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 West St. Louis County has changed.
According to the district, there were only three firehouses five decades ago, and now there are five firehouses plus a separate headquarters office, and a separate maintenance/training center.
Monarch, which is based in Chesterfield, expanded over the years to also answer calls in Wildwood, Ballwin, Clarkson Valley, Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights and portions of St. Louis County—for a total of 62 square miles and more than 60,000 residents.
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 just four fire trucks—now there are 11 pieces of firefighting and lifesaving equipment, according to the district.
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 firefighter. Biele rose through the ranks over time to chief, he said.
He and his longtime wife, Ellen Biele, intend to travel in his retirement.
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 The three-person board voted to raise taxes last month, but rescinded it over resident outcry against it.