Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 2, 2000

Fifty years of fighting fires comes to an end in Winsted

By Lynda Jensen

All good things must come to an end, and so it goes with the careers of three dedicated firefighters on the Winsted Fire Department.

Darril Telecky, Kelli Kulseth and Brian Wolford retired from the department after serving for 20 years each from Telecky and Wolford and 10 years of service given by Kulseth.

All shared common memories and thoughts about the department over the years.

Telecky can remember times when he tried to keep pigs or cows from running back into burning barns, which is a common reaction of animals in the midst of fire.

One time he remembers four firefighters trying to drag out a 350 pound sow that wouldn't get out of a burning structure. Finally, someone put a bucket over its head and it could be pushed out backwards, he said. Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer described the sight, saying he remembers a stream of little pigs running out of the barn with their ears on fire, trying to run back inside.

Another time, Telecky remembers hoisting about 10 calves out of a barn - each weighing a goodly amount - only to have them run directly back into the barn on fire.

More than this, the trio will remember the support and teamwork of the department itself.

"We're a small group," Wolford commented. "Our lives depended on each other."

The need for back-up was ever-present and essential to fighting fires, especially when firefighters get caught up in the task at hand, Telecky said. He remembers working . . . hoping that someone was behind him to give him back up.

"I can't ever remember turning around and no one being there," he said.

More than friendship, the teamwork needed to fight fires requires complete trust in each other and dependability.

House fires, in general, are less prevalent, Wolford said. He attributed this mainly to smoke alarms.

There also was a time in the early 1980s that chimney fires were a chronic problem because burning wood was popular at the time, Telecky said.

Unfortunately, some people would burn wood without knowing how to do it properly, resulting in numerous house fires early in the morning hours with a 40 below windchill.

"When you're the most tired, your pager goes off," Kulseth laughed.

There were as many as 30 grass fires over a few months' time in the spring one year, Herbolsheimer said.

Overall, the experience working on the fire department was very positive, serving the community with a great group of people, they said.

"I will miss the medical calls," Kulseth said. The feeling of being the first person to help one-on-one in an emergency is special to her, she said. Kulseth leaves the department with the distinction of being the first woman on the department when she joined in 1990.

"We're proud of this fire department," Telecky said. He pointed to the fast response time by the department, due in part because so many work in close proximity to the fire hall.

He also pointed toward the new fire hall as an accomplishment of the department. "It all turned out in my time," he said.

The department has a waiting list for members. One position is currently open, with interviews being conducted right now, Herbolsheimer said. There are 29 members right now.

Kulseth and the others also underlined the partnership with the Winsted Police Department and the ambulance service, as well as townships that contribute assistance to the department.

"We're fortunate to have EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and First Responders to respond," Telecky said.

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