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By Caroline Downs
The Kenmare Fire Department stands ready to serve, as evidenced by the 41 calls the department handled in 2012.
“We like to maintain 40 firefighters on our roster,” said Chuck Leet, secretary-treasurer of the department. “That way at any given time, there are 10 to 15 people who are able to answer a call.”
The calls came every month of year in 2012, except November. January stayed relatively quiet, with two calls coming to check smoke smells reported in a building at a missile launch control facility east of Kenmare.
The only call in February was a garage fire in Kenmare, followed in March by two grass fires in March and two grass fires in April.
The department was called seven times in May, including four grass fires, and four times in June for four vehicle accidents.
Two grass fires in July offered a quiet period for the department, but from August 12th through the first week in October firefighters answered 19 calls. Thirteen of those calls were grass fires, with one structure fire, three vehicle accidents, one combine fire and one medical emergency.
October ended with one more grass fire later in the month. The department had a single call in early December, with a smoke smell reported at the missile launch control facility again.
“Several of those calls were driven because of the drought we experienced late in the summer and early fall,” Leet said. “Four of those were mutual aid where we assisted other fire departments with their calls.”
Leet reported 24 grass fires total for 2012, seven vehicle accidents, six structure fires, three medical emergencies and one combine fire.
84% of calls out of town
The department responded to 34 situations, or 84 percent of their calls, in the Kenmare Rural Fire District, and 7 calls, or 16 percent, in the city of Kenmare.
“We had more vehicle accidents than we’ve had in the past,” he said. “We’ve been told by people in the fire districts west of us to expect that. As a result of the oil impact, the number of vehicles on the roads has increased.”
Leet also noted 659 total man hours were spent on calls, with all situations handled in three hours or less by the crews at the scene.
in volunteer effort
“Typically, we hear how it’s hard for firefighters to get away from their jobs to respond to a daytime call,” he said, “but we had a good turn-out all through the year, and we appreciate the business owners in Kenmare. It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing by letting these people go out and fight these fires.”
Eight or more firefighters responded to most of the incidents listed for 2012, with 20 department members on the scene of the garage fire in February.
“When we talk to other firefighters, we hear how these towns are struggling to muster up enough people to get their equipment out,” said Leet. “If they have two or three people show up, they’re lucky.”
Firefighter dependability is strong in Kenmare. “We know when we hit that hall, 10 or 15 firefighters are going to be ready to go,” Leet said, “and if the pagers go off a second time, more firefighters will come. That’s an unwritten rule among us. You know we need you then. We’ve got a dedicated bunch.”