Smothers Equipment fire, the Presbyterian Church fire, the downtown fire, and assisting at the downtown Maquoketa fire.

In 1996, Cigrand was fresh on the department when the call went out for the Smothers’ fire, which also happened to be fair week.

“I was pretty new and that was a big fire,” he recalled. He said he just observed how the other firemen attacked the fire because he was so new at the time. He said Nick Sasuer, who was on the MFD at the time, just told him to learn all he could, as they ran the pumper during the fire.

Living on the outskirts of town, Cigrand said of the downtown Monticello fire in 2012, “I just remember thinking, ‘I hope it’s nothing big.’” Through the MFD’s efforts and those of neighboring departments, Monticello was lucky the fire didn’t spread throughout the entire block.

The MFD also responds to accidents if needed. Just this past week on May 2, the MFD was called to assist at a one-vehicle accident on Highway 151 outside of town. Cigrand said of being on the scene of accidents, “Coming from a small town, you just hope it isn’t someone you know. Accidents are the worst part about being a volunteer.”

Cigrand said being a part of the MFD all these years has been very memorable, from department picnics, to wives’ dinners and honoring the retired members.

”The whole department is like a family,” he said.

The past five years, Cigrand has also been a volunteer EMT for the ambulance department. He took the course through Kirkwood and keeps up on his continuing education classes, as well as the in-house training the department offers. Looking ahead to the possibility of moving to Minnesota where Cigrand’s wife, Dawnette, teaches, he said his time with the ambulance department will come in handy if he looks to get a job at the Mayo Clinic, for instance.

”My wife prompted me to look into becoming an EMT,” Cigrand said. “At first, I wasn’t sure about the whole thing, but I’ve really enjoyed it.”

He puts in his volunteer hours on Mondays after working for the city, as well as at back-up calls if needed.

“It just depends on what I’m doing or what’s going on,” he said.

Recently, he’s thought about going further to become a paramedic, but hasn’t pursued that avenue quite yet.

Cigrand said the easiest part about being an EMT is driving the ambulance to a call, that you hope isn’t someone you know.

“As an EMT, you’re there to assist the paramedics,” he explained.

Cigrand said helping people in a time of need is the rewarding part about the gig.

He said as the equipment gets more and more high-tech, everyone in the department has to learn how to run and use the new machines through training opportunities. “We work with some amazing pieces of equipment,” he said, referring specifically to their new LUCAS 2 CPR machines.

In serving both emergency services in Monticello, Cigrand said the general public needs to know that they have some amazing men and women who give of their time to volunteer and work day in and day out for this community.

“The dedication of the volunteers in this community is outstanding,” Cigrand praised. “It takes a lot of extra hours to keep up on their training and go beyond what’s required. Monticello is blessed with the volunteers we have here. It’s nice to be part of two organizations where everyone looks out for everyone else.”

Jeff Hinrichs



Jeff Hinrichs celebrated his 30th year as a volunteer for the Monticello Fire Department. Jeff served with his brother Jerry Hinrichs before Jerry retired a couple of years ago. Jeff said the MFD is like an extended family to him and all those on the department. (Express file photo)


By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

The series titled “Heroes of Our Community” is intended to introduce residents to the police, fire and ambulance crews who serve Monticello and beyond.

Jeff Hinrichs has been a Monticello Fire Department volunteer for 30 years now. There have been, and continues to do, several Hinrichs family members on the MFD. Jeff’s brother Jerry retired from the department a couple of years ago. Their uncle, Leroy Hinrichs, was a volunteer in the 1960s. Jerry’s son, Brian, is also on the MFD, taking his dad’s spot when he retired.

“Jerry got on the department first, then I joined a couple of years later,” Hinrichs said. “At that time, there was no waiting list. They were beating the bush for people to serve (on the department).”

Hinrichs said you just filled out an application, noting how long you lived in Monticello and where. He explained they liked volunteers to live within 2 miles of town, at the time.

His interest in volunteering for the MFD stemmed from when he was growing up in the country.

“Nick Sauser was active on the department and a neighbor of ours,” said Hinrichs. “He always talked about going to a fire.”

Hinrichs said later, when he was able to volunteer for the MFD, they always wondered how Sauser beat everyone to the fire station when a call went out.

Growing up, Hinrichs said people always had two phones in their homes: One with no dial that just rang when there was a fire, and one for everyday phone calls.

“They didn’t have pagers right away,” he said of when he started volunteering. Hinrichs said his brother Jerry would get a call, and his wife would call Jeff and give the location of the fire. Whoever was the first at the station, they would write the address on the board so the others knew where to go.

“Now, we get texts on our cell phones.” He said technology has allowed their job to be that much easier because people might see a fire while driving and can call it in to the dispatch center.

For Hinrichs, the biggest change in 30 years has been training.

”It’s very beneficial,” he said.

He explained firefighters used to attack a fire from the outside. Now, they get at it from the inside, too.

“It’s quicker, and allows us to save a building if we can,” he said.

Over the years, like many of the other firefighters here in Monticello, Hinrichs recalled the Smothers fire on July 21, 1996, during the Great Jones County Fair.

”That was a long hot day,” he said of the weather and fighting the fire. “It was a stressful situation, but a big learning experience for a lot of us.”

The Presbyterian Church fire in March 2008 was also a big one. Hinrichs recalled entering through a side entrance of the church and seeing that the floor had fallen through. He said they were able to get the fire under control so it didn’t take the whole church down.

The most recent fire, in November 2012, that took several downtown buildings, will be in the minds of firefighters for a long time. Hinrichs said the address on the 911 call came from the west side of Cedar Street, so when he drove to the fire station, he didn’t see flames shooting out of the Monticello Carpet building at first. On scene, he was the safety officer in the stairwell that led to the top of Monticello Carpet & Interiors. Firefighters would check in with Hinrichs when heading to the top of the stairs.

“I knew what could happen to the downtown,” Hinrichs said of the situation. “My fear was that we would have a couple of city blocks wiped out.”

He said when he saw smoke coming out of the window frames of the furniture store, he thought the fire had spread. It turned out to be heavy smoke damage.

While serving on the MFD, Hinrichs was also on the Monticello School Board. He also runs his own construction business with brother Jerry, H&H Homecrafters. When leaving for a call, if he’s on the job, Hinrichs said it all depends on their proximity to town and what they’re doing if he can rush out or not.

Throughout his service, Hinrichs has been unofficially designated the “food guy.” When it comes to events the MFD has, meetings, conventions, etc., he’s in charge of organizing the food. It’s a job he takes with pride.

Over the past 30 years, Hinrichs said the motto of the department has always been family first, job second and MFD third.

“We have a good group of active firefighters,” he said of the dedicated department. “Everyone committed to the cause.”

Barn Fire


On March 4 the Monticello and Anamosa fire departments responded to a call for a barn fire at the Becky Orcutt farm on County Road E-17 south of Monticello. The firefighters were able to save the barn, but some straw and hay were destroyed. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy, Trevor Martensen, spotted the fire. The cause has not been determined. Above, Monticello firefighters Josh Kray and Mark Cigrand prepare to enter the barn.  


Billy Norton





Billy Norton has been volunteering for the MFD for 11 years now. Being part of the department is in the family. His father was a volunteer from 1989-2000, and two of Norton’s nephews are currently on the MFD as well. 


By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

This series titled “Heroes of Our Community” is intended to introduce residents to the police, fire and ambulance crews who serve Monticello and beyond.

Billy Norton is no stranger to the Monticello Fire Department. In fact, some have said of Norton when he was younger, he was always seen following the fire trucks to the scene of a fire because he was captivated by the dedication it took to do the job.

Norton started volunteering on the MFD in 2002 when he was 22 years old. You have to be 21 in order to serve on the Monticello department.

“I just like helping people,” he said.

His goal was to serve on the department while his father, Bill Norton, was still a local firefighter. Unfortunately, his father, who started volunteering in 1989, retired from the department in 2000.

“I was always hearing stories about the history of this place,” said Norton. With his dad serving so many years, it certainly left an impression on Norton and opened his eyes to a future in firefighting for his hometown community.

When it was his turn to be a Monticello fire fighter, Norton said, “It was just something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Now, aside from working full-time for the City of Monticello on the street crew, Norton also considers being a volunteer firefighter his second full-time job. “It’s just fun! Everyone is like family down here. We’re all so close.”

Speaking of family, Norton also has two nephews who serve on the MFD as well: Tommy Norton and Reece Norton, who is one of the junior firefighters.

“They saw how much I like doing this, so they became interested, too,” said Norton. “They also saw their grandfather around here. It’s neat to have families involved in the department.”

Growing up in and around the MFD, Norton said he got to know most of the guys on the department, some who are still on the department today.

“I also learned a lot from them,” he said.

Norton said the training within the Monticello department, as well as with other local fire departments has been quite valuable. Just recently, the MFD trained alongside the Hopkinton and Martelle fire departments at the Monticello Berndes Center. Norton explained they filled the building with smoke to practice search and rescue drills.

“Every month we tour a different business to get the lay of the building and know the floor plan,” Norton said. Should a fire break out inside any of these buildings, the MFD already has an idea of the lay of the land before going in.

“Every scene is different,” Norton said. “You get there and basically have to go back to the basics and do your job.”

When Monticello’s downtown fire took place on Nov. 28, 2012, Norton said it was hectic when they got on scene.

“I got the call early that morning,” he recalled. “All we knew was that the fire was behind the (Monticello) Express office. When I drove by, I saw flames shooting out pretty bad.”

Norton explained his role that morning was to do an interior attack of the fire from the back of the building, where the fire originated. The firefighters were staged in the alley between Monticello Carpet & Interiors and the Express.

Norton said, aside from fighting fires and assisting at the scene of an accident, the fire department has also been called to help during flood events here in town. In 2010 when the Lake Delhi dam broke, Monticello experienced a flood that could have been much worse.

“Fortunately, floods bring the community together,” said Norton. The MFD assisted by helping to fill sandbags and just help where they were needed that day.

“We helped evacuate people, and just all pulled together,” he said.

Norton also recalled the Presbyterian Church fire in 2008.

“That was the biggest I had ever been to,” he said. When the MFD arrived at the church, Norton said the floor had collapsed. He said it proves that all of their practices in dealing with certain events, like a collapsed floor, come in handy.

One thing the MFD does for fun, are waterball fights. Norton said helped get that event going, to help show the community what the fire department is all about.

“It’s a family-friendly event,” he said. “We do it once a year on the first Friday in June.”

Of all the firefighters Norton has served with, he said they’ve all been great teachers and leaders. He hopes to become captain or lieutenant one day. “That’s my goal.”

Of being a volunteer fireman, Norton said, “You have to have heart to do it. Every call is different. You just stay focused on the job. You’re here to serve the community.”

Joe Oswald


Joe Oswald has been with the Monticello Fire Department for 30 years now. He said in that time, the department’s training exercises and how they fight fires has changed dramatically. 

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

This series titled “Heroes of Our Community” is intended to introduce residents to the police, fire and ambulance crews who serve Monticello and beyond.

Joe Oswald of Monticello has been a volunteer with the Monticello Fire Department for 30 years now. It was his long-time buddy Jeff Hinrichs (who also celebrates 30 years on the MFD) who first asked Oswald to be on the department in 1984.

“I just turned 21 years old at the time,” recalled Oswald. “At that time, there wasn’t a waiting list like we have now to get on the department.”

Oswald said he wanted to be on the department because it was one way he could serve the community.

“Jeff spurred my interest,” said Oswald of becoming a local firefighter. “Looking back, I didn’t realize it would become such a big part of my life as it has been.”

Oswald explained he never thought he would still be on the MFD 30 years later.

“It’s just been a fun, close group of guys to be around. Basically, you have 34 brothers.”

A couple of years after getting on the department, Oswald opened All Seasons Auto Body here in town. Last year, he started serving the area in another fashion, as a Jones County Supervisor, representing District 2.

In his 30 years on the department, Oswald said for him the biggest change over time has been the training.

“We train more now than we ever did before,” he said. The scope of their training has also changed from one training a month to twice a month, if not more.

“We have our regular department meeting and practice, plus specialized training like rope rescue,” said Oswald.

He also said the way firefighters fight a fire has changed over time.

“We try to ventilate the fire and use a minimal amount of water,” Oswald said in describing the way they attack a structure fire.

For him, some of the most notorious fires he’s helped fight over the years include the Presbyterian Church fire on March 8, 2008; the Smothers Equipment, Inc. fire on July 21, 1996; and the most recent major fire in Monticello’s history, the downtown fire on Nov. 28, 2012.

“My first thought when we got on scene was that we could lose the whole block,” Oswald said of the downtown fire. “In the end, (Mark) Stoneking (then-fire chief) did a great job on scene. The whole department helped keep the fire under control and from spreading.”

Throughout the years, many on the MFD held leadership roles, and Oswald is no exception. Under chief Clarence Goedken, Oswald was appointed lieutenant. Then under Stoneking, he was appointed captain. Chief and assistant chief are elected positions, by the department as a whole. In this case, Oswald was assistant chief under both Stoneking and then-chief Gaylen Kray. Oswald said he stepped down as assistant chief when Stoneking was chief because he felt he wasn’t able to dedicate enough time to the position, while running his own business and attending his kids’ school events and activities.

There are pros and cons with any profession these days, and Oswald said being on the fire department, you just expect the calls in the middle of the night or during the dead of winter. However, he said, “I was never excited about those calls.”

There are times when you’re called away from family events or holiday gatherings.

“There have been times when I just couldn’t leave my business for a call,” Oswald said. “This department has some flexibility.”

With four years left to go until Oswald “retires” from the MFD, Oswald said the community would be surprised to know just how much time goes into training to be ready for anything.

“The amount of time firefighters train and the hours they put in as a volunteer would surprise many.”

Mark Stoneking

Stoneking retires from MFD after 34 years

Posted December 18, 2013 at 10:05 am


Mark Stoneking will retire from the Monticello Fire Department at the end of the year after 34 years on the department. Stoneking was fire chief during the last 11 years. 


By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

After 34 years with the Monticello Fire Department, 11 as Fire Chief, Mark Stoneking is retiring.

While not by choice, the MFD bylaws state a firefighter must get off the department after age 55, Stoneking said, “It’s time.”

Stoneking started with the MFD in 1980. Throughout his tenure on the department he held such positions as training officer, captain and then chief. He was elected chief in 2002 by his fellow firefighters. He said he was asked if he would be interested in becoming fire chief.

“I didn’t broadcast it,” he said of pursing the job. “But I figured I’d give it a shot.”

The “Stoneking” name has been synonymous with the Monticello Fire Department for 70 years. Stoneking said members of his family started serving on the department in 1942. At that time, his grandfather and his grandfather’s brother both started with the MFD. Then, Stoneking’s father joined the department. For a short time, he served as chief as well.

“It was too bad I never served with my father,” Stoneking recalled.

With such a family legacy on the department, Stoneking said that wasn’t the entire reason he decided to volunteer with the MFD.

“I worked with several guys on the department through the years. It was actually Clarence Goedken (a former chief) who pursued me to apply in the first place.”

Working for the county’s Secondary Roads department, Stoneking said his job has been flexible over the years in allowing him to leave for emergency calls here in Monticello.

In his 34 years here, Stoneking said they have certainly had their share of major fires and accidents. While the department doesn’t respond to every accident call, sometimes they are very much needed. Some of the most notable calls he recalled included the downtown fire in November 2012, Bud’s Super Valu in April 1981, Smothers Equipment in July 1996 and the First Presbyterian Church fire in March 2008.

“We’ve also responded to large fires in neighboring communities such as Anamosa and Cascade,” said Stoneking. That’s the upside about serving on a small town community fire department, having several neighboring departments to work with.

In recalling major accidents he’s responded to, Stoneking offered, “I don’t like to dredge those up. It’s not that they don’t bother me, but in a small town, you always know someone who’s involved in an accident.”

The biggest impact to the MFD in his time here was losing two of their own fellow firefighters: Richmond Kromminga and Tom Sauser.

“That’s always tough,” he said.

Firefighting as a profession has certainly changed over the years.

“In general, everything’s changed in the past 30 years.”

Stoneking said the biggest change has been the protective gear and clothing, including air packs and specialized equipment. He also said that 20 years ago, hardly anyone installed carbon monoxide detectors in their homes.

“Today, that’s probably 10 percent of our calls,” he said. “Most of the time, it’s nothing serious.”

Also, today, the firefighters are more trained for confined space rescues and high angle rescues.

“Through the years, our call numbers have definitely diminished,” he said. “I think people are more safety conscious.”

Outside of responding to their normal calls, the MFD also helps out during the week of the Great Jones County Fair, especially during the races. Earlier this year, they assisted in the safe rescue of a lost camper with Camp Courageous.

The MFD would not be able to purchase the specialized equipment they have if it weren’t for the community support. Stoneking said he’s seen how much this community supports and appreciates the MFD.

“We’re a family department,” he said. “We can’t thank the community enough.”

In January when Stoneking finishes out his duty in working with incoming chief Don McCarthy, he said non-members are always invited to trainings and meetings.

“Several still come to our annual meeting in December. It will be hard to leave, but I won’t miss the late night calls and the calls in the dead of winter.”

In his time with the MFD, Stoneking said he’s proud to have hosted three IFA (Iowa Firefighters Association) conventions (1993, 2001 and 2011).

“That speaks to the general work ethic of our department.”

He said the implementation of the junior firefighter program has “worked out well.” Since it started several years ago, a handful of local youth have gone on to join the fire science program at Kirkwood Community College. He’s also been able to purchase new equipment and trucks for the department over the years. Since remodeling the fire station and old ambulance area, Stoneking said he is proud to say that the department is debt free!

With 35 firefighters on the MFD, Stoneking said he is leaving them with a good leader in McCarthy, who’s been here for over 20 years.

“It’s been my life, my hobby,” he said fondly. “It was an interest I had from the start. What I’ll miss most is the camaraderie down here.”

Stoneking said he wouldn’t have been able to do his job and work with the department all these years had it not been for his wife and kids putting up with his time away.

“They put up with so much with me being gone,” he said. “When your kids are growing up, it’s tough. But here, we always say family comes first”.

New Equipment

The Monticello Fire Department purchased a new water tanker and pickup truck this year. The tanker holds 2,000 gallons of water, more than any other truck. The pickup is used to transport firefighters to trainings and for highway traffic control. 

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

The Monticello Fire Department has acquired new equipment in order to better serve the City of Monticello and surrounding communities.

This spring, the department purchased a new tanker truck with funds set aside in their budget. The $185,000 truck replaces an older one that the fire department had since 1988.

“It was time to replace it,” said Fire Chief Mark Stoneking.

Monticello firefighter Billy Norton explained the new tanker has a much bigger capacity than the older one; it’s able to hold up to 2,000 gallons of water. It also contains a small portable pump.

The department also purchased a new $38,000 pickup truck from Freese Motors. They sought bids from local dealerships for the purchase. Thanks to community fundraisers and public support, the fire department was able to make the purchase.

A department truck like this was something the MFD never had before. Stoneking said it’s used to transport firefighters to trainings and schooling events across the state. Norton added they’ll also use it for traffic control if needed on highways during an accident.

Before the pickup truck could be put to use, it had to be fitted for emergency use with new lights, sirens and painted and lettered for the MFD.

“We replace all of our trucks as needed,” explained Stoneking. “After 25 years, it’s time.”

Both Stoneking and Norton said fire trucks are changing as technology changes, like everything else. There are cameras inside the cab so the driver can see any obstructions when backing up at the scene of a fire or emergency. There is also a collapsible water tank, which is run by a hydraulic system that makes it easier to reach and use for extra water purposes.

“These technology changes are all done because of safety concerns,” added Stoneking.

Just like any aircraft, the new tanker truck is also equipped with a black box. This electronic system records the trucks performance. In the case of an accident, the information can be viewed as to what exactly happened.

The new tanker is also painted according to MFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards. These regulations also dictate how fast a fire truck can travel, especially on rural roads. Stoneking said the tanker could only travel up to 60 mph. “This limit does not hinder our response time,” Stoneking clarified. “It does not make a big difference.”

When in use, the tanker is geared for rural/county fires. The department covers about a 140-square mile radius around Monticello. Stoneking said because of its water capacity, it’s not really needed in town because of the use of fire hydrants.

As the one-year anniversary of the downtown Monticello fire approaches, Stoneking said that incident has been their only major fire in a long time.

“Our numbers are the lowest in my recent memory,” he said. “We’re on pace for some of the lowest call numbers.” While this is a good thing for residents, the firefighters still need to keep up on their training on a regular basis.

The MFD cannot purchase new vehicles without community fundraising. The MFD’s benefit dance will take place this Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Monticello Eagles Club. Advanced tickets are $5 and will be sold at the door for $6.