MAYER, Minn. (WCCO) — They’re a family of entrepreneurs, but their real passion is fighting fires. Together, one Mayer family is celebrating a century of service to their local fire department.
When your dad has been serving in the fire department for 42 years, it’s tough to say no.
It’s pretty incredible to have 100 of years of volunteering for one small town fire department.
The three boys all followed in their father’s footsteps, that’s because their father, Rod, is Mayer’s fire chief. By day Jon, the oldest, is a builder. Andy, the middle child, works for the family’s lumber business. The youngest of the three, Adam, is an electrician. Even mother Maetzold has played a pivotal role in the family’s success.
“Because it’s what dad did,” said Jon Maetzold, speaking about his reason for joining.
“I joined in 1994 just after I graduated high school,” said Andy Maetzold, who like all of his brothers is a captain for the Mayer Fire Department.
“I guess, I’m just carrying on the family tradition,” said Adam Maetzold, who has 15 years of service.
All three kids started volunteering as soon as they turned 18. At one point their family made up nearly a third of the small town fire department.
“The joke was the Maetzold Fire Department,” said their father, Rod, the town’s chief.
“When the pagers go off, it’s like stereophonic sound,” said Rod’s wife, Lois. The two were married before Rod joined the fire department. He couldn’t join until he was 21 years old.
“I think there was one time where we all had to leave a baptism,” said Adam, speaking of how many family gatherings the brothers have missed along with their dad.
When Andy and Jon first joined the fire department, they were still living at home.
“It was my job to turn on the light on so they wouldn’t hurt themselves going down the steps,” said Lois, the chief’s “top assistant,” as her husband calls his wife of over 40 years.
This century of commitment hasn’t come without grief. A few years ago Andy was dispatched to single car rollover.
“One of the most difficult calls I went on was when I was called to car accident in the evening,” said Andy. “It ended up being a friend of mine that I knew. I had seen him that night and it was probably one of the toughest accident scenes I have had to work.”
For the chief, Rod, it was a shed fire on a farm in 1977.
“We just about had it out so we could save their brand new tractor and then we ran out of water,” said the Mayer fire chief, trying to hold back his tears.
Milk trucks were his only way of getting more water, but when the truck arrived it was too late. The shed along with everything inside was destroyed. This was especially hard for Rod to describe, because the family who owned the farm was very poor and it was their only tractor. It’s why getting the best possible equipment for his staff of 29 is so vital.
“Seeing we could have saved this stuff and we lost it,” said Rod, crying so hard he couldn’t finish his sentence.
After spending a day with the Maetzold family, it’s easy to see that this vocation was never about the money, but about the love for their community and dedication to making a difference.
“When I miss a call I get really upset,” said Rod, who has been with the department for 42 years. “It’s important to me.”
Rod’s dad was also a fire fighter. As for volunteers within the department, when they’re in town they are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They wear pagers. If they get called, they get paid $9 an hour. They do get a pension if they serve for over 20 years.