MAHOMET, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s not a full-time fire department, but dozens of men and women make up the Cornbelt Fire Protection District.
While the team largely consists of volunteers, it serves more than Mahomet.
“We have 55 people here on staff,” explained Chief John Koller. “We have quite a few volunteers. We’re very lucky in that aspect to have that many volunteers willing to do it in this community.”
Chief Koller says the department is pretty lucky, but also an anomaly.
Part of what makes the Cornbelt Fire Protection Dist. unique is having a dive and rescue team and a paramedic from Arrow Ambulance through Carle.
“Eighteen months ago, in February 2019, we decided to staff an ambulance out here,” Koller said. “So the paramedic is staffed by Arrow, the EMT is staffed by Cornbelt and we combined them together to get an ambulance out here. So, we’re the only fire-based ambulance in the county.”
Koller says being in a smaller community doesn’t make 911 calls any less serious.
“These are emergencies,” Koller said. “They’re true emergencies and time is of the essence.”
That mentality also applies to the dive and rescue team headed by Deputy Chief Mitch Rolson.
“We’ve got everything from recoveries to swift water rescues,” Roslson explained. “We’ve done quite a bit of evidence recovery for the police agencies, law enforcement agencies all across the county.”
Rolson leads a team of about 30 members, which started strictly as a dive team.
“No surface rescue, nothing like that,” he said. “We’ve done quite a bit of ice rescue training recently.”
Now, the team is trained in a variety of disciplines.
“The swift water is a whole different discipline, Rolson explained. “You don’t necessarily have to be a scuba diver to do the swift water stuff. We have two levels of training for that.”
Part of the reason the department is so versatile is because the expectations at Cornbelt aren’t different from any other firehouse. They average about 600 hours of training each month.
“It’s a lot of time commitment,” said Koller. “There’s a lot of training. I think people think the pager goes off, you show up, you get in the truck and go to a call, but there’s a whole lot that goes into it prior to getting into that truck.”