Grand Lake Fire honors Mac Ruske
The town of Grand Lake is a tightly knit community with historic families whose local heraldry is marked on the buildings and businesses that fill the town.
Among modern Grand Lake’s foundational families are the Ruskes. Earlier this summer the Grand Lake Fire Protection District (GLFPD) installed and dedicated a bench at the town fire station in honor of Mac Ruske, family patriarch and one of the department’s formative members. Mac passed away in July 2014 but his memory and the spirit of service he dedicated much of his life to live on.
Mac Ruske lived a storied life in the Grand Lake area, performing construction on the Alva B. Adams Tunnel in his younger years before serving in WWII with the famed 10th Mountain Division ski troopers. He was among the concerned citizens who formed the Grand Lake Fire Protection District in the 1940s after a fire devastated his parent’s business.
“We are very honored to have my dad honored like this,” said Mac’s son Chris Ruske, who serves as Assistant Fire Chief with the department as well as the District Board’s Treasurer. “I would like to thank the department for honoring my family and my father with such a dedication. I’m very humbled. He (Mac) was very proud of where the District has come to from where it was.”
The degree to which the Grand Lake Fire Protection District has transformed from an ad hoc community volunteer organization into a professional fire department is exemplified in the story of Grand Lake Fire’s first fire engine. As the GLFPD was being formed a tourist from Iowa was visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. While crossing Trail Ridge Road the tourist became scared and abandoned his vehicle on the side of the highway.
The abandoned car was eventually claimed by the GLFPD. The top of the vehicle, an old Packard town car, was removed while hoses, pumps and a modified radiator were installed. Over the intervening years the GLFPD acquired a number of new, and more specialized, fire engines. The acquisition of the new equipment was funded, in part, by bond issues approved by Grand Lake area voters. Mac actively campaigned for the bond issues.
“We ended up going from a two bay station that we had to share with the library to having three stations and the apparatus, volunteers and training we have now,” Chris said. “He spent a lot of time coming to the firehouse with me. I know he was really proud of where it went to.”
The idea to erect a bench in honor of Mac came from one of the department’s firefighters, said GLFPD Chief Mike Long. The bench itself was donated to the department by the Town of Grand Lake and was revitalized by the GLFPD for the dedication.
The bench was prepared by GLFPD staff and volunteers and was presented to Assistant Chief Ruske and the Ruske family during a department training session earlier this summer. “It was a surprise to Chris,” Chief Long said. “We dedicated it during an evening training session where we had about 20 firefighters.”
Mac Ruske served with the GLFPD in one capacity or another for 53 years. He continued responding to emergency calls until the department’s insurance agency informed him he was simply too old to continue driving fire trucks. After retiring from official firefighting duties Mac stayed on with the department, serving on the GLFPD Board of Directors. During his many years of service with the department Mac performed duties as Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief and President of the Board of Directors.
Mac’s son Chris keeps the family tradition alive with his service to the department. While he has spent several decades with the GLFPD, over 30 years in total, he does not expect to surpass the 53 years his father dedicated to the Grand Lake community.
If you get a chance this summer stop by the Grand Lake Fire House for a moment to sit and remember Mac and the spirit of service his many years with the GLFPD exemplified.
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