Newest volunteers impress leaders

Six new members of the Milaca Fire Department completed their last training session last week with a live LP burn.

Six new members of the Milaca Fire Department completed their last training session last week with a live LP burn.

Instructors, veteran firefighters and city leaders alike are praising the six newest members of the Milaca Fire Department.

Jacqueline Struffert, Jay Kenady, Chris Ehlen, Tom Christensen, Mike Talberg and Adam Solomon answered the call for volunteers last fall and have been pleasantly surprising those in the field ever since.

“The six are really a good group of firefighters,” said Milaca City Manager and volunteer firefighter Greg Lerud.

St. Cloud Technical and Community College Director of Fire and EMS Training Solutions Chad Steffens  was immediately impressed with the Milaca students’ performance in his portion of the training.

“The Milaca 1001 class compiled the highest average score in the history of our fire program,” Steffens told the Milaca Fire Department heads. “Keep up the great work.”

That was in January. By last week, the new recruits were completing the last leg in their journey to becoming full-fledged, official firefighters with a live, liquid propane burn.

Interim Fire Chief Craig Billings said it’s no coincidence the six have done so well in their training.

“One of them bought a study guide and they’d spend another night a week on it — and that was all on their own,” Billings said. “They’re very highly motivated.”

The newest crop of volunteers relieves some of the pressure the department has had with vacancies in the past, and Billings is happy to welcome such hard workers to the team. However, he did stress the department is back to three openings due to retirements of older members.

“We want to keep that roster full because it takes four or five years to get all the training and experience,” he said.

Having a “deep bench,” which Billings said was a great way of putting it, will help the department stay strong into the future.

Those interested in joining the Milaca Fire Department should contact Greg Lerud at 320-983-6141 or glerud@milacacity.com.

For more photos, see the Thursday, April 11 print edition of the Times.

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