Own Your Disasters!

One thing that have always boggled my mind about North America is the prevalence of sense of ownership in local communities. My first few days in City of Middleton has reassured me with my general observation on community ownership. The roots might be in the strong local governance which forms the backbone of the USA – local communities having to fund their own city services has its own perks. I must say I am truly impressed by the local people, on how much they do for themselves.

Below you will see a picture of Hand Drawn Fire Wagon which was the first apparatus acquired by the Middleton Fire Department in the early 1900s. The Middleton Fire Department was then set up as a reactive response to Middleton’s The Great Fire of 1900 which burnt down almost all of downtown. During the fire, aid from Madison arrived late, as Madison firefighters had to hop on a train to get here. And, when they finally arrive, they had forgotten to bring hoses long enough to reach a big well beneath the distillery (See: http://middletonhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/MAHS-Great-Fire.pdf). It seems like this incident taught people of Middleton to stand on their own feet and to organize themselves well in that effort.

Today, almost a 120-years later, Middleton Fire Department places at top 3% of all fire departments in the country. It’s also home for a new technology – M-TAC 1 (Middleton Tactical 1) a full UHP attack pumper, which has given (1) a faster response time, (2) reduced water use, and (3) increased lifetime of traditional apparatus – which in turn reduces acquisition and maintenance cost. My respect to the Middleton community grew much more, when I learned that, there are only 6 full time staff working in the Middleton Fire Department. The rest – 120 firefighters and alike, who serves City of Middleton, Town of Middleton, and portions of the Towns of Springfield and Westport in Dane County Wisconsin (with a population of approximately 30,000 people) from three fire stations – are volunteers from the community. They are professionally-trained firefighters who do receive stipend to cover cost, but they are volunteering their service to the community essentially. (See: https://vimeo.com/161394499). It is to my utter disbelief, Middleton Fire Department proves that a volunteer run fire department can place at top 3% in the country.

During my visit to the Middleton Police Department, Captain Troy explained that they are raising funds to start a K-9 unit. The program’s one-time expenses such as a car, equipment and training comes with a price tag of $150-thousand. And, they are determined to raise the fund themself instead of using taxpayer’s money. Recently, there was an active shooting that took place here. As a gratitude towards the Police Department, one of the businesses here have donated US$ 25,000 for the K-9 unit.

Owh…before I forget, let me tell you about the Drones that are used by the Fire Department. All these drones were donated by the community.


I reckon just like the people of Middleton who took and still keep taking matters to their hands, people of all parts of the world need to find their own localized solutions which are funded by themselves, to solve their own issues. Everyone need to own our own disasters (including climate change induced ones) and build a stronger future from there on.






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