For the past 50 years when people in the Sparta Fire Protection district call for help, a familiar face has arrived.
Growing up at his father's auto shop, Mike Arnold remembers at 10-years-old the siren sounding from the fire house just across the street.
"I knew there was a fire," Mike said. "So I would run over and raise the doors for the guys. They very much appreciated it."
Just four years later, Mike became an official member of what was then called Erv's Rural Fire Department. His wife, Monica, says she's never known Mike without being ready to respond to a call.
"I didn't think it would be so involved that it would be your whole life, but it really is," she explained.
It even made an impact on their wedding day.
"We went to a car fire on the day we were married," Monica chuckled. "It was between the wedding and the reception."
Mike filled nearly every roll at the department, from lieutenant to captain, assistant chief and chief in 1990.
"I guess it's in my blood," He said. "I think it's in my DNA and genes."
That could be true as his grandfather served on the department and now his sons. A lot's changed in the field since his beginning in 1968.
"When I got on the department, there was no training," Mike explained. "You learned on the job. So the apparatus is so much better, the training is so much better."
Monica says she's used to the calls coming it, but the concern doesn't go away.
"You worry what goes on while they're there.," she explained. "You don't know what's happening."
However, Mike doesn't plan on stopping soon.
"I would like to do it for another possibly five to maybe 10 years," He described. "Then I'll hand the torch off to whoever that person may be at that time."
Arnold feels the consolidation of the rural and city fire departments is the biggest milestone in his career. There's always a need for volunteers, if you live in the Sparta area and would like to be a firefighter, you can call the department at 608-269-5493 to begin the application process.