The Sable Flames, an organization of the Madison Fire Department’s African-American fire fighters, will host their annual Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit Dance on Saturday, March 19, at the Edgewater Hotel. Hundreds of community members will come out to support scholarships to help individuals fulfill their education dreams and goals.

In an event that has been long organized by firefighters Johnny Winston Jr. and Mahlon Mitchell, this is Lt. Steve Redmond fourth year organizing the Second Alarm Benefit. “It gets a little easier every year,” Redmond tells Madison365. “People can expect a lot of things from past years including dancing, food, fun, music. A lot of people who are on duty will come on in and stop by. There will be a lot of great community people and a lot of firefighters and people that come from out of town – a lot of our Milwaukee brothers. It’s a good mix of people.

The Sable Flames are the African American firefighters of the City of Madison Fire Department, and this “firefighters’ ball” — one of the great social activities in Madison — features drinks, dancing, door prizes, hor d’oeuvres, and the music of DJ Muhammed.

Lt. Steve Redmond
Lt. Steve Redmond

“Every year, we have a 50/50 raffle at the event and half goes to the winner and half goes to the Jones-Robinson Scholarship fund,” Redmond says. “All of the money that this dance brings in goes directly to the scholarship. We take dues out of checks as firefighters that help pay for the dance and flowers and miscellaneous, so when people pay for the raffle, it all goes to the scholarship winners – 100 percent.”

The Sables have developed two scholarships to help individuals fulfill their educational dreams and goals. The Jones-Robinson Scholarship has been awarded to minority persons who are from single-family households or are living in low-income neighborhoods. The Sable Flames also have an Arthur Dinkins III/MATC Fire Education Scholarship that has been developed to financially assist persons who would like to take classes at MATC to enter the firefighting or emergency medical technician (EMT) fields.

Redmond has been a firefighter in Madison for 15 years now and he says it’s an occupation that he loves. “For me, it’s just the fact that it’s something new every day,” Redmond says. “You come to work and you just don’t get stuck in a lull. You always have to be on your toes because you never know what you’re going to be challenged with. That’s what I like about it. You have to constantly be in shape both mentally and physically because you never know what you’re going to see or get involved with day to day.”

Redmond also love the family that firefighters become. “We eat two meals a day at the table together. We hang out together. When somebody has a gathering at their house, we all come,” Redmond says. “There’s so many different functions and so many things – it’s just a huge camaraderie. We take care of each other and we rally around each other. It’s like a second family.”

Redmond says he appreciates efforts the Madison Fire Department has made to diversify over his 15 years to be more representative of Madison.

Sable Flame Steve Edmond with Sam Garwo (left) and Norman Ehirobo (right) at a previous Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit Dance.
Sable Flame Steve Edmond with Sam Garwo (left) and Norman Ehirobo (right) at a previous Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit Dance.

“Since I’ve been here, African-American firefighters have grown and female firefighters have grown … I think we have doubled or tripled our Asian and Latino demographics, too” he says. “We definitely have gotten more diverse. Especially for a city as small as Madison. Our diversity shows a lot better than bigger cities and even bigger departments. I think we’ve very fortunate with that.”

Edmond says they still have tickets available for the annual Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit Dance.

“This dance really keeps the legacy of those kids who died in that fire alive. It gives us an opportunity to have a diverse group of people – firefighters, police officers, administration from fire and police, city leaders, community people – get together to dance, eat, drink and have a good time.

“It’s a nice event. A good reason to get some new clothes and your hair done,” he adds. “It’s fun and great networking … good music in a safe and positive environment. And we party all night.”