By Kris Rued-Clark
MARSHFIELD — Get Fired up for Safety, an annual event hosted by several businesses on Marshfield’s North Central Avenue, will be held on Oct. 8. Volunteer and professional firefighters from Marshfield and the surrounding communities join in providing safety demonstrations and displays for families at the event.
Hewitt Area Fire Department Chief Brian Hafermann said what he enjoys most about Get Fired Up For Safety is the interaction with the public and the opportunity to educate as well as the chance to spend time with members of other departments.
“It allows all of us to get together in a social setting rather than a fire scene — the camaraderie, the age-old pranks of the fire departments, time to talk and tell stories,” Hafermann said.
Get Fired Up For Safety begins at noon on Oct. 8 with a parade of fire and emergency vehicles traveling from the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds west on 14th Street, north on Central Avenue, and ending in the parking lots of north-side businesses, including Culver’s, Rose Bowl Lanes, House of Heating, Gross Motors, Pioneer Bank, Office Max, and Festival Foods.
At 2 p.m. the Hewitt Area Fire Department will present a demonstration showing the layers of heat and smoke inside a structure.
“We emphasize the importance of why you stay low, why you crawl out,” explained Hafermann.
Participating fire departments include Arpin, Auburndale, Cameron, Hewitt, Lincoln, Marshfield, McMillan, Pittsville, Richfield, Rock, Rudolph, Spencer, Stratford, and Vesper. Other participants include the DNR, Hiller’s Party Rentals, Marshfield Children’s Hospital, Pioneer Bank, Steel Tech, Tricor Insurance, and Wood County Dispatch.
For details go to the Get Fired Up For Safety Facebook page.
Life as a volunteer
In the 15 years since Hafermann started with the Hewitt Area Fire Department, the nature of the calls has changed.
“We receive about 100 calls in a year, and about 70 percent are medical-type calls, and the balance are service calls, ranging from a cat in the tree to a car accident. Probably 10 percent are fire calls,” he explained. Crediting the efforts of fire departments in educating the public on fire prevention, Hafermann noted, “We are seeing less and less fires.”
The challenge for firefighters is keeping their skills sharply honed.
“That’s why it’s so important that we have regular training,” he added.
Hafermann joined the Hewitt Area Fire Department because he knew several people who were part of the organization and that they needed more help.
“Getting people into volunteer services is a challenge. Most people don’t know that almost three quarters of all fire departments in the nation are volunteer departments,” he noted.
A difficulty in keeping a strong volunteer force is that small communities are getting smaller as big communities are getting bigger. Hafermann used Hewitt as an example, “Twenty years ago there were more businesses in town and more employees working in their communities. Now there are fewer people there during the day, yet in the past 10 years, the population has doubled.”
For those curious about joining their local fire department, Hafermann suggested that they attend a meeting or training session.
“See if it’s for you. Anybody who enjoys helping people, when they attend the training, they get hooked. Ideally, we like a well-rounded volunteer who can do everything, but we can no longer rely on finding someone who can do it all. In reality we need people who can make sandwiches for rehab, people to drive trucks, people who can go into a building in full gear. We have a spot for every skill set. No matter what your talents and abilities, we can plug you in,” he said.