Volunteers, donations are integral components of fire department; annual fund raiser set March 25

Volunteers, donations are integral components of fire department; annual fund raiser set March 25 These four fire fighters, along with their 39 peers, will host the annual Firemen's Ball March 25 at the Eagle's Club, 114 West Main, beginning at 9 p.m. They are, from left, Fire Chief Doug Brunick, Rollie Isaacson, Brian Waage and Chuck Taggart. by M. Jill Karolevitz When the fire siren blows in Vermillion, 43 men are ready to answer the call, 24 hours a day.

Those fire fighters � members of the Vermillion Volunteer Fire Department � will host their annual Firemen�s Ball March 25 at the Eagle�s Club, 114 West Main, beginning at 9 p.m. Music will be provided by the Troublemakers.

A donation of $5 will admit one couple to the dance.

�This is the traditional fund raiser for the fire department,� said Bill Radigan, secretary-treasurer of the Vermillion Rural Fire Department, Inc.

�The city of Vermillion budgets $102,000 for the operation of the fire department,� said Fire Chief Doug Brunick. �We also receive $34,000 from Clay County. Money we receive from fund raising, however, is also very important. That averages about $10,000 a year and it helps buy special equipment.�

�We�re looking to buy an infrared camera with the money we raise this year,� said Rollie Isaacson, president of the fire department�s corporation.

�This camera, with a thermal imaging system, would allow fire fighters to search for victims through the smoke,� Brunick said. �It also allows us to look for hot spots and holes in the floor. It will help us safely move around with visual aid, rather than by feel.�

The cost of the camera ranges from $15,000 to $20,000.

Throughout the years, donations have helped the fire department purchase rescue equipment, including the Jaws of Life, the rescue truck and the Suburban personnel carrier. Monies raised from donations also help send local firemen to the state fire school in June.

With the exception of Brunick, whose salary is paid for by the city of Vermillion, all of Vermillion�s fire fighters serve as volunteers.

�There�s no way that the city could afford to pay for a fully staffed fire department,� Radigan said. �The fact that these people do it for free is what makes the whole system work.�

�We have personnel who work for the city, the university, the hospital, lawyers, manufacturers and private businessmen,� said Brunick, who has been a fireman since 1971 and fire chief since 1982. �It goes right on down the line.�

But it isn�t simply their time that�s involved when it comes to volunteering for the fire department. Their employers also give by permitting the fire fighters to leave their jobs when the fire whistle blows. In the end, it�s a community commitment.

�My dad and older brother were fire fighters, so I kind of followed along,� Brunick said. �It feels great to be able to give back to the community.�

Chuck Taggart, who works at Sioux Valley Vermillion Hospital, is an assistant chief. He joined the fire department in 1980. It was his influence that brought Brian Waage aboard.

�Chuck was working for me and had tried to get me to become a fireman,� said Waage, who owns Waage Construction. �I didn�t do anything about it until I had a fire at the place where I was living. After that, I joined.�

Waage is now an assistant fire chief. He joined the department in 1981.

Isaacson, Vermillion Street Department superintendent, joined the fire department in 1982. He has also experienced the tragedy of a fire.

�I had a house burn to the ground,� he said. �And that gives you such a helpless feeling. I can really relate to fire victims. And it�s really fulfilling when you can help someone as a fire fighter. It�s not a very pleasant job, but I say to myself, ?if I don�t do it, who will?� Every time you�re called, you�re helping someone.�

The Vermillion Volunteer Fire Department answered 132 alarm calls last year and spent about 2,400 hours in training. The 43 Vermillion fire fighters learn all aspects of the job. And technology aids them in their capabilities � on-board computers, pagers and self-contained breathing apparatuses are standard equipment.

Over 100 years ago, fire fighters battled blazes via bucket brigade. Today�s fire-fighting equipment includes an 85-foot aerial ladder truck with a 1,250 gallons-per-minute pumper, two other pumper trucks, a brush unit, a rural pumper and two tankers. The department also owns a 12-foot trailer for hauling a variety of equipment needed for hazardous materials or massive casualty incidents.

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