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Fire Department recognizes service: Pralguske, Hawley earn milestone awards

David Pralguske, Kevin Hawley and Kurt Sandeen recently were honored for their years of service to the West Fargo Fire Department.

It was a little overdue, but for a very good reason.

The West Fargo Fire Department held their annual Spring Recognition Banquet recently, finally having the opportunity to present awards that were intended to be doled out last year, but didn't happen because of everyone's involvement with the flooding situation.

The event, attended by 107 active and life members and their guests, saw David Pralguske and Kevin Hawley honored for 25 years of service and Kurt Sandeen recognized for nine years as a member of the board of directors.

Pralguske and Hawley were the recipients of a fire department plaque and a 25-year pin from the North Dakota Firefighters Association along with automatic life membership in the group, of which they are both already members.

Sandeen was also recognized for his commitment to the board, a position he stepped down from this year, while continuing to serve as a volunteer firefighter.

Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider said that the excellent turnout at the gathering, which included the retired members, provided "an excellent opportunity to reminisce and visit about old times. We were able to update the retirees on activity in the department and recognize everyone for their service. This is also one time we can thank everyone and their families for what they do."

Ten members of the squad also had the opportunity earlier this year to attend the North Dakota Fire School in Bismarck - Dell Sprecher, Kendel Frost, Nathan Schmid, Jon Whiting, Tom Clark, Tim Clark, Brian Christensen, Rory Jorgensen, Steve Baron and Chris Rolph. The group participated in a variety of classes including: basic pump maintenance and operation, railroad safety for first responders, basic fire investigation, hybrid cars/auto extrication, propane emergencies, crew research management, air management for firefighter survival, incident safety officer and crew resource management.

Schatschneider attended the chief's conference held the opening day of the school. "These are always great to attend," he said. "The sessions provide an excellent opportunity for officers and firefighters to get some different training outside of the department that provides new perspective and new ideas from firefighters from other parts of the country which we can incorporate into our department."

There are currently 41 members that make up the West Fargo Fire Department volunteer squad, in addition to the three regular full-time employees, Schatschneider, Sprecher and Frost. Members of the volunteer squad include: Second Assistant Chief Joe Tintes; Captains Chris Rolph, Kurt Sandeen and Rory Jorgensen; Engineers Kevin Hawley, Ken Zetocha, Kevin Dockter, Perry McClellan, Kirk Hawley, David Pralguske, Steve Baron, Randy Woodley, Chris Metz, Joey Porter, John Freeman, Tom Clark; and Firefighters Nathan Schmid, Brian Christensen, Robert Pralguske, Jon Whiting, Tim Clark, Jamie Morlan, Todd Pearson, James Sprague, Mike Watson, Brittany Ragan, Davis Sapp, Tim Bonnema, Chris Papenfuss, Dean Mattson, Bob Wenzloff, Pat Wagemann, Tim Massett, Nolan Carlson, Brad Kommer, Kevin Briggs, Lorissa Lenertz, Scott Otto and Pat Ward.

Officers include: Roy Schatschneider, chief; Dell Sprecher, first assistant chief; Joe Tintes, second assistant chief; Kendel Frost, Chris Rolph, Kurt Sandeen, Rory Jorgensen, all captains;

Members of the Board of directors are: Chris Rolph, president; Kevin Dockter first vice; Chris Metz, second vice; Ken Zetocha, treasurer; and David Pralguske, secretary.

Figures from the West Fargo Fire Department report for the calendar year 2009 were also just recently released and can be described as 'average,' according to Schatschneider.

Firefighters responded to a total of 216 calls for service, which included 40 fires; 35 hazardous conditions, i.e. gas line or gas leaks, or carbon monoxide detectors; 38 good intent calls, generated by someone detecting something unusual, like an odor, steam, etc; and 83 false alarms. Schatschneider said the latter are "getting to be a problem but one that we expect. There are so many alarm systems and they are so sensitive, that's what mainly triggers these calls. The numbers are high but not unusual for any fire service. Every department has those calls and we have to treat them as full-blown rescue fires."

Total dollar loss for the year was $427,000, a little less than average. This was down substantially from 2008, which recorded $3 million in losses, directly attributable to two huge apartment fires.

The majority of this amount for 2009 is the result of two incidents - a house fire on 6th Avenue East and a truck fire on 7th Avenue North.

There were no major injuries as the result of fires occurring in 2009, either with potential victims or firefighters on the scene. "We had no injuries reported last year and that was a good thing," Schatschneider said. "We responded 216 times and the only problems were a couple of minor sprained ankles and muscles for our firefighters. We are very safety conscious as a group. We preach it in our training, including the use of seat belts and it shows and really pays off. Because of it, we are getting maximum workmen's compensation deductions for our category. I tell the guys 'thank you' whenever I have a chance for being aware of the safety issue out there and responding the way they do."

Standard inspections are also key to the annual report, with 704 conducted by Sprecher and Frost in 2009 - 493 businesses, 112 apartments, 13 schools and 86 daycares.

Schatschneider said he is proud of the department and the services it provides to West Fargo and other surrounding jurisdictions, including the cities of North River and Reiles Acres and the townships of Reed, Raymond, Mapleton and Barnes.

The department contracts with the City of West Fargo on an annual basis for services. Last year's operating budget for the fire department increased minimally by $50,000, going from $525,000 in 2009 to $575,000 in 2010.

A new southside fire department substation is also in the works, with groundbreaking to be held on the start of the building projects once bids are let and confirmed. Additional information on this project will be forthcoming as soon as specifics are in place.