EAST LANSING, Mich. — The East Lansing Fire Department has changed a lot since it first began in 1923.
“Our fire station never started here," said East Lansing Fire Chief Dawn Carson. "We originally started in Lansing for one year, from what I've read, and then, we moved downtown where City Hall is and then here. We reside here and on Michigan State University.”
From the location to the people, the station is constantly changing. Carson has been part of the department for 29 of those 100 years, becoming a part of the department's history herself as the first female fire chief.
“They never had females initially when the department started,“ Carson said. "In about the 1980s, the first female was introduced to the station, which was probably a huge change. It's a male-dominated field. Our first female came in, she laid the groundwork for a lot of us as did a lot of people coming up and through.”
The department moved to its own building in 1924 with a small team of young, all male, professionals.
“At one point, you had to be between the ages of 21 and 31. That's the only age group that they would allow in,” Carson said.
The fire trucks we know today housed multiple uses in essentially a small station wagon.
“Our services started out as having no EMS and only fire, to being advanced life support on our trucks as well as our ambulances and, obviously, the fire trucks for putting out fires,” Carson said.
Technology, of course, has come a long way from what it used to be.
“They had handwritten logs," Carson said. "So we have a book out here that people can see the actually hand wrote in the number of runs. So like in 1966, they had 436 runs. In 2022, we had 6,231.”
Safety for fire fighters has also improved.
“They used to wear rubber boots and rubber jackets with no pants. They had masks that weren't hooked to air, they were more just on a filter system," Carson said. "So many of those people were much more susceptible to carcinogens as compared to today.”
One thing Carson said has never changed is the atmosphere of the department.
“Our shifts are 24 on, 48 off, and you live, eat and sleep with these people all the time," Carson said. "The family feeling that you get here is probably the most memorable thing about the department. People come people go, but those friendships never go away.”
And she's happy to be part of the department, laying ground work today for the team 100 years in the future.
“What we've accomplished today, somebody will accomplish much more in the next years, but we've been able to do it because of people who have laid the groundwork," Carson said. "And just for them to get an opportunity to see how things have changed and that we've carried on from where they've left off.”
East Lansing Fire Station #1 is holding an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, to celebrate the century accomplishment.
Activities include a tour of the fire station, demonstrations, extrication and rope rescues. They will also highlight some vehicles people might not see every day like their rescue trailer and boat.
The event is free to attend for all ages.
Want to see more local news? Visit the FOX47News Website.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox.
Select from these options: Neighborhood News, Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines, and Daily Forecasts.