Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 30, 2001

Winsted Fire Dept. honors retirees

By Patrice Waldron

Winsted Volunteer Fire Department hosted its annual appreciation banquet April 21.

The banquet is a time to recognize those who have retired from the department during the year, and to honor members for their achievements and dedication.

The event took place at the American Legion hall, with fire department members, spouses, retired firefighters, widows, and guests in attendance.

Fire Chief Paul Herbolsheimer opened the program with a moment of silence to remember firefighters who had paid the ultimate price, and died in service. Recitation of the fireman's prayer followed.

The first firefighters recognized were the those newest to the department, John Hirsch, Mike Kutz, and Eugene Stifter. Their probationary status will be in effect for one year.

Chad Stender and Brad Millerbernd were recognized for being voted in as full-fledged firefighters, having survived their year of probation.

Second Assistant Chief Scott Zubrod provided years of service pins to:

- Tim Kosek, five years;

- Gary Rathmanner, 15 years;

- Mike Laxen, 20 years; and

- Doug Telecky, 30 years.

Also taking part in the program were First Assistant Chief Jerry Koch and Captains Brad Bush and Chad Stender.

Special training

Firefighters who have undergone extra training during the last year include:

- Chad Engel and Millerbernd have re-certified as emergency medical technicians.

- Engel and Zubrod have completed the requirements for Basic Firefighting, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1403.

Those working toward the completion of the NFPA 1403 requirements are Lee Hoff, Tim Purcell, Stender, Hirsch, and Stifter.

The members who attended the Minnesota State Fire School in Duluth were Dave Gailey, Ken Fitchwell, Purcell, Millerbernd, Herbolsheimer, Hirsch, Mike Kutz, and Stifter.

Year in review

The Winsted Fire Department had a busy year, with the initiation of some new programs.

· A dry fire hydrant was installed in Lake Mary last spring, which greatly added to the fire protection offered to those residents. Rathmanner was commended for serving as chairman of the project.

· An adopt-a-hydrant program has been started in Winsted, where residents take care of a fire hydrant, including keeping it free from obstruction.

· An advisory board has been created, with a change in by-laws. Those serving on the board are firefighters who have retired from the department.

· Larry Biske chaired a committee responsible for the purchase of a new tanker, which should be delivered around the first part of August.

· A water ball court has been erected behind the fire hall. The department will seek guidance from the advisory board in this matter. The court is used to train firefighters on fire hose control, and directing the water to most effectively fight a fire.


The fire department had six members retire during the past year.

Together, those members provided more than 126 years of service. They are:

· Ron Jorgenson, retired Nov. 6.

· Todd Kieser, retired Dec. 18.

· Bob Bayerl, retired Feb. 5.

· Doug Telecky, retired April 2.

· Larry Biske, retired April 2.

· Bill Norman, retired April 16.

The retirees received plaques and gifts.

Guest speaker

Guest speaker Mike Monge, fire chief in Faribault, gave an engaging presentation on the value of fire safety, and gave a strong reminder to the firefighters that the best way to fight fire is to prevent it.

"There is no honor in fighting a fire that could've been prevented," said Monge.

Monge spoke from personal experience, stating how his view of fire has changed over the years.

In the late 1960s, Monge's early volunteer firefighting days, he used to feel that the fire wouldn't be put out unless he was there.

"All fires eventually go out - some take longer, some take shorter," he said.

As a fire chief, more than 30 years later, "I hate fire," he explained.

"The biggest fear as a fire chief, is having to go to someone's wife and tell them, 'he was incredibly brave, but your husband died today,'" said Monge.

The wives and friends of the firefighters were praised for their support of the volunteer fire department member in their lives.

In Monge's department, he has nine full-time firefighters, but he explained that the only difference between his department and the volunteer department, is that he has nine full-time people to train the public in fire safety.

He used the movie "Backdraft" to demonstrate how unrealistically fires are portrayed to the public, and how desensitized the general public is to fire.

Fire scenes are shown in many action scenes on television and in the movies, but the public rarely grasps the intensity of heat or the dangers involved whenever there is a fire.

The movie "Backdraft" although entertaining, is unrealistic in that there is not any smoke, or intense heat, and members of the fire service are shown doing heroic acts that are impossible.

Smoke kills. Working smoke detectors, will, in almost all cases, be the thing that saves lives, should a fire start at night while everyone is asleep.

A video depicting the power of fire was also shown. A fire, started by a still-lit cigarette being put in a garbage can, demonstrated some startling fire facts:

· Within three minutes of the first flame, there were flames three feet in the air, and the temperature had climbed to more than 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

· The temperature quickly climbed to greater 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, yet there was no evidence of the fire from the outside.

· Two minutes after the smoke detector at the bottom of stairs sounded, the stairs were engulfed in flames, and impassible.

· Within five minutes, (which would be an excellent response time from a volunteer department), the house was engulfed in flames.

"If not for working smoke detectors, we can't save you. You can only save yourself," said Monge.

"People need to know it's not anybody's fault. It's a cold, hard fact," said Monge.

The fire department will respond to the fire, and do its best to fight it.

"Fire prevention, that's what saves lives," concluded Monge.


A special exhibit was set up on a computer, highlighting activities of the department during the past year.

The program, according to Herbolsheimer, took hundreds of hours to create.

There were digital photos of the installation of the dry hydrant, retirement events at the fire station, the deer rescue off the ice on Winsted Lake, and photos of some of the fire trucks.

There were photos of the firefighters in action fighting a house fire, and there were shots of some of the damage caused by heat, such as a melted thermostat and television set.

"The Winsted Volunteer Fire Department is dedicated to providing the very best fire protection and emergency medical services to the citizens of Winsted and surrounding townships," said Herbolsheimer.

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