BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN The Delano Fire Department responds to about 500 calls per year despite only having 20 volunteer firefighters, with many of those individuals unavailable to respond to calls during business days.
For that reason, the department is actively recruiting new firefighters, with an application deadline of noon Friday, and is considering creative ways to provide service.
One option would be to allow individuals who work in Delano to serve on the department and respond to calls during the day regardless of whether or not they live within 12 minutes of the fire station, which is the current requirement.
Delano Fire Chief Bob Van Lith said he would like to work with local businesses that could make their employees available to respond to emergency calls.
“Is there something we can do with a business, or two, or three, to partner, so we can provide the service during the day?” Van Lith said.
Some businesses have employees that are trained to respond to medical emergencies at their workplace. Van Lith believes the department could enter into a mutually beneficial agreement with those businesses.
“If we could partner with them a couple days a week, they could let a couple of those people go on calls, we could help train them and bring them to a different level of training,” Van Lith said. “It’d be an asset to them. It’d be an asset to us.”
Van Lith added that existing firefighters, including himself, would take turns going on calls with those individuals. Currently, Van Lith estimates only four or five of the current 20 firefighters are regularly in Delano during the day.
Some fire departments have weekday medical technicians who only respond to medical calls during the day.
“The fire department doesn’t require them to respond to nighttime or weekend calls,” Van Lith said. “You don’t do firefighter training, just medical training.”
That would cut down the training requirements drasticly.
Currently, new Delano firefighters have 18 months to complete about 140 hours of training for the Firefighter 1 course, 30 to 36 hours for the Firefighter 2 course, and 40 hours of medical training. They are also required to pass all related exams to become state certified.
“The first 18 months is really a grind for a person,” Van Lith said. “Firefighter 1 is a couple nights a week for about three months straight. They do 2.5 to 3 hours per night . . . Once you get through that, you just maintain your training here.”
That training takes place the third and fourth Thursday night of each month, in addition to cleanup, maintenance, and a monthly meeting that takes place the second Thursday of each month.
“We provide the training here,” Van Lith said. “It’s like anything else. You take your team to practice. You can get training elsewhere, but you need your team playing together. Thursday nights are critical to get the working together piece down.”
The Delano Fire Department also takes probationary firefighters on calls while they are in training so they can learn on the job and more quickly become a part of the team.
To apply to be a Delano firefighter, visit Delano City Hall at 234 Second St. N., visit www.delano.mn.us, or call (763) 972-0550. Questions regarding the position can be directed to Van Lith at (763) 972-0581.