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News Detroit Lakes,Minnesota 56501 http://www.dl-online.com/sites/all/themes/dlonline_theme/images/social_default_image.png
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DL needs volunteer firefighters
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Though the first year is pretty intense, the camaraderie and benefits of the years to come far outweigh the time and dedication it takes to be a volunteer firefighter.

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The Detroit Lakes Fire Department is looking for applicants to serve the community of Detroit Lakes and surrounding area.

Normally operating with a crew of 30 firefighters, the city is down to 27, and there could be four more retiring next year.

“It’s a never-ending need,” Fire Chief Dave Baer said. “Ninety percent stay that 20 years.”

After 20 years with the same fire department, the men and women who serve receive a pension. He said those who do leave the fire department before that 20 years is up usually have moved out of the area.

Though the department is made up of men now, men and women are both encouraged to apply. When the fire department added onto the building a few years ago, they added a women’s locker room and bathroom for the potential of having women on the department as well.

Women are expected to perform the same tests the men go through to become a firefighter.

The commitment

To begin the process of becoming a firefighter, applicants must fill out an application available at city hall or online at the city’s website.

They then take a written test at city hall, take a physical agility test at the fire hall with 10 different stations they must complete, and then have an oral interview at the fire house with other members of the fire department to make sure the applicant is the right fit.

Baer said the physical test includes simulating what could happen during a fire like blacking out masks, climbing ladders, getting into full gear and having to find people lying on the floor in a smoke-filled room.

“It’s not ‘Backdraft,’” he said with a laugh, referencing the John Travolta movie.

Once on the fire department, newbies are expected to be at the fire hall every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for training. That’s for the first six months.

The firefighters meet every Wednesday throughout the year, and the first and third Wednesday of each month are specifically for training and a business meeting. A new firefighter can only miss three of those Wednesdays in the first year.

The second and fourth Wednesdays also include training but no business meetings.

Firefighters must also make it to 50 percent of all fire calls. The department averages about 250 calls a year, Baer said.

And those calls come and go in streaks. They won’t get a call for a couple weeks, and then get five calls in one week.

“Wednesdays are pretty critical. It’s pretty intense the first six months. The benefits far outweigh that though,” Baer said.

New firefighters must live and spend a majority of their time within four road miles of the fire station.

“We’re proud of what we have. We get our trucks out in two to three minutes,” he said.

The benefits

The bond that forms between the men serving together is far greater than the $1,000 a year they get for clothing replacement and such.

It’s the events like the kids’ picnic, firemen’s dance and family camp out that bring them and their families together. The kids grow up together as well.

Not to mention the community activities the department takes part in, like the Water Carnival and Becker County Fair. demo derbies and WE Fest.

“It’s a small enough town, you know everyone,” Baer said of being out in the community.

Not only are the firefighters trained that first year, it’s a continuing education — and multiple certifications.

Baer said that first, they must be Firefighter 1 certified. They then test to become Firefighter 2 certified, and then comes First Responders and Wildland Firefighter certification, which helped in assisting with the wildfire near Park Rapids earlier this summer.

“It’s rewarding to save someone’s property, someone’s life or assist at a car accident, to help the community, be a part of the family and brotherhood,” he said.

To apply to be a Detroit Lakes firefighter, either stop in at city hall for an application or print one off online at http://cityweb.lakesnet.net/fire.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.

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