Dassel is one of few fire departments in state that isn't paid per call

February 11, 2008

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Of the 791 fire departments in the state of Minnesota, the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department is unique in that it doesn’t receive compensation per call for service. See chart for calls of service.

Throughout the state, there are 11 paid career departments. Other fire departments, like Cokato and Litchfield, are paid on-call volunteer departments. Such departments are paid per service call.

According to Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow, it’s uncommon for a city of Dassel’s size and with a high call volume to not receive compensation per call.

In 2007, the Dassel Fire Department reached an all-time high of 231 calls for service. The average is just over 200 calls per year. The highest number of calls prior to this year was 223 in 2005.

During November and December of last year, the Dassel department averaged a call every day, which raised the number quickly, Grochow said.

However, Grochow, like his fellow comrades, isn’t in it for the money. The volunteers enjoy being able to help where there is a need.

“[Local firefighters] don’t join to make money or to get compensated. The volunteers want to do something to help serve their community,” Grochow said.

Grochow is going on 25 years working for the fire department. He has been chief for 15 years.

When he was growing up, Grochow would get on his bike and follow the fire trucks.

“My dream of being a firefighter came true,” he said.

Like others, he enjoys the camaraderie inside his own department, and with other departments as well.

The Dassel Fire Department also has three sets of brothers in its crew – Dale and Dave Grochow, Chuck and Greg Nelson, and Dennis and David Johnson.

Cotton McCalla was the longest-serving member of the Dassel Fire Department, serving for 30 years.

Recently, the Dassel Fire Department had its annual banquet. Dave Grochow was honored for serving 25 years, Randy Dawson and Brian Boltz were honored for serving 17 years, and Paul Opsahl was honored for serving 20 years.

Mike Sylvester, although he retired in 2006, recently also received a plaque for serving 25 years on the department.

With Dassel being completely volunteer and the city being mostly a bedroom community, the department struggles to find responders who work in the city during the day, according to Grochow.

Currently, there are four to five firefighters who work within the city. The department is looking into other options such as using firefighters from other departments who work in Dassel during the day.

Although a great majority of the department are 20-year members, in the last two years the department has brought on 10 new volunteers. They are Jim Rorah, Justin Eggert, Erin Tormanen, Pat Lorentz, DJ Ohm, Mike Enerson, Mike Hanson, Zack Holm, Justin Yager, and Chad Ardoff.

Each new applicant can cost the department more than $3,000 which includes turnout gear, physicals and initial training.

“It’s something you don’t want a whole lot of turnover in,” Grochow said.

The department will have an open house Monday, April 7 at 7 p.m. for those interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer firefighter.

This year, the Dassel Fire Department purchased a 2000 Ford grass utility truck and all terrain vehicle to better combat grass fires.

Each year, the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department has two major fundraisers including a French toast breakfast taking place Sunday, May 18 and a pork chop feed Friday, Oct. 10. The money raised is used to purchase equipment for the fire department.

The City of Dassel does contribute an annual amount toward the Fire Relief Association retirement fund, which is used for volunteer firefighters’ pensions after they reach a certain number of years of service.

For more information contact the Dassel Fire Department at (320) 275-3260 and leave a message.

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