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A family legacy
Scott Blumer, and his father Wilbert Blumer and brother Ron, have spent more than 100 years firefighting between the three of them. Ron continues to volunteer for the Monticello Fire Department while working for the Madison Fire Department, and Scott works for the Monroe Fire Department and is an honorary member of the Monticello Fire Department. Wilbert has worked for the Monticello Fire Department since 1972. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONTICELLO - Growing up, brothers Ron and Scott Blumer witnessed the camaraderie between firefighters and the sacrifice of service firsthand.

"They're like a family to us," Scott said.

Their father Wilbert Blumer joined the Monticello Village Fire Department in 1972 after a neighbor asked if he wanted to help fill the ranks of an aging unit.

"He was on and he said they needed some young guys because the old guys wanted to retire, but they wouldn't leave until they had enough people to take care of the fire department," Wilbert said.

That day was the first in a number to come, answering pages during holidays or rushing off to a fire after working a full day. The volunteer firefighters at Monticello were only meant to fight flames then.

Two years later, state guidelines dictated the department have an emergency medical services unit. While the older gentlemen ready to leave the department decided against adapting, six younger, newer recruits trained.

"The older guys didn't want to do it," Wilbert said. "They didn't want to take care of the sick people or the injured people. Before that, if you went out on a car accident you called an implement dealer or a wrecker service to pull the doors off the car so you could get the people out."

Now, Ron said roughly 70 percent of the calls Monticello Fire responds to are medical or car accidents.

Commonplace among stations now, extraction equipment used to cut the doors or other metal portions of vehicles after accidents was not embraced by firefighters at the time. Wilbert said local farm implements were called to fill in the gap if needed. The tools were seen as worthless by his fellow firefighters.

"They said they didn't think it was worth spending $1,700 on something that you'd never use," Wilbert said, noting he was one of six for five years before younger volunteers came forward and eventually nurses joined the ranks as well.

Since Wilbert joined and spent 47 years fighting fires, his sons joined the ranks by beginning in Monticello. The trio has contributed a total of 105 years of firefighting service to Green County.

"It just meant when the tone went off you left home, and you got back home when you got back home," Wilbert said. "If it meant you was going to get back home in time to go to work in the morning, you went to work and hoped you didn't have another call that night."

As Wilbert continued to rush off to pages, his sons took note. Part of a community, Ron said he remembers the water fight events put on each summer within the village. Scott noted his readiness to hop on his bike every time the siren went off, flicking on a red light and pedaling to the station.

"If tones go off, my brothers and sisters are counting on me to support them and I'm going to be there no matter what's going on in my life," Scott said. "We're all one big family and I can count on any department in Green County to have my back and they can depend on me to have theirs."

Scott joined the fire department while still in high school, jumping on as soon as he was 18 in 1988. He spent 15 years on the Monticello department, becoming an honorary member for life. He now works with Monroe Fire Department as a motor pump operator. He joined Monroe in 2001.

Wilbert said he feels integrity within the community is important.

"They're your boss," Wilbert said. "You may think the chief is the boss, but the taxpayers are really your boss."

Ron said when he speaks with others in Monticello, Wilbert is mentioned every time.

"We would go wherever around the community and people would always say, 'oh, I remember when your dad...'" Ron said. "So many times, so many people would say, 'your dad would do this' or 'your dad did this.' No matter what he was doing, he would always come and show up and he would help people out."

Wilbert noted he has never been one to seek attention or spend a lot of time at community events, but Ron said his father is well-known because of the support he provides through his job. Ron, who works full-time with the Madison Fire Department and still volunteers in Monticello, where he began fighting fires 27 years ago, said he and Scott have carried that idea in their own service.

"Being a firefighter is basically you're there to serve the community," Ron said. "No matter what it is. When they are calling for help, our job is to respond and answer that call. It's any time of day, no matter what you're doing. I think, us growing up, no matter what we were doing, we knew if Dad's pager went off, we knew Dad's gone. You're always putting the community above your own needs."