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Firefighters: ultimate community volunteers

Scott Dietz, a 29-year veteran of the Glencoe Fire Department, and Ryan Dordling, who has been a member just over a year, recently shared why they joined the department and the rewards they have found as members. The department is currently seeking applicants to fill out its roster.

Scott Dietz has been a member of the Glencoe Fire Department for 29 years, Ryan Dordling joined a little over a year ago.
But despite the difference in longevity, they both joined for very similar reasons — they had relatives who were volunteer firefighters, and they admired what those volunteers contributed to their communities.
And both would encourage others to join a volunteer fire department.
“It’s a good way to get involved in your community,” said Dordling.
Dietz, who is the department’s assistant chief, said Glencoe normally staffs about 40 volunteers on its fire department. Right now, it’s short about six firefighters.
That isn’t a situation that is unique to Glencoe. There is a shortage of volunteer firefighters across both the state and across the country.
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Dietz had an uncle who was on the Elk River Fire Department. As a boy, Dietz would spend summer vacations there and had the opportunity to watch his uncle at work as a volunteer firefighter.
“I was really fascinated by it,” said Dietz.
So, when former Glencoe Fire Chief Bob Scheidt approached Dietz to join the local department, “it didn’t take long for me to say yes. And I’m still glad I did.”
Dordling said he has both a brother and a brother-in-law who are volunteer firefighters, “so I’ve had a little exposure to it. They really enjoy it.”

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So why aren’t more people volunteering? Part of it may be the time commitment. Training, especially in the early months, can take up two or three evenings a week for about three months.
Dietz said firefighters have become jacks of all trades, responding to everything from fires to accidents to cats in trees to chemical spills.
“We get called when they don’t know who else to call,” said Dietz.
Dietz added that while firefighters have to be all things to all people, the department is careful to not push its volunteers past their skill sets.
“Everyone brings something different to the department,” agreed Dordling. “It’s a diverse group. The department knows people’s strengths and who can do what.”
Dietz, who was once a firefighter instructor, said not everyone can do everything.
“Some people like the interior stuff, others like to run pumps,” said Dietz. “Some people don’t like to climb up ladders, some just shoot right up on a roof. We want everyone to be knowledgeable, but we don’t expect anyone to do something they’re not comfortable with.”

For more, see the May 6 print edition of The Chronicle.