The longtime chief of the Cary Fire Protection District who played an integral role in the adoption of the mutual aid system in Illinois, will be laid to rest this week.
Lester Macko joined the department in 1963 and served for 37 years before retiring in 2000. He became the department's first salaried fire chief in 1996, having spent more than 20 years as a volunteer. When Cary changed from a small farming town to a large suburban community in the 1980s, Macko oversaw many changes to keep up with the community, including the hiring of the first full-time personnel, the planning and addition of two new fire stations and the start of a fire prevention bureau, according to the fire district.
"He was a great friend and a very knowledgeable person who would pass along stories about firefighting and life in general," said Jim Kreher, deputy fire chief of the Fox River Grove Fire Department. "He would come down to our station every two weeks for coffee."
Kreher said in the mid-1970s Macko introduced the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, or MABAS, to the McHenry County area. The system provides a quick and standardized method of assistance for extra alarm fires and mass casualties.
"He always just did his job to the best of his ability," Kreher said.
Carpentersville Fire Chief John Schuldt said Macko was a fire chief who knew what was asked of the firefighters.
"He was a fireman's chief, not someone who was untouchable," Schuldt said. "He always made time for people and looked out for his people. He was very community oriented. Lester was the icon and well respected."
Macko's oldest son, Jeffrey, is now fire chief in Cary.
A wake will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Living Grace Community Church, 1500 Silver Lake Road, Cary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Living Grace.
Macko will be honored with a full fire department funeral service.