Aug. 21, 2006

Winsted Fire Dept. paying its own way

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

While the majority of the town of Winsted slept on a recent Sunday morning, the Winsted Fire Department was busy getting ready for its annual pancake breakfast that is part of the Winsted Summer Festival.

The firefighters, a volunteer group, are a prideful bunch that make it part of their job to pay their own way by raising funds throughout the year to cover their expenses.

“We try to keep taxes down,” Brad Bush, Winsted firefighter, said.

“The Winsted Fire Department Relief Association currently donates $25,000 from charitable gambling proceeds annually to reduce the overall department budget,” stated Paul Herbolsheimer, Winsted firefighter.

“The Fire Department Relief Association operates pull tabs at Keg’s Bar, the American Legion, Bailey’s, and the Uptown Bar in Waverly,” Ken Fitchwell, Winsted fire chief, said.

The end result of all this benefits the City of Winsted because the fire department is basically paying its own expenses.

One major expense is maintaining the fire hall, used by many others as a place for meetings and storage, in addition to storing the fire department trucks and equipment.

Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, township meetings and city elections take place at the hall.

“The fire hall is also used to store equipment for the city and county. Presently, they have a speed sign used by the city, a generator to be used in case there is a power outage, and a light trailer that is owned by the county that is for mutual aid and used if there is an accident and more lighting is needed,” Tim Purcell, Winsted firefighter, said.

“The fire hall is also used by Ridgeview ambulance, with a place for ambulance personnel to stay if they are from out of town,” Mike Thonvold, Winsted firefighter said.

“Any money that was raised over the annual payment to the city goes to pay for repairs on the trucks, equipment, uniforms, and other expenses,” Thonvold said.

Last year, from pull tab funds, an additional $11,500 (above the $25,000 paid to the city) will be used to pay for the painting of the department’s ladder truck.

The yellow ladder truck was originally purchased from the City of Hutchinson for $100.

“Hutchinson offered the truck to the City of Winsted in an effort to enhance county-wide fire protection. The ladder is available under mutual aid to other area departments, along with ladders maintained in Hutchinson and Glencoe,” Bush said.

“The truck has a 100-foot ladder, and pumps 1,250 gallons of water per minute. It runs great; we have it tested and certified by Diversified Inspections annually,” Bush said.

To replace the truck with a new ladder truck would cost the department at least $1 million, according to Fitchwell.

The fire department formed a committee that agreed to paint the ladder truck red to match the other Winsted fire trucks.

“We thought all of the vehicles should match. It is a pride thing,” Fitchwell said.

Some of the things that have been purchased with the money they have raised are the three grills used for the pancake breakfast.

“We used to have to get the grills from other places, like Holy Trinity School, the night before the pancake breakfast, and then return them the next day. It was a lot of running around,” Purcell said. “Now, we have them stored right here, when we need them.”

“We have also purchased our uniforms, and use money for the annual banquet and memorials,” Thonvold said.

Besides pull tabs and the pancake breakfast, the department also makes money through an annual spaghetti dinner during Winstock, and by recycling pop cans.

“We really appreciate the people supporting us. We had 650 people attend the pancake breakfast, even with the bad weather,” Fitchwell said.

The fire department has a wish list for future items that it will try to fund or are willing to accept from a generous donor.

“Tables and chairs that could be used for the department for fundraisers, refrigerator, washer, dryer, stove, sink, and summer uniforms are on the list,” Purcell said.

If you are interested in joining the fire department, and live within eight minutes of the fire hall, contact Fitchwell at (320) 485-4625.

“We would like to have a roster of 30 firefighters in the department; currently, there are only 25. Mike Laxen has been here the longest, with 25 years of service. Rose Heimerl is the newest member, and she has been here since March,” Fitchwell said.

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