Melvin Stubinger has shared an active involvement in community fire protection with three generations of his family in the Russellville-Lohman area.

His father helped organize the tag department 59 years ago. His son is a captain on the Russellville-Lohman Fire Protection District alongside him. And now his grandson has joined the organization’s junior firefighter program.

“I don’t know why I decided to do it,” Stubinger said. “Most generally people are running out of the house and here you are going in.

“At the time, I thought I was doing something for the community to help.”

The first big event Stubinger responded to was a 1990 second-story fire in downtown Russellville. It affected the adjacent accounting office, antique store and beauty shop.

“At that time, we didn’t have much turn-out gear,” Stubinger said. “And what we did have, wasn’t that good.”

Several mutual aid vehicles responded, because water shortage was the biggest problem then, he recalled.

Stubinger was on a hose line in the building.

“You learn a lot of things fast,” he said. “And you don’t forget.”

He became chief in the early 1990s.

“It’s something that gets in you,” Stubinger said.

But the chief’s job is very different than how he got started.

“As a chief, it’s your job to make sure everybody is safe,” Stubinger said.

It’s not a hands-on position, so he finds it difficult to stand still at some emergencies, he said. But the volunteers know what to do on a scene; that’s what all the training is for, he said.

When not responding to a call, every day as chief, Stubinger is doing something for the department, picking up or dropping off equipment, answering insurance company calls or finishing paperwork, Stubinger said.

“You don’t know what you’re going to do next,” he said.

He enjoys meeting with other fire chiefs and emergency responders in Cole County.

“It’s important to find out what other department are doing,” Stubinger said. “You may be working with them on an event in the future.”


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