Wanted: a few good firefighters

Mille Lacs County Times

The Milaca Fire Department is in need of a few good men — and women — to join its volunteer department. MFD has five openings and Chief Greg Weller said the City has already started advertising to fill the positions.

“We have posters and fliers in different locations throughout the city,” Weller said. “We’ve been getting a little feedback from that.”

Despite the five open seats, Weller said the local department is still able to answer calls for help.

“We still respond with enough people to get the job done,” he said. “And we have an excellent working relationship in the county with the other fire departments.”

Those who are interested in signing up to the department should keep a few things in mind, however. Weller said the significant commitment on the part of taxpayers requires applicants to take the training seriously. Volunteers shouldn’t make the decision lightly, he said.

It costs around $1,000 for the 200 hours of Firefighter I and II training sessions, and another few hundred dollars for the first responder training.

“And to put a person in protective equipment, it’s about $3,000,” Weller said.

Not only are public dollars committed, but the volunteer themselves dedicates a lot of time to complete the required training. Weller said it takes an average of two years to finish the coursework. Once a member, firefighters must agree to attend 50 percent of the training meetings (held the second, third and fourth Mondays of the month at the Fire Hall), and 25 percent of the calls throughout the year, for a minimum of 18 meetings.

“It’s a large monetary outlay by the taxpayers and the city, but it’s an even bigger commitment from the guy going out there,” Weller said.

The training, physical exam and agility test have all come in handy during Weller’s tenure with the department. He said that training has kicked in during seemingly impossible situations inside burning buildings to keep him safe. So what’s that like?

“When you’re sitting around a campfire at night and you’re looking down at the very bottom at that burning white light — I’ve been there.”

If that sounds like a place you’d like to see, contact City Hall at 320-983-3141 or visit www.cityofmilaca.org.

For the full story, see the Thursday, Jan. 19 print edition of the Times.