PROPHETSTOWN – It has been nearly 2 months since a downtown fire destroyed eight buildings in Prophetstown, but the devastation is still fresh in the memories of members of the town's fire department.
The volunteer fire department has added about 7 volunteers, bringing its total to 59, Fire Chief Keith Crady said Saturday at Prophetstown State Park, during the Masons' "Rockin' on the Rock" family fun day.
The event was organized by the Masons to thank Prophetstown's firefighters and the 33 other fire departments that responded to the July 15 fire, said Monty Lindberg, the district deputy for the Masons sixth northern district.
"After the fire, we got together, all of the lodges on the sixth northern district, and kind of decided that we had fundraisers for the rebuilding of the town and fundraisers for the victims," he said. "But there was never a thank you that was sent out to all the departments that helped avoid a bigger catastrophe than what we had."
The Prophetstown fire department is made up completely of volunteer firefighters, although Crady receives approximately $1,200 per year. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 65 can volunteer. They're trained after joining the fire department.
The new firefighters won't be able to fight any fires until they complete their training, which usually takes 6 months, Crady said.
"One of the new guys that we just put on [the department] was doing his truck check [exercise Friday] and one of the officers was there," Crady said. "He had him put on his air pack while he's walking around doing his truck check, just so he gets used to wearing it."
The farthest fire department that responded July 15 was from Paw Paw, which is about 53 miles to the east, in Henry County. There were 33 departments that responded that day, and the Prophetstown Fire Department sent thank you letters to each of them, Crady said.
Looking back on the fire, Crady, who said he has been with the town's fire department for 30 years, said he wishes he put the word out for more help earlier, despite immediately calling for help after he confirmed there was a downtown fire.
"I knew it was a confirmed fire, because I could see it from my house," he said. "So I called for an aerial truck and tankers and stuff. As soon as I got to the station I called for that."
But it wasn't until all the building residents were saved, which was his first priority, that he realized he needed more help than he originally requested.
Crady, like many firefighters that day, spent 22 hours on scene, he said. When the day was over, he went home and went to sleep. As a volunteer firefighter, he had missed a whole day of work.
And like many of the firefighters on scene that day, Crady was up the next morning around 7 a.m. to go back to work at his day job, he said.