When was the last time you got a new smoke alarm? If you aren’t sure, everything you love could go up in flames.
The Mibank Fire and Rescue Department urges you to keep your family safe. They suggest you determine the age of your smoke alarms. If they are over 10 years old, replace them. Now! It’s easy. Just remove the smoke alarm from the wall. Turn it around. The date of manufacture should clearly be printed on the back side of the device. (Don’t forget to put it back in place!)
The firemen hope their warning will hit home during National Fire Prevention Week from October 9-15. The 2016 theme is Don’t Wait – Check the Date! Replace Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years. But that idea is not new, as firefighters across the country have renewed this warning for the last three years to underscore its importance. They believe this one small chore could save your life.
To increase awareness, Milbank Fire and Rescue will visit the elementary schools this week to educate children on fire safety, including smoke alarms. Tours of the fire hall are also planned.
Even with fire prevention, fire still strikes. If a fire starts in your home in the Milbank area, who can you expect to arrive to save you? First of all, you can expect a brave and selfless firefighter who has put in hundreds of hours to be prepared. You probably already know him, too, as Milbank’s Fire and Rescue Department is completely comprised of volunteers.
Milbank Fire and Rescue’s roster is at nearly 100% now. A full crew would include 40 volunteers and the current team is comprised of 39. These firefighters work countless hours without receiving a dime in compensation. Not one fireman or anyone in the department is paid. “You just have the mindset you are doing it to help people,” explained firefighter Marlin Snell. “It’s a big commitment, but it’s all worth it.”
“Most people don’t know how many hours a fireman gives,” added Fire Chief Kevin Schuelke. “This is true for all fire departments. It’s more than people imagine.” As the chief, Schuelke puts in time almost every day.
After a new volunteer has been voted into the department, the trainee completes the Fire Fighters Training within the first year. This includes classes, hands-on instruction, monthly meetings, and the annual district and state fire schools. After officially joining the department, training continues. ”The entire department meets several times each month. Once for a business meeting and the rest for training. “Training is a big deal,” said Chief Schuelke. “We encounter life and death situations. We must be up on what we do and be prepared for everything.”
Today, homes are built with ever-evolving modern materials – a myriad of plastics and synthetics – firefighters have to constantly update their knowledge and improve their techniques. The department’s most recent training incorporated a structure and implemented a new tactic. They coordinated their attack with exterior water streams to direct fire flow and cooled the structure to bring down the interior heat before going inside for a direct attack. Upcoming training for the department will include water rescue, rope rescue, and trench rescue.
The Firemen also say community support is an integral part of their success. A call can come in at anytime and members often need to leave work to answer. “Most employers in our district understand this and are willing to let their employees leave,” stated Snell. “If they can’t, others fill the trucks.”
According to Schuelke, as the firefighters arrive at the firehouse, the trucks are filled and when fully manned depart for the fire. The extra firefighters remain at the hall for support or go to the site later if needed.
When a call comes in, it can also be frightening for the firefighters’ families. “You always hope it is not a big fire or a bad accident, but sometimes it is,” said Tammy Schuelke. “We pray for their safe return…” If it is a big fire, the wives get food and take it to the firefighters. Kids have to get used to this, too. The wives and kids also help with special events and travel to and participate in the state fire school. ”Firefighters and their families tend to think of each other as one big family,” said Chief Schuelke.
Perhaps that is why the desire to help the community often gets passed down from generation to generation. According to Justin Mathiason, he and his father, Al, were both members of the department. “It’s in my blood,” said Justin who has two sons who are already aspiring to be “just like dad”.
Front row, left to right, Captain Justin Mathiason, Captain Steve Spors, Captain Dean Wellnitz, Assistant Fire Chief Chad Wientjes, Fire Chief Kevin Schuelke, Assistant Fire Chief David Giesen, Captain Kyle Schwandt, Treasurer Evan Grong and Captain Craig DeBoer.
Middle row, David Mogard, Richard Pauli, Jason Wellnitz, Travis Whitesitt, Joe Weber, Jacob Wellnitz, Captain Jason Krause, Justin Jonason, Scott Neidert, Bill Jurgens and Marlin Snell.
Back row, Secretary Mike Hanson, Ross Jurgens, Jason Sackreiter, Blaine Schell, Brett Storm, Dylan Howen, Jason Fraasch, Bill Rise, Kenny Henriksen, Jesse Morton, Mike Mach, Eric Stengel, Tim Mundwiler, Nate Spors, Brian Homan, Jeremy Johnson, Matt Foell and Curt Berkner.
Not pictured, Ronnie Krause.