Fire rescue friends and a fine day in FinlandI spent the day in Finland last Saturday. As a northern Minnesota native I am a little embarrassed to say that I had never been there before, but by the time I left, I knew I had missed something by not making the trip earlier.
By: Tammy Francois, Lake County News Chronicle
I spent the day in Finland last Saturday. As a northern Minnesota native I am a little embarrassed to say that I had never been there before, but by the time I left, I knew I had missed something by not making the trip earlier.
I motored up to do a story about the Finland Fire Rescue and Lake County Rescue’s Fire Prevention Day event. I was happy for the invitation and eager to go.
When I pulled off of Highway 1 and onto the gravel driveway, I saw trucks, equipment and activity—and a red and white hand-painted sign for the event. Kids and dogs, elders, fire and rescue volunteers and their families were all gathered and chatting with one another. The scene reminded me of a family reunion. It turns out, it was.
Many of the fire and rescue volunteers are second-generation crew members, some related to one another by blood and others sharing a different kind of bond. Their roots and commitment to the community run deep and wide. Over and over again I heard the phrase “we take care of each other.”
The volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The young volunteers spoke with enthusiasm about the work and training. They participated energetically, yet seriously in the demonstrations—and put away the equipment when they were finished.
The senior members and their spouses spoke to me in more depth about their participation. It’s not just the firefighter or rescue worker who makes the commitment; it’s the entire family, in one way or another.
Verna Sinderman’s husband Jim and both sons are volunteers. Jim was a volunteer when the fire and rescue squads were not sure if their trucks would start. The department has been built dollar-by-dollar, piece by piece through dedicated effort.
Son Chris said that he grew up with it and once he started, he never looked back.
Verna, of course, is our longtime Finland correspondent—a job she took over from her mother, who was even a longer-time Finland correspondent.
She feels fortunate that her boys took an interest in volunteering at an early age.
“It kept them home and off the highways,” she said.
Brenda Van Bergen was Finland Fire Rescue’s first female volunteer back in the 1980s and her husband, Ron, is the department’s longest serving volunteer. She no longer goes out on calls, but when the alarm tones sound, she gets up, takes notes and hands them off to her husband on his way out the door.
Monica Riebe’s husband and son are volunteers and she keeps the books for the fire department. Of having two members of her family on the crews she said, “I get a double whammy. The tones go off and I don’t sleep ’til I see them come through the door.”
There was no mention of the sacrifices made, the holidays and meals missed, the injuries sustained or the emotional toll of working with crisis day after day. I’m not sure how they do it.
Perhaps Chris Sinderman summed it up for everyone when he said, “It’s so rewarding to help the community…”
Thanks for a great day, Finland.