Howard Lake Herald, December 7, 1998

HL firemen give tour of station to city council

By ANDREA VARGO

Inovation and creativity were obvious at the fire station tour for city council members, both old and newly elected.

Council members were treated to a look at the fire department's equipment, protective clothing, and ambulance.

A rig to put out brush fires was designed by members of the Howard Lake volunteer fire department and can handle a fair sized fire with a couple hundred gallons of water.

This truck was purchased from the Department of Natural resources for $1 and refurbished by volunteers to fight grass and brush fires.

Other fire departments have copied this design that creates a fine mist under high pressure.

The department has been equally creative with its financing.

Instead of asking for a lot of money at one time from the city or bonding for a new pumper truck, the organization has a savings program set up for capital equipment outlay that spreads the costs over several years.

They have the money invested, and by the time each piece of equipment needs to be updated, the money should be available to do that, said Fire Chief Joe Drusch.

The firemen run their department much like their own household finances. They not only save for big purchases, they shop for values.

For example, the pumper truck is a powerful, state-of-the art machine. But the department made a substantial savings by not getting some of the extraneous whistles and bells.

"We don't look as nice in a parade as some of the other fire departments," commented Drusch, "but we can put out the same fire just as well."

The fire fighters do a lot of their own work around the station to help save money, and many items in the fire station are donated from civic organizations.

Ambulance calls run from $300-$500, said volunteer firefighter Steve Berg, depending on the miles traveled and the equipment used.

Their ambulance service is practically self-supporting, said Drusch.

Most fire departments make many more medical runs than fire or rescue runs, he said.

Last year, the Howard Lake Fire Department made approximately 300 ambulance runs, compared to 25-30 fire alarms, according to records.

Berg said the department hasn't had a major fire in over a year.

Training for the volunteers is rigorous and requires 75 hours of initial training.

In addition to that training, there are a monthly refreshers, conferences, and field training, fighting an actual fire under controlled conditions.

Most of the fire fighters are also trained as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).

This means another 110 hours of training, plus clinic and ambulance time.

An EMT must participate in on-going training throughout the year and be recertified every two years, said Councilman-elect and new volunteer fire fighter John Swanson.

All the volunteers are employed in other jobs, some in the city and some farther away, so there are about eight volunteers able to respond to a call on any given day, said Drusch.

Many of the others are close enough to be here in a half hour or so, and they are in contact with two-way radios.

The retired fire fighters always show up to help, said Councilman Shelly Reddemann.

They direct traffic and do other things, although they no longer go into a fire, he said.

The city has a mutual aid agreement with other cities and there is no charge to call for help from another department.

The fire department is also called out in emergency situations, such as the July storms last year.

They guarded downed power lines, alerted citezens all over town, opened the school for the mobil home park residents to use for shelter, and alerted the nursing home.

Why do they do this? No one had a ready answer.

"Maybe for the excitement," said Drusch. "I never think I won't come back from a fire, (but the danger is always there)."

Said Councilman and fireman Tom Kutz, "It is a chance to give back to the community."


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