By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, MN Sometimes, being a firefighter can be challenging and exhausting, but for the Dassel Fire Department, the reward of helping people in their time of need is well worth the effort.
“Even when you’re totally exhausted, it’s just really worth it,” said firefighter Missy Johnson, who joined the department almost a year ago.
“It takes a different breed to be a firefighter,” Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow admitted. For him, the desire to become a firefighter started at a young age.
“As a kid, I used to follow the fire trucks on my bike,” Grochow said. Now, he is the longest-serving current member, having served for 25 years.
The 28 members of the Dassel Fire Department volunteer their time and talents, responding to more than 200 calls every year, as well as attending 15 training sessions, 12 business meetings, and participating in additional required training.
Being a Dassel firefighter takes a big commitment, but Keith Day, who has been on the department 15 years, said it is one of the best things he has ever done. When he moved to Dassel from Winona, he and his wife didn’t know anyone in town.
“We instantly met a lot of really nice people,” he said.
Grochow said the department tries to include the entire family, hosting banquets, picnics, and family days throughout the year.
“I like the fellowship,” Grochow said.
Third-year member Erin Tormanen said the department consists of “a very unique group of guys.”
“We count on each other,” Grochow added.
“These guys are my brothers and I’d do anything for them,” Johnson said.
“There’s a lot of teamwork here,” said Brian Massingham, who has served for six years. “We don’t hold grudges.”
For Massingham, being a firefighter is in his blood.
“I come from a very public service-oriented family,” he said. His mother, father, and older brother were all involved in helping people during emergencies.
His favorite part is “seeing the relief in people’s faces.”
“For me, it’s about giving beyond myself,” Johnson said. Her grandfather instilled in her a passion for reaching out to others, and being a firefighter is one way she can accomplish that. “It’s a fun way to give back. My kids think it’s really cool, too.”
As the department’s only female member, Johnson said she tells her daughters they can do anything they set their mind to.
“Open your mind, open your heart, and go for it,” she said. “There’s nothing stopping you.”
Being a firefighter is not a job for everyone, however, Massingham said. Many of the tasks the department is faced with are difficult, and firefighters have to be prepared to deal with tough situations.
The majority of the calls are medical, Assistant Chief Dave Johnson said.
“You name it, we’ve been called to it,” he said.
Massingham said the hardest calls are ones dealing with young children. Car accidents can also be challenging, Day added.
“There’s a lot of stuff you see that you wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Dave Johnson said.
“Your heart goes out for those people,” Massingham said.
For anyone who is ready for a challenge and has a strong desire to help people in times of crisis, Missy Johnson recommends joining the department.
“Anybody who wants a challenge, I would tell them to do it,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”
Applicants must complete and pass an interview, written and physical tests, and an entrance physical in order to become a member of the department.
Members must also live within a four-minute drive of the Dassel fire hall, or work within the four-minute drive time. If a member works within a four-minute drive, he or she must work an eight-hour shift between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and live within an eight-minute drive time of the fire hall.
The Dassel department can have a maximum of 30 active members and two reserve members. Officers are appointed at the end of even years, and take over the following year for a two-year term.
The fire station phone number is (320) 275-3260, but for emergencies, dial 911.