Feb. 26, 2007

Delano Fire Department

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

The Delano Fire Department has been a stable force in Delano since the late 1800s, and it is showing no signs of slowing down in 2007 or beyond.

The department has been in Delano for more than 100 years. Although the exact date of its creation is unknown, records show that there were two departments in the city.

The official creation of the department happened in 1896, when the Delano Village Council decided it needed to organize an official fire department.

Later in the year, the council met again to reorganize the department and select officers. The Delano Fire Department was born.

From there, the department steadily took steps to improve.

In 1908, it joined the State Association of Firemen; in 1932, the department sold shares to various farms to buy a new fire truck to provide coverage for the surrounding rural areas of Delano; and in 1939, it joined the Firemen Relief Association.

Now, in 2007, the Delano Fire Department consists of 28 volunteer firefighters, who are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Since they only have 28 members, it is crucial for the department to have as many of them as possible live in Delano, or within five miles of the town.

“We try to keep people around, especially if you work in town,” commented Captain Gary Zitzloff.

The department has a total of eight trucks at its disposal, including an ATV, and a mass casualty trailer.

The department’s trucks consist of two engines, two tankers, a light rescue used for medical calls, a heavy rescue used for carrying heavier equipment for calls such as car accidents, and a utility truck.

“We purchased a new tanker truck last year,” Zitzloff said.

The mass casualty trailer is used in instances of disaster. It was purchased by Wright County through funding from the Homeland Security Fund, and is stored in Delano.

“The mass trailer is used for things such as tornadoes, and is pulled by our utility truck,” Zitzloff said.

With the changes to the fire department over the years, its roles in the community have also changed.

Besides responding to accidents, fires or even getting cats out of trees, the advances in technology and training have allowed firemen to respond to more types of calls.

“We do a lot,” Zitzloff said.

The department responds to calls such as accidents, basic heart-related problems, carbon monoxide leaks, fires, overdoses, and people who have fallen, not to mention helping neighboring towns with calls when it is needed.

“Any emergency that happens in the city, we have to be ready to handle,” Zitzloff said

To become a firefighter, a person must go through a large amount of training.

One must complete more than 100 hours of firefighting training, as well as a minimum of 40 hours of first responders training.

“It takes a lot of dedication from the firefighter, as well as the family; when the firefighter has to train, someone has to watch the kids,” Zitzloff said.

The trainees have 18 months to complete the required training. They attend classes twice a week to learn about the various equipment, procedures, and skills they will need to become a competent firefighter.

Along with the classes, the trainees also can go on calls with the department, to get some experience in the field.

“They can come with on calls before they finish training; they can handle the hoses and things like that, but they can’t go inside at all,” Zitzloff

This is where the dedication first comes into play, because if the trainee happens to miss numerous classes, it will be very tough for them to complete the required amount of hours, and they will not become a firefighter.

Once one becomes a firefighter for the Delano Fire Department, the training does not stop. The members of the department are required to have a minimum of 24 hours of firefighting level one training, along with eight hours of first responders training a year.

“We have classes all the time,” Zitzloff said.

The department trains year-round, perfecting skills as well as learning new skills and technology. The training allows the firefighters not only to protect the community better, but also to protect themselves. Their training includes such things as live burns, leadership, maintaining virus outbreaks, and working with the “Jaws of Life.”

“We have meetings every second Thursday, and training every third Thursday of each month, minimum,” Zitzloff said.

The department does a lot for the city by answering fire and medical calls, but that’s not all they do.

Members do additional volunteer work for the community, by providing fire prevention to local schools and day cares, working with Helping Hands for the food drives, crowd control for the 4th of July, and helping fill sandbags whenever the need arises.

“We are here to help, they are our neighbors,” Zitzloff said.

The Delano Fire Department has a pretty good situation right now, with the new headquarters and tanker truck being purchased recently, but they are still looking towards the future.

The five-year plan for the department doesn’t have any real significant changes, but within 10 years, it could see the department make substantial changes.

The future of the Delano Fire Department lies with the City of Delano, and its size. If the city continues to grow the way it is, the department will grow with it.

“Delano is growing,” Zitzloff said. Projections for Delano growth in the next 10 years are high, as the city continues to grow and the Twin Cities moves west. The increase in population will undoubtedly mean more construction, which will require more fire coverage.

“Towns grow, and the fire department kind of has to, too,” Zitzloff said.

The fire department hasn’t changed yet, but they are definitely looking for the future. Possible ideas to better suit a bigger Delano down the road include staffing more firefighters, hiring a full-time fire chief, more training and specialized training, and even a possible sub-station.

“There are many options we are looking at,” Zitzloff said.

The Delano Fire Department has been here for more than 100 years, and with that time brings a sense of meaning, pride, and tradition to Delano.

It could be the strong family ties to the department, the restored 1932 Nott Fire Truck sitting for display at the firehouse, or it could be the sense of comfort and camaraderie the department and the city have with each other.

One thing can be sure; the Delano Fire Department is continuing the tradition now and in planning right on through the future.

“We are not in it for money, joy, or glory; it’s to help people,” Zitzloff said. “That is what the fire department is about.”

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