Paynesville Press - September 25, 2002

Community Perspective

Firefighters volunteer to help community

By Roger Torborg

After all the memorials for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are over, the rest of life continues, and we still have our day-to-day emergencies that require help from someone. You dial 9-1-1. A voice asks you what you need. If you report a fire, who responds?

In Paynesville, it is volunteers. People who take time off from their busy schedules, whether that is work or recreation, are on their way at a moment's notice to be of service.

Who are these people? They are a very dedicated bunch of everyday people who care about our community. Look at our fire department for an example. Some are self-employed, and some work for others. They come from all occupations. We have grocers, service station managers, mechanics, electricians, and maintenance people, to name a few.

They all have one thing in common: they made a commitment to help their community. Their commitment calls for an investment of time. Time for training, to be able to do a proper job, and time to respond to emergencies and apply that training. A rookie firefighter gets an initial 120 hours of training, and all firefighters receive 35-40 hours a year of additional training.

Although every firefighter has encountered a situation or two in their career where they have really wondered what they were doing, the training takes the edge off of most situations, and we are able to do our job safely. As every call is different, you find that some require a lot of thinking and determining the best way to proceed, and some just require a lot of hard work.

What are the rewards? There is a certain sense of excitement when you get a call and a sense of satisfaction after a call. The benefits of the job are hard to explain. The camaraderie that develops between members is one benefit. The excitement of putting out a working fire is one. Another is getting to meet a lot of people you never would otherwise.

Being told by an accident victim's brother, six months later, how much he appreciates the part you played in helping to get the victim to a hospital means a lot. It's the satisfaction of seeing a building being used for years after you helped prevent it from being destroyed. It's finding that lost child.

Not all the work of a firefighter is an emergency. We work with many groups of children, showing them our equipment and teaching fire safety. I am not sure who has more fun, the children or the firefighters, when we have the second grade class over to the fire hall during Fire Prevention Week for a tour and a ride on a fire engine.

It's the sense that you've made a difference in somebody's life that you remember. The pride of a job well done and a sense of accomplishment must mean a lot, otherwise why are we sometimes washing fire trucks at 3:30 a.m. after a call?

A good indication that being a volunteer firefighter has rewards that far outnumber the inconveniences is the fact that the last 15 firemen to retire from the Paynesville Fire Department had a combined 378 years of experience, which averages out to just over 25 years each.

As people retire or move away from the area, there are openings for new people to volunteer. The things I have written about are not unique to Paynesville. Attend one of the fund-raising suppers that area departments will hold in the next few months. Ask a firefighter what the job is like.

You may find that you are interested in joining. It doesn't take special people, just ordinary people willing to help others.

Roger Torborg has been a member of the fire department for 17 years.

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to get scheduled as a writer or e-mail him at

Contact the author at    •   Return to Viewpoint