While Fire Chief Chip Biele counts down the weeks until his Dec. 31 retirement, a look back to 1964 when he began volunteering with Monarch Fire Protection District shows how much the Chesterfield area has changed.
Parenthetically, the department's name even changed from Chesterfield to Monarch in 2003, as the district's reach grew beyond the city's borders.
According to district experts, there were only three firehouses in the 1960s and now there are five firehouses plus a separate headquarters office, and a separate maintenance/training center—for a total of seven buildings.
Where now there are 125 firefighting staff, back in the day there were only 12!
By the time Biele was hired in 1967, there were only four fire trucks—now there are nearly three times as many, and they are specialized for firefighting, lifesaving, rescue, and more.
Firefighting crews in the 1960s carried a basic first aid kit (bandages, antiseptic, aspirin perhaps) whereas now highly-trained paramedics may save heart attack and stroke victims inside a state-of-the-art medical vehicle.
Biele is 63 years old, and a Ballwin resident. He told Patch earlier this year his father was Chesterfield firefighter, too. Biele rose through the ranks over time to chief, he said, but his father died without knowing his son made chief.
Biele and his longtime wife Ellen Biele intend to travel in his retirement, he said through district statements.
The fire department, based in Chesterfield, expanded over the years to also answer calls in Ballwin, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, Wildwood and portions of unincorporated St. Louis County—for a total of 62.5 square miles and more than 60,000 residents.
The Monarch fire district is run by a board of three elected residents who are now: Kim Evans, president; Robin Harris, treasurer; and Steven Swyers, secretary. It has a budget of some $17 million. The 3-person board voted to raise taxes last month, but rescinded it over resident outcry against it.
The three directors voted to use a search firm to find a new chief. We expect to hear soon about how that is going.
To contact call 314-514-0900 and visit www.monarchfpd.org