By Laurie Bassett Edmonds
RAYMORE – In today’s world, 40 years at one job is almost unheard of. When the stress and urgency of the Fire Service is added to the mix, that makes it extra special.
On Friday, Nov. 1, Mary Lacy will celebrate her 40th anniversary of working for South Metro Fire Protection District, only it was called Northwest Cass Fire District when she started. The station was located in a Butler building at the corner of M-58 Highway and Walnut. And much of the time Lacy was the only person in the building, since all the firefighters were volunteer.
When asked about her job, Lacy humbly said that she “did office stuff”, but in reality, life in a small volunteer fire district didn’t allow for the luxury of just doing office stuff.
When the dispatcher (who was also a firefighter) got called out, Lacy dispatched calls. She learned to drive a fire truck and went on calls, serving as an extra set of hands to do whatever was necessary. She got her EMT license so that she could run the ambulance when no one else was available.
She said that the district began paying the volunteers for their runs in the early 1980s and by the end of that decade they had paid staff. Ambulances were added in 1990 or 1991.
Back then, it was more fire calls than EMS. That’s definitely not the case today. She attributes the change to safety awareness, smoke detectors, better training, and newer construction now.
“When we’d get a call,” Lacy said, “I’d open the window and yell at them. That’s how we dispatched.”
There were no computers like now. All the dispatch records were handwritten. There were radios, but not with the capabilities of today’s communication equipment.
One of the memories that stands out in her mind from those early years, was a terrible ice storm that struck the night before Easter. Lacy said she and her husband, Ron, were heading to church, but she checked in at the station first. Calls were coming in fast and furious. No one had power, which further complicated things. She said the storm lasted all night, and everyone was doing three things at once. The Easter service at church happened without them.
“I enjoyed it,” Lacy said. “Everyone was so dedicated, in spite of the limited resources.”
The change through her 40 years of service has been monumental. South Metro went from a tiny, all-volunteer district to the largest one in Cass County. The equipment, the facilities, and the procedures have all changed dramatically. There are a lot of new faces. The thing that never changes is the commitment to saving lives and property.
On Tuesday, Oct. 29, the Fire District and Board will hold a pinning ceremony, recognizing Lacy with her 40-year pin. Friends and family are planning a celebration on Nov. 2.
Lacy will reach another impressive milestone in December, when she will turn eighty years old. Congratulations and happy birthday, Mary Lacy!