Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 28, 2003

Former residents loves her 'other' job

By Julie Yurek
Staff Writer

Renda Baird, formerly of Winsted, has 28 new brothers and one new sister.

She's not related to them by blood, but instead through commitment and dedication to serving the City of Watertown and its surrounding area.

She is a Winsted native and a graduate of Lester Prairie High School.

Baird lives in Watertown and is a member of the Watertown Fire Department. She has been a member for almost two years.

She serves with 28 males members and one other female.

"The department is taking applications for a couple new recruits," she said. "But be ready, it's a big commitment."

firefighters are a close-knit community, Baird said. "The dedication it takes is unbelievable."

Three to four nights a week many members can be found at the station or doing various activities for the department.

Each member brings their own special talent to the team, ranging from mechanics, carpentry, business, organizers, and planners. She said. "Fire and rescue is just part of the deal."

There is one member, Marv Salonek, who has been on the department for more than 44 years, she said. He makes all kinds of gadgets to help make jobs easier, such as hose rollers and nifty storage areas, she said.

Baird loves to connect with patients and their families. "When out on calls, it's just as important to connect with family members as the patients. It's a frightening thing to have to call 911, but our team shows up to help them. The trainings, the hours, the sweat, for one moment all become worth it."

Baird never expected to become a fire fighter, "it just seemed like a good way to serve the community," she said.

After high school graduation, Baird "left town" looking for bigger adventures, she said.

"My great-great-great grandfather was one of the first settlers in Winsted. He probably had big visions for these small towns. I think he'd be pretty proud." Her parents are Jim and Ruth Baird, and she has five sisters and one brother.

Since high school, Baird has traveled all over the country, working different jobs, ranging from traveling with a carnival, selling wildlife art door-to-door and working for The Nashville Network (TNN), where she met and worked with such stars as Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, and Tim McGraw.

Eventually, Baird returned to Minnesota and worked in marketing and advertising, selling radio advertising for ABC Disney in Minneapolis.

Even with all the excitement of her travels and career, Baird still felt there was something missing.

She returned to "small town living" in Watertown, where she's recently started her own business, Attention! Marketing, and wanted to find a way to give back to the community.

"Serving on the fire department is just one of the ways people can give back. Many people serve in different ways by donating time, talent, and money to our churches and schools or city councils. This is just my way of serving."

Baird decided to take emergency medical training (EMT) two years ago through Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia. She noticed the majority of the people in the class were firefighters. She talked with them and decided to "check into it."

Baird is literally surrounded by firefighters. The chief is her neighbor, as well as another captain, she said.

"Being a volunteer fire fighter is more like a part-time, full-time job."

Her training included 110 hours of EMT training and 110 hours of FireFighter I. Baird also decided to take 40 hour FireFighter II course and was recently certified with 60 + hours of hazardous materials operations level training. "Since Sept. 11 many fire departments are spending more time on hazardous materials level training," she said.

Dedication and commitment

"Firefighters are known for re-arranging their weekend plans or buying homes closer to the stations in case duty calls," she said.

Every Monday night the department has meetings, which include business meetings, work nights, and special trainings.

The department responds to about 300 calls per year, day or night.

After every call, members wash and dry rigs to a shine, the firefighters and their families do repair work, cleaning, fund raising, and other necessary tasks. Putting out fires is not even their number one job. "Fire prevention and education is our number one job!" Baird said.

Teaching and inspiring children is Baird's favorite part of the job, she said. "If I can show even one little girl that she can become a fire fighter too, or inspire one little boy to try something scary, then that's what I'm here for!" she said.

125 years of service

The Watertown Fire Department celebrates 125 years of service this year. To commemorate the event the fire department is hosting a celebration Saturday, Sept. 13, 2003.

Activities include a fire truck anniversary parade at 1 p.m., a Henny Penny chicken dinner from 4 to 7 p.m., and a free public dance from 8 p.m. to midnight with music by the Basement Band.

Additional activities that will take place include spray houses for children, safety houses, car extrication demonstration, fire fighter competition, North Memorial Life Flight helicopter, a silent auction, a historical display, hourly drawings, a magician, a 4x4 raffle, and fireworks round out the day's celebration at 10:30 p.m.

For more information, check out the Watertown Chamber of Commerce web sight at www.watertown-chamber.com.

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