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First two female members; West Fargo Fire department welcomes five new volunteers

The West Fargo Fire Department recently welcomed five new volunteer firemen. Back row, (l-r): Pat Ward, David Sapp, and Scott Otto. Front: Brittany Ragan, and Lorissa Lenertz. Submitted photo

Five new volunteers have become active members of the West Fargo Fire Department including two first-time ever women firefighters - Brittany Ragan and Lorissa Lenertz - joined by Pat Ward, David Sapp and Scott Otto.

West Fargo Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider said the addition brings the current volunteer squad numbers to 43, the maximum presently needed to utilize the firefighting equipment available.

Schatschneider said the department welcomes its newest recruits. "During orientation we tell our new members we don't expect any more or any less, everybody is treated the same among their peers. We are all here to provide essential service to the community. They are all very knowledgable and dedicated and it's going to work out very well."

All of the new volunteers have been through firefighter one and firefighter two training at area technical schools, which is a level all volunteers are required to achieve within their first three years of service.

Schatschneider said some have aspirations of being full-time firefighters and therefore the reason they have already attained this status. If any of them eventually do secure full-time positions with other departments, Schatschneider said he hopes they would still stay on as volunteers in West Fargo.

Ragan, a 2007 graduate of West Fargo High School, has been doing 'ride-a-longs' with the Fargo Fire Department since she was 13, participating in their junior Explorer program. She is a graduate of Lake Superior College in Duluth where she earned an associates degree in fire technologies and administration. Her goal is to be employed as a firefighter, but in the meantime she is happy to be a member of the West Fargo squad. Spending a lot of time at the lake on weekends, she also serves as a member of the Battle Lake Rescue (Ambulance) squad.

Ragan said she is looking forward to her role with the West Fargo volunteers. "They've got really nice, up-to-date equipment and I'm glad to be part of the new team. It's all really very exciting."

Lenertz grew up in Bismarck and graduated from St. Mary's Central High School, before moving to West Fargo about 10 years ago. Since an early age, she has been interested in fire departments, always taking the extra time to study all aspects while visiting museums focusing on the topic.

As Lenertz completed her schooling for firefighter one and firefighter two status, her intention was to become a fulltime firefighter, but following school she switched occupations and began her current job in the telecommunication department at MeritCare. "I really appreciate being a resident of West Fargo," she said. "The city has so much to offer. I also really enjoy what I do and firefighting is a part of me, so this is my way of having my cake and eating it too. I am extremely excited and very honored to become a member of this prestigious group, and, I must say, we have been welcomed very warmly."

The fire department accepts applications for their volunteer positions on an ongoing basis, keeping them on file to call in individuals whenever needed. The process involves two interviews that include explaining what the department is all about to see how being a volunteer firefighter can fit into their lives. If they pass the interviews, then physical agility and background checks are completed before they can come on board.

Regular training sessions are held the first and third Tuesday of every month. In addition, other related training sessions are held varying weekends.

The city of West Fargo contracts with the West Fargo Fire Department annually for their services. The department also employs three full-time staff members, Schatschneider, assistant chief Dell Sprecher and Fire Prevention and Inspection Officer Kendel Frost. The fire department offices are located at 108 1st St. Inquiries can be made by calling 433-5380.