Highs school student Aiden Warriner (left) and Grand Forks Fire Rescue Cpt. Nicki-Jo Wolfram spotted The Gazette at the city firehall Wednesday night, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Potential recruits Jared Heikamp (left) and David Mark got a taste of what it was like to be a volunteer firefighter at Grand Forks Fire Rescue’s 2nd Street hall Wednesday, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Safety Officer John Billwiller retired as a long-serving Captain last October. Photo: Laurie Tritschler c ‘Can I spray the reporter?’ Bam Martin joked before aiming his firehose at a pilon Wednesday evening, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Grand Forks Fire Rescue members demonstrated how not to put out a grease fire — i.e., by dumping water on the flames. Firefighter Lee Nermo said around 200,000 fires in the United States are caused by unattended cooking over any two-year period, two out of five of which are grease fires. To safely knock down a grease fire, cover the flames and turn of the heat source — and then phone 911. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Never douse a grease fire with water, firefighter Lee Nermo warned potential recruits. Any water that touches the flames will instantly vaporize, spreading the flaming grease across a sea of incandescent droplets, he said. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Potential recruit Charles Foy (left) and Cpt. Cody Thate pose for The Gazette inside Grand Forks’ 2d Street firehall Wednesday, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Potential recruit Hunter Greaves said he heard about Wednesday’s event in former Midway fire chief Walt Osellame’s fire suppression class, which Osellame teaches at Grand Forks Secondary School. Photo: Laurie Tritschler From the left: Firefighter Blair McGregor and potential recruits Bam Martin, Hadley Switzer and Henry Dorner make their way to the Grand Forks 2nd Street firehall Wednesday, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler From the left: Potential recruits Charles Foy, David Mark and Jared Heikamp watch a demonstration on breathing apparatuses. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Potential recruit Hadley Switzer waves at The Gazette before going up a fire engine’s 100-foot extendable ladder Wednesday, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Volunteers were told to look down only if they were feeling really confident. Photo: Laurie Tritschler A Grand Forks Fire Rescue member stands at the ready Wednesday night, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Potential recruit Andrea Martin unleashes a torrent of water from a department firehose Wednesday night, April 28. Photo: Laurie Tritschler Potential recruit Charles Foy looks into the night before heading up the department’s 100-foot ladder. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Thirteen potential recruits came out to Grand Forks Fire Rescue’s Firefighter for a Night event, nearly doubling last year’s turnout.
Addressing members and newcomers behind the 2nd Street firehall Wednesday evening (April 28), Fire Chief George Seigler spoke to the department’s team spirit. “Without our volunteers, we couldn’t do what we do for our community,” he reminded the socially-distanced crowd.
Seasoned firefighters then put the prospects through a series of drills and demonstrations as Dep. Chief Rich Piché ran the show.
“It was fantastic,” Piché said, adding that he’d hoped to bring in 10 people.
Newcomers Bram and Andrea Martin said they’d come to meet new people and to see if they could give back to their community. “We don’t want to just be users of its services,” Bram explained.
High schoolers Aiden Warriner, Hadley Switzer and Hunter Greaves said they’d heard about the event at Grand Forks Secondary School’s fire suppression class, where they’ve be learning from firefighting legend and former Midway fire chief, Walt Osellame.
“It sounded like it’d be fun,” Switzer said.
The atmosphere was light-hearted, but each exercise was designed to replicate part of an experienced firefighter’s routine. Prospects seemed to enjoy going up the department’s 100-foot extendable ladder, but they had to work to get in and out of their department kit in under a minute, which Seigler explained is the industry standard.
Piché in his debrief stressed that, while the department relies on discipline, expectations are flexible. Volunteers who are uncomfortable working at heights can focus on other, equally valuable skills.
“There’s something in everyone that we can use,” he said.
Selected recruits will start their training in June, pending criminal background checks and panel interviews.
All participants, including The Gazette, were given thorough COVID-19 screenings and asked to provide contact-tracing information as per current pandemic guidelines.
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