They started with a 55 Chevy
The Wright Fire Department celebrated 50 years
by John Grones | July 12, 2005
The Wright Fire Department has come a long way in 50 years. Richard Chambers, a member of the fire department for 36 years recalls the 55 Chevy they converted into a pumper. “We used that for many, many years,” he said.
This is just one of the memories Richard, and a few other local fire department volunteers have been collecting after it was determined that the Wright Fire Department is officially 50 years old. The department began planning this celebration a little over a year ago and current training officer Dennis Cieluch took over the planning and organizing of the event which was held Saturday, July 2.
The celebration included a number of activities. A presentation on the proper use of a fire extinguisher was given by Carla McKenzie, Executive Director of Arrowhead EMS Association; the Luke’s One rescue helicopter payed a visit to Wright and provided members of the Fire Department with a brief training exercise; a steak fry, dance and door prizes were provided to the public for an entertaining evening.
“We also took the opportunity to hand out certificates to the current members for their years of service,” shared Dennis. “Our members ranged from 36 years of service to just six months.”
The history of the department goes back to the 55 Chevy Pumper. The records are not very accurate, but the memories are vivid. Richard shared that the 55 Chevy was used until 1983 when it was replaced by the Dodge pumper the department purchased from the Aitkin Fire Department.
It was also determined that the first fire chief was Allen Stenson. After that, it was Bruce Goranson, followed by Dave Stenson and Leo Dahlberg. Richard was the fifth fire chief and he couldn’t remember when he took over. He did recall that Kenny Lind succeeded himself; after that was Tim Hutar, Reece Hansen and the current chief Aaron Goranson.
“It should also be noted that we have a third generation firefighter,” added Richard. “Bruce, Gilbert and Aaron Goranson. [Also] Scott Lehti is a member of the fire department and his father Budwin was a member.”
At the time of this year’s celebration, there are 17 active members on the fire department. Dennis shared that this is actually low compared to the history of the department. Richard commented on the amount of training necessary to be a firefighter these days. “It takes quite a committment,” said Richard.
Richard shared that every member of the fire department is trained to use the pumper and they are happy to report they have increased their number of responders. “Our first responders are spread out, so we have a quick response time,” said Richard. “At one point we were down to three first responders. Now, we have nine.”
As for the equipment, the fire department is at an all-time high-point. The department just secured a brand new pumper (red), thanks in large part to a grant they received for $112,000. The truck was actually $146,000 and the department had to come up with the balance. “The relief association was able pay the rest,” added Richard.
The pumper has a 1,000 gallon tank and has the ability to pump 1,250 gallons per minute. This is much more than the old truck, which pumped just 700 gallons per minute. Also, the truck has a 10-gallon foam system, and is easier to drive. “It is driver friendly,” said Richard. “We had to push several buttons just to start the old truck.”
Dennis also mentioned the improvement in gear. “When I first started on the department, I had a jacket that was too small and my boots didn’t fit.” That’s all changed and Dennis is comfortable in his firefighting gear.
The celebration went well and the department even managed to handle a call during all the commotion. They were called to a gas spill in town. They did their volunteer duty and made it back in time to welcome the Luke’s One rescue helicopter. According to Dennis, they secured the area prior to the helicopter landing. This was another practice for the Wright team in the event the helicoper is actually needed for an emergency.
Three rescue personel showed up. Rick Norris was the pilot and he was with flight nurse Sharon Baker and flight paramedic Cindy Johnson. Rick shared that they had been to Wright a month earlier on a training exercise. “This trip was a show of EMS support and to allow people to look at the aircraft.”
The helicopter crew had intended to stay for the steak fry, but unfortunately, they were called to an emergency somewhere else. This brings to life how important these people are. The Luke’s One crew, the Wright Fire Department and all who take the time to help others during life threatening situations should be commended.
Like Richard concluded, “Every call you make is someone you know. It can be quite stressful.”
This article first appeared in the July 12, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.