In 1973, the Relief Association was
formed, enabling the Department to establish a retirement fund for the members.
This money comes from 2 percent of the insurance premiums in the area served, as
well as annual contributions from the City. In the beginning the men agreed to a
50 percent reduction in their wages, which by this time were set at $2 per hour,
so that the Department itself could also add money to this fund. At the present
time, whenever a member retires, he receives a certain amount of money for
each year of service, depending on how much money is in the fund at the time.
In September of 1974, the
Department celebrated its 25th Anniversary with an open house at the Fire Hall,
with all their equipment on display. Also on display at this event was the
original Model AA Ford truck, which had been sold in 1958. It was found by
member, Jim Vouk in the Village of Trommald, near Crosby, MN, and he was able to
acquire it and bring it back that month in time for the anniversary celebration.
Upon the death of the original Chief, Joe
Trobec, in October of 1974, his son, Ray Trobec was elected Chief, who remains
in this office to this day. Dick Silbernick was elected Assistant Chief.
In 1975, a John Bean 1,250-gallon
tanker on a Ford F750 chassis was purchased, giving the Department greater
water-handling capacity, Shortly thereafter, the 1947 Chevrolet 1100-gallon
tanker was sold at auction to Bill Vouk. It was about this time the Department
reached agreements with two area farmers, Jerome Kowitz of rural St. Stephen-St.
Joseph and Bernard Huls of rural St. Wendel granting access to their irrigation
wells for filling the tanker trucks. This proved to be a valuable asset in water
supply on several occasions.
Also, in 1975, the St. Stephen Department
because the first in Stearns County to install a pager system for calling the
members, making the siren method obsolete. The new base stations for this system
was donated by the family of the original Chief, Joe Trobec, in his memory. It
was installed in the office of Trobec's bar, replacing the Bus Service base station,
which was removed to the Bus Company Garage. Many times the bartenders or the
Chief's wife had to serve as dispatcher to activate the pagers.
In order to finance the purchase of the
pagers, each member contributed $100. This money was eventually returned to the
members many years later. Since 1989, the pagers are activated by the County
Sheriff's Department dispatcher on the 911 system.
In 1979, Roger Trobec, Gerald Ross
and Richard Silbernick became the first Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) on
the department, and with more intensive first-aid training, such as the
First-Responder course, for the rest of the members, the Department became a
qualified rescue squad. Today this Rescue Squad is recognized by the Sheriff's
Department and the Ambulance Company as one the best in the area.
1980, a new 1,000-gallon-per-minute pumper, on a Ford 800 chassis, was purchased
from General Fire Equipment, again increasing the efficiency and extinguishment
capability of the Department. At this time, the Military International pumper,
affectionately referred to as "The Binder", was retired and sold to a
fire equipment collector.