Addition in the works for the Lake Henry Fire Hall

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 12/06/00.

Tight squeeze Typically, when a garage gets overloaded, it's time for some spring cleaning and a sale to free up some space.

But discarding equipment isn't much of an option for a fire department.

The tight squeeze between fire trucks is shown here. The trucks are now parked end to end.

The Lake Henry Fire and Rescue Department has more equipment than it has room for in its fire hall, which is why they want to build an addition and double their existing space.

Right now the department has four trucks in the hall, three of which are parked in a line running to the back of the building. In order to change during emergencies, half of the 23-member squad has to squeeze between two trucks to get to their lockers on the far wall of the hall.

And one truck isn't in service because there's no room for it in the hall at all.

Two years ago, the Rockville Fire and Rescue Department donated their old rescue vehicle to Lake Henry, whose department - at the urging of the county - had added rescue responsibilities.

The Lake Henry department has the equipment for rescue work, including a defibrillator, but currently use their new pumper-tanker for rescue calls until there's room for the donated vehicle.

"It's ready to go, but we've not been able to use it. We've had to keep it in storage because we don't have a place for it in the fire hall," explained Dick Frieler, an assistant fire chief.

helmets in hallway "There's absolutely no space for it," added Pat Welle, another firefighter who serves on the building committee.

Rescue runs, for traffic accidents or medical emergencies, are increasing, and increasingly important. Time saves lives in an emergency, so having a first responder unit closer to the coverage area could make a difference.

The Lake Henry Fire and Rescue Department is the prime responder for 53 sections, including all of the city of Lake Henry and Lake Henry Township and parts of Zion and Spring Hill townships.

Last year, the Lake Henry Fire and Rescue Department responded to twice as many rescue calls as fire calls. Right now, they are using their 1999 pumper-tanker for rescue calls as well as fire calls.

The donated rig is smaller, more mobile, better suited for carrying rescue equipment, and will respond faster in an emergency.

It is also more economical to put miles on a smaller vehicle. "Trucks cost money," said Frieler. "The bigger the truck, the more it costs to move it."

The extra vehicle will also aid in fire calls. It will carry equipment and personnel and allow firefighters to get their breathing apparatus ready en route, saving time at site.

In winter weather, the rescue truck can also be used as a warm place for fire fighters to escape the cold. "It does more than rescue," said Welle.

The expansion project will be done in two stages. The first stage, which could happen this month and should definitely happen this winter, will be erecting a pole structure over the existing fire hall. The new structure will be twice as wide and taller than the current fire hall.

Fire hall side view The added height to the structure will make it easier to load water. The department's 23,000-gallon reservoir is located underneath the current building, so trucks need to drive into the hall to refill. "The trucks are so much bigger we need the height to get the trucks in," explained Bob Pelzer, the Lake Henry fire chief.

Fire hall floor plan Lake Henry serves as the primary mutual aid for Paynesville, and also has agreements with Belgrade, Elrosa, Melrose, and St. Martin. In a mutual aid case, the department has to be able to fill any truck of another department, stressed Pelzer.

Pelzer had to remove the blocks on the department's tanker in order for it to fit in the current hall. These could be put back on when the addition is done.

Just the outer shell will give the department twice the space for trucks. And with two double doors, four trucks will be facing the road. "Our main rigs are going to be street ready. Right now, if we can't get our first vehicle started we can't get our other rigs out," said Frieler.

The second stage will be internal remodeling, tearing down some walls, and making rooms at the back of the building. This will be done as

The entire project is expected to cost $80,000. The first stage should take $53,000 to complete.

Because the department's newest truck is still on the city's tax rolls, the fire department is conducting a fund raising campaign to finance the building project, which they view as a necessity.

"We want to do it without further tapping the tax base," said Frieler, who is chairing the fund-raising campaign.

The firefighters started with nearly $7,000 from the city of Lake Henry's building fund. They earned money over the summer by working at the concession stand at Hay Raze Day and the Lake Henry All-School Reunion. They also have held dinners with the profits dedicated to the project, and they are seeking contributions and pledges.

They have already received personal donations as well as from local clubs and area businesses.

So far, they have raised about $34,500, leaving a little over $18,000 to go.

Pledge forms are available at every business in Lake Henry. The department hopes to receive all payment installments by May 1, 2001.

Donations can also be made at any Lake Henry business establishment.

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