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Tribal Fire Department History

1979- Tribal Fire Dept. was established. The dept. consisted of approx 10 volunteer personnel including the fire chief.

Tribes first fire engine was a 1979 Ford front mount pumper with a 750gpm (gallons per minute) pump. Fire dept was located on the corner of Broadway & Leaton Rds at the Tribal Ops building.

The dept averages about 10 runs a year at the time and covers only 2 square miles.

Late 80’s- Tribe purchases a water tanker consisting of a 2,000 gallon tank.

Mutual Aide agreements are signed with other fire departments in the county.

1993- Tribe receives new fire engine, a 1992 Spartan Quality with a 1,250 gpm pump.

1994- New Public Safety building opens across the street where the Tribal Fire, Tribal Police and Tribal Court are housed.

The fire department now houses 3 pieces of equipment.

1995 – The reservation celebrates the opening of its new gas station.

1996- The new Soaring Eagle Casino in now in operation, the reservation receives thousands of visitors a day.

1997- May- Due to the rapid growth of the reservation and the Soaring Eagle Casino, a Full time fire chief is hired. Fred Cantu Jr is hired to organize the growing Fire Dept.

1997-June- First full time crew of 3 is hired and reports to duty.

1997-August- All full time personnel are hired. Full time career staff now consists of 10 personnel including the fire chief. More volunteer staff is hired and consists of 20 personnel making the staff a total of 30 for the dept.

1997- September- Tribal Fire dept starts responding to medical emergency calls. The Fire dept buys its first AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) a Physio Control Lifepak 510.

All staff is required to be cross trained to a state certified Medical First Responder level.

The Fire dept receives its new medium duty rescue unit, a 1996 International/Michigan First Response.

The Fire dept purchases its first set of the Jaws of Life.

1998 June – The new 8 story, 520 room Soaring Eagle Hotel & Conference center opens which quickly becomes a favorite.

1998 Fall- Tribal fire dept receives new fire engine, an HME/Luverne with a 1,750gpm pump.

Tribe now houses 7 pieces of equipment including an 85 foot ariel ladder.

The Soaring Eagle Casino now has its 3,500 seat entertainment hall hosting monthly concerts.

1999- The department continues to grow. The dept. establishes the tech rescue team, haz-mat team, and the fire investigation team.

The dept now has a state certified fire inspector.

The Fire dept receives the new AED’s, Lifepak 500’s. The Fire dept now owns 5 AEDs through grants which are placed on the apparatus.

The Tribal fire dept now handles approximately 1,500+ runs a year.

Mutual Aide compacts are still in place, not only with Isabella county but as well as Clare, Midland, and Gratiot counties.

1999/2000 December/January – All departments for the Tribe including the Fire dept prepare for the Y2K by bringing in all available staff. No major problems occur as the New Year comes in.

2000 Spring- Training for personnel is expanded, personnel are sent to California, Indiana, Maryland as well as through out Michigan for national training.

Staff is urged to attend Fire Officer training.

2001- The reservation continues to grow, now having its own water treatment and waste water treatment plants. The reservation also has its own schools including elementary and middle schools along with the Tribal College.

The Soaring Eagle Casino, along with the Soaring Eagle Slot Palace and Soaring Eagle Hotel now see approximately 15,000+ patrons per day.

The Soaring Eagle Casinos 3,500 seat entertainment hall now hosts weekly concerts.

2 additional personnel are hired to the career staff making the roster to 12 career, 20 part-paid (volunteer), and 1 civilian.

2001 to Present – The Fire dept attends numerous public relations events and continues to teach fire prevention to the schools as well as to the community.

2001 - The fire dept purchases the fire extinguisher training trailer. The trailer consists of training scenarios with the use of propane to train tribal employees on how to use fire extinguishers in an emergency.

2004 Fall – Tribal Fire Chief Cantu takes a leave of absence as he is elected into the Tribal Council. FF Patrick Nahgahgwon is hired as the Interim Fire Chief.

2005 Summer – The Fire dept receives its new water tanker (tender), a 2005 Peterbilt chassis with a refurbished 2,100 gallon tank. Finishing price; $68,000.

The reservation experiences rapid growth in housing with the addition of 2 subdivisions, adding about 200 more single family homes.

Spring – The Soaring Eagle Casino introduces its summer concert series with its 11,000+seat outdoor concert arena. The fire dept brings in neighboring fire dept’s to help with the extra crowds attending the events. The fire dept worked closely with Tribal police and other numerous departments and established a unified command for the concerts. The concerts last through mid September.

Fall – The fire depts management team, made up of the 3 fire sergeants and the fire chief, starts to spec out a new fire truck and accepts bids from manufactures.

Tribal Council approves the purchase of a new engine for the fire dept. The purchase price; $350,000. Expected delivery is sometime in spring of 2007.

Spring – The fire depts new truck is pushed back to the fall for delivery due to the high volume of production by the manufacture.

September – The Fire dept finally receives its new piece of apparatus. A 2006 Spartan/Rosenbaurer pumper with a 1,750gpm pump.

The tribe sells its 1992 Spartan/Quality pumper to a rural fire department in Isabella County, Fremont Twp, for the price of $25,000.

The Tribe opens its $15 million senior center facility.
Fall -Tribal Fire hosts its 2nd annual Vehicle Extrication School, put on by Rescue Resources LCC.

Tribal Fire is awarded an AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grant) grant for the amount of $68,035 for the purchase of new radios for the personnel and for all the fire dept vehicles.
July - The Tribe purchases the Holiday Inn, Green Suites hotel and the Holiday Greens golf course near Mt. Pleasant and renames the Holiday Inn to the Soaring Eagle Inn.
The Tribe opens is first strip mall for the reservation.
November - The Tribe reveals plans for its new indoor water park & hotel to replace the current Soaring Eagle Inn complex. (Former Holiday Inn)

Tribal Fire Dept is awarded an AFG (Assistance to Firefighters Grant) grant for the amount of $66,519 for the purchase of new turn out gear. All personnel received a new set from helmet to boots.
Winter  -The Tribe closes the Soaring Eagle Inn to prepare for the Water park/Hotel complex. Due to asbestos levels detected, the property is idled for months.

Summer -The Soaring Eagle Casino summer outdoor concert series returns. Multiple fire and police depts help Tribal Fire & Police with the extra crowds of 11,000 people. A Unified Incident Command is used. The concerts continue through mid September.

Fall -Bierlein Construction is hired by the Tribe to start asbestos clean up on the old Soaring Eagle Inn.
The old Soaring Eagle Inn is demolished by Bierlein Construction. Most of the materials to be recycled.
Tribe breaks ground on the new water park.
Tribal Fire hosts is 3rd annual Vehicle Extrication School, put on by Rescue Resources LCC.
Tribal Fire receives a new ATV (All Terrain Vehicle). This mini rescue unit, built on a Polaris Ranger 6x6 chassis by A.S.A.P. company out of Ohio, was built for “off road” rescues. The back of this rescue has a stretcher enclosed by a cab with privacy and climate control for the warm and cold seasons. It has become valuable for the multiple “2 tracks” on the reservation. It is also used for the outdoor concerts and the annual pow-wow, where thousands of patrons are present. This vehicle is able to get to a situation faster than a regular rescue vehicle and/or ambulance may not be able to reach. Total costs for this Demo unit was $49,000 which was paid for by a grant from Tribal Housing dept and Tribal Council.

Fred Cantu Jr returns as Fire Chief for the Tribal Fire dept.

Spring -Horizon Construction Co is hired by the Tribe. Construction begins on the new water park and hotel. Tribal fire along with Mt. Pleasant Fire dept and Union twp, monitors site construction with continues inspections.
Plans revealed for a full service RV park.
The Tribe breaks ground and construction begins on the Saganing reservation in Arenac County for its new waste water and water treatment plant.
June -Soaring Eagle Summer concert series returns with capacity expanded to 12,000 patrons. A Unified Incident Command once again proves successful, most of the outdoor concerts are at full capacity.
Fall -Construction begins on the new RV park, to be located behind the water park off of Airport Rd.
Tribal Fire hosts its 4th annual Vehicle Extrication School, put on by Rescue Resources LCC.
October -Tribal Fire receives 2 new vehicles. Rescue 2; A 2012 Ford crew cab utility truck, and Command 1; A 2012 Chevy Tahoe. Both vehicles are part of the Tribes lease fleet, which automatically replaces each vehicle every 5 years.

Spring -The new waste water and water treatment plant goes into service on the Saganing reservation in Arenac County. The infinstructure is now in place for further growth/expansion.
May -The Soaring Eagle Water park & Hotel opens to the public with 245 rooms.
June -The Soaring Eagle Summer concert series returns. With 12,000 patron capacity  concert area, most concerts sell out. A Unified Incident command remains.
The Soaring Eagle Hideway RV park opens with 67 sites with full hook up.
August -The Tribal Fire dept receives an 11ft rigid inflatable boat, for the cost of $3,886, paid for by a grant. The boat will be used for training and rescues on the ponds around the casino and for Grewes lakes, which are located behind the water park complex and next to the RV park.
Fall -Tribal Fire hosts its 5th annual Vehicle Extrication School, put on by Rescue Resources LCC. The class fills 2 months prior, turning away approximately 85 firefighters. This was the most successful to date.
Tribal fire dept, along with Shepherd fire dept, work on a dual dispatch agreement to respond together in Chippewa Twp which surrounds the reservation.


February -Tribal council announces expansion plans for the our Saganing reservation near Standish, in Arenac county. A casino expansion is planned along with a 126 room hotel. Construction is to begin Spring of 2013, with a hopeful completion of late 2014. Tribal Fire will monitor/oversee construction in it’s entirety.

Outdoor concerts are announced for summer 2013 with preplanning meetings already started.

March -Tribal Fire & Shepherd Fire now dual dispatch into Chippewa twp in Isabella County, gaining another 19 square miles for Tribal Fire.

Tribal Fire sponsors “Reading Smoke & Single Family Dwelling Tactics” class, taught by Kevin Shelmeyer of Rescue Recourses LCC and Battalion Chief for Grand Rapids FD.