Farmers to firefighters: Spring Lake Park- Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department turning 75

The Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department has come a long way since 1944, evolving from a group of farmers protecting each other’s homes to roughly 100 full-time staff members and volunteers serving a rapidly growing area. 

To celebrate its 75th anniversary, the department will be hosting a community celebration at the National Sports Center in Blaine on Saturday, Sept. 14. In addition to inflatables, concessions, live music and various demonstrations, the free event will feature historic equipment, fire truck displays and educational materials for curious residents. 

The department began, like many in its day, with a group of farmers going door-to-door selling fire insurance. 

“The cities weren’t incorporated yet, but [the farmers] wanted fire protection ... they went door to door and offered fire insurance. If you paid the fee, then your home, your farm, your property was protected by the fire department,” explains Assistant Fire Chief Maddison Zikmund. 

Most of the farmers who began the insurance program and paid the fee were also firefighters. Before the department got its first station, Zikmund says all of its equipment was stored at one such member’s home. 

Throughout the years, the department has responded to some notable events, including the 1965 Fridley tornadoes and the Mounds View pipeline explosion. The latter was significant enough that the state created the Office of Pipeline Safety in response to the 1986 crisis. 

Zikmund’s father, Nyle, is the current city administrator for Mounds View and served with the fire department during the explosion. He was on the team for 35 years, acting as chief from 1995 until his retirement in 2016.

While the younger Zikmund says he didn’t always plan on following in his father’s footsteps, he attended drills and visited the station as a child. When a recruitment position opened up, he applied and has been with the department ever since. 

In addition to responding to crises, he says the department’s main focus over the past three decades has been on prevention.

“We have members in the department that are known at the local level, at the state level and some that even teach at the National Fire Academy about the prevention programs that we have going on,” he says.

Zikmund highlighted the Home Safety Survey program, which includes a free, confidential home visit by a trained firefighter to look for fire, health and safety hazards. Residents can call the department year-round to schedule a visit. 

Going forward, he notes that the department will be increasing its focus on carbon monoxide; he says calls regarding the gas have tripled over the last three years. 

“Part of the reason we haven’t had a line-of-duty death in the department is because of [prevention] efforts, and even though the population has grown dramatically, our call volume has actually stayed very consistent,” says Zikmund. 

The department has a combination of full-time staffers and volunteers, who receive no hourly or per-call compensation but do accrue a pension. Residents can come out and meet the department’s firefighters and learn more about its history and programs at the Sept. 14 anniversary celebration. 

Festivities will be happening all day — from a 5K race at 8 a.m. to a fireworks show at 8:50 p.m. — at the National Sports Center, located at 1700 105th Ave. NE in Blaine. For a detailed schedule of events, visit www.sbmfire.org/special-events/75th-anniversary.

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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