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Service to the community - two firefighters retire

Larry Amundson, left, and Mike Long, right, are congratulated by St. Joseph Fire Department Chief Ron Burton, center, for a combined 55 years of service Saturday night. Submitted photo

The appreciation dinner for the St. Joseph Fire Department families Saturday night also included honoring two long time department members who retired in 2009.

The event held at Mama Maria's restaurant, found Larry Amundson and Mike Long being honored by State Representative Kitty Rhoades, who presented them with plaques from the State of Wisconsin, signed by the governor.

Mike Long started his 30 year volunteer career in October of 1979 when Jim Tuma practically dragged Long and his buddy to a meeting.

"I rode motorcycles and had long hair back then," said Long, who joined up and didn't look back. Over the years, he went from firefighter to fire inspector, Captain and assistant Chief. The last two years he returned to firefighter status.

"There is something to it, service to community, the brotherhood shared whether it was with males or females in the department," said Long, who moved to Wisconsin from Minnesota in 1977. "Willingness to serve gives us a common bond."

"You feel good when you hear a victim from a crash has recovered and is doing well," said Long. "The bad ones are when there is a death and you have to wait for the coroner."

"There were the days when you had to leave dinner or miss something with the kids to go on a call," said Long. "But that's the sacrifice. We are like one big family."

"We have a great department," said Long. "Ron (St. Joe Fire Chief Ron Burton) has a great crew and he makes it work."

While Long is no longer on the department he still teaches fire training at WITC and has written some of the curriculum.

"I would say give it a try, you can serve you community and you can see what it's like," said Long.

Also honored was Larry Amundson, who completed 25 years of volunteer service to the department. He started in 1984 with no experience.

"I think is probably has to do with the satisfaction that you are able to help people," said Amundson. "When I moved out here I wanted to do something to help out." He also did double duty, serving as a first responder for nearly a decade, when that program first started. He was a rescue officer for the department and became a Captain in 1994.

"I guess I really enjoyed it," said Amundson, as to why he stayed on the department. "I enjoy the people that I serve with. I have never been around such a cohesive group. It makes the job easy and fun in away."

Amundson, admits to seeing a lot of changes over the years but one story always stands out.

"It was my first run," said Amundson. "I was to drive one of the trucks. It was a barn fire. All of the guys were getting dressed and they piled on the truck. They told me to get on the tanker. I told them I would just follow them, before I knew it I couldn't see them anymore. Here I just took off and realized I didn't know where the fire was. After pulling over, a another fire truck stopped to see what the problem was, after admitting I didn't know where I was going I just followed them."

Amundson, who works in St. Paul, was born and raised in Western Wisconsin and except for a short stint living in Minnesota, he has always lived in Wisconsin.

"I thought joining the department would be a good way to get to know more people," said Amundson. "And it was."