By Nan Royce
DASSEL, MN Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow, a 34-year member of the department, knows a lot of statistics about what his volunteers do.
But, what Grochow wishes more folks considered is that those statistics don’t impact just the responding volunteers. Each call also potentially impacts volunteers’ spouses, kids, and families.
Of course, responding to medical and fire calls at all hours of the day and night can be tough on a person.
“An important link in this organization is the spouses,” Grochow wrote in the department’s 125th anniversary book in 2006.
“For over 125 years, they have paid the utmost sacrifice to this department, continuing to manage their households alone during family meals, gatherings, vacations, or other events, due to calls for help, severe weather, meetings, etc. that have called their volunteer members away. The support they have given does not go unnoticed, and we sincerely appreciate each and every one of them.”
Grochow said it’s never just an individual who volunteers to join the department. It’s that person, and their family members, too.
Biggest year yet
Grochow presents the Dassel Fire Department’s updated statistics during every Dassel City Council meeting.
The numbers draw a black- and-white picture of how busy the Dassel Fire Department can be.
Grochow presented the Dassel Fire Department’s 2017 statistics at the most recent council meeting.
The Dassel Department responded to a total of 296 calls in 2017, making it a record year. In 2016, the department responded to 280 calls, which was the previous record.
In 2017, volunteers donated 4,315 call hours plus meetings and work nights each Monday.
An average of 12 volunteer members responded per call, for a total of 3,717 responses through the year.
The Dassel Fire Department gave mutual aid five times during the year; five times to Cokato, and three times to Litchfield.
The department received mutual aid once each from Cokato, Hutchinson, and Kimball.
Grochow reported the Dassel Fire Department’s busiest day of the week had been Saturdays, with a total of 49 Saturday calls in 2017. The department’s slowest day was Monday.
Grochow broke down areas of response for 2017:
• City of Dassel, 101;
• City of Darwin, 20;
• City of Kingston, 4;
• Dassel Township, 48;
• Collinwood Township, 46;
• Kingston Township, 27;
• Ellsworth Township, 29;
• Darwin Township, 12;
• Mutual aid and weather watches, 9.
Grochow reported the Dassel Fire Department has an average response time of 5.5 minutes.
The types of calls received in 2017, are reported in the following breakdown of categories:
• Medicals, 227;
• Building fires, 9;
• Car crashes, 12;
• Other fires, 14;
• Grass/field fires, 5;
• Alarms and cancels, 19;
• Hazard response call, 7;
• Other, 3.
Grochow reported his department has a roster of 25 members right now. Ideally, they’d like to have 30 members, and keep two on active reserve.
There has been one application submitted recently, and it is the first one the department has received in more than a year.
Grochow noted that seven members on his roster have more than 20 years of experience. The 20-year mark is when many volunteers choose to retire.
The Dassel department also faces an issue common to smaller towns: the majority of the volunteers work out of town during the day.
At the moment, four department members work in Dassel during the day. There are a couple retired firefighters who also tend to respond to calls during daylight hours.
Grochow also happily reports that some volunteer firefighters take some years off, but then return to service. One current member, Grochow said, served his 20 years, retired for 17 years, and is now back working as a daytime first responder.
The chief’s story
Grochow is both a Dassel native, and Dassel-Cokato High School graduate.
He joined the Dassel Fire Department in 1983, something he had wanted to do since childhood. “I liked the excitement and enjoyment of it,” he said.
Grochow indicated he doesn’t remember his first official call. “It was too long ago,” he laughed.
Throughout the years, he’s gotten a lot of enjoyment out of meeting and sharing friendships with other firefighters throughout the state.
Not surprisingly, Grochow said the most difficult aspect of the job is sitting down with survivors after they have experienced a loss.
He encourages young adults to consider joining a volunteer department, but has a few considerations to pass along.
Grochow said a person must be willing to commit to the job, and not be signing up to use their firefighter role as a status symbol.
He said a potential firefighter must plan on being committed to the department, and understand he or she will miss family and friend events while responding to calls.
Grochow admits that he has started to consider retiring after nearly 35 years of service. “I do think of it,” he said, “ especially on the middle-of-the-night wake up calls. It’s more a young person’s game.”
Dassel Volunteer Fire Department Roster 2018
• Dale Grochow, 34 years
• Kurt Mortenson, 28 years
• Dave Johnson, 24 years
• Brian Gillman, 23 years
• Kevin Carlen, 23 years
• Keith Day, 23 years
• Jon Trotter, 21 years
• Jeff Putnam, 21 years
• Renee Massingham, 20 years
• Brian Massingham, 15 years
• Mike Enerson, 11 years
• Zach Holm, 11 years
• Keith Carlson, 11 years
• Andy Nelson, 10 years
• Jason Harris, 6 years
• Mike Kadelback, 5 years
• Tom Weseloh, 4 years
• Brian Bondhus, 4 years
• Justin Yager, 4 years
• Jose Almazan, 3 years
• Justin Johnson, 3 years
• Josh Pelant, 2 years
• Scott Stueck, 2 years
• Terry Heidecker, 1 year
• Justin Oslund, 1 year
• Ron Rauschendorfer
• Mike Sylvester
• Doug Bollman
Daytime only responder
• Lyle Nybakke
• Greg Nelson
• Jordan Danielson
• Erin Tormanen