ATWOOD — The year was 1964. A barn fire at Don Goon’s farm found Mike Harmon there helping the Atwood Fire Department. Afterward Fire Chief Al Rovenstine invited Harman to a fire meeting. The department needed young help.
Harmon joined the department in December 1964. That was the beginning of what will soon be a 53-year dedication of service to the community and a family tradition.
Not only is Harmon serving on the department, so is his daughter, son-in-law, stepson, grandson and two stepgrandsons. “I must have done something right,” he joked.
But it doesn’t just end with Harmon serving on the department. For the past 37-38 years he has served as fire chief. “I said I’d serve one more year, then turn it over to someone else,” Harmon said about continuing beyond 2017. Prior to being chief he served as captain for a few years and was assistant chief for six months before filling out the term of Dave Moyer. The rest is history.
“I got started and liked it,” he said noting the department is made up of a “good bunch of guys (and gals).”
He has continued his volunteer service to the community, because he enjoys helping people. He credits his wife, Kathy, for doing all the work. The department is a major part of the community, helping those in need.
Harmon has seen the department change over the years, not only in manpower, but also in equipment and types of calls received. He remembers when he started the firefighters wore black rubber coats and helmets. But there was only one pair of size 12 boots and two guys who needed that size. It was a race between him and another firefighter to arrive at the station first to get that pair.
“We have a lot better equipment now than we had,” Harmon said, noting the trustee has been good about seeing the department gets what it needs. “Atwood has the best fire equipment,” his wife stated, with Harmon agreeing. The community support of the department is just as good.
The fire calls have even changed. Harmon said there used to be one or two fire calls a week. “Now we go a month at a time without a fire call. But we may have 10 wrecks,” he said. The ratio is about one fire call for every 10 accident responses. Back when he started, there were a large number of farmers raising cattle or hogs and using heat lamps, so most of their calls were barn fires.
When he does step down as chief he plans on continuing with the department. “I’ll still be on the department and do whatever I can to help them out. But it’s time turn it over.”
Outside of the department Harmon has been driving dump truck for G&G Hauling, a job he has had for 18 years.
He grew up just a mile from where he lives and his children (and stepchildren) all reside nearby.
He has an interest in International tractors including the Super M he restored and a 1925 Model T ton truck. He’s often traveling around the country to antique tractor and truck shows.
Harmon and Kathy have five children between them, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.