Area firefighters get Fired Up For Safety
By Kris Rued-Clark
MARSHFIELD — Soft-spoken and diminutive, Tiffany Kuhlka does not fit the image of a firefighter. Yet, the 22-year old Hewitt resident serves as an entry level firefighter for the Hewitt Fire Department. She is currently enrolled in a first responder class at Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield, and she also serves on the Get Fired Up For Safety planning committee.
Get Fired Up For Safety is an annual event hosted by several businesses on Marshfield’s North Central Avenue that is held on the Sunday concluding Fire Safety Week. Firefighters from Marshfield join volunteer and professional firefighters from surrounding communities in presenting safety demonstrations for children.
This year the Hewitt Fire Department will provide a hands-on exhibit of smoke detectors, in keeping with this year’s Fire Safety Week theme of “Help us sound the alarm. Working smoke alarms save lives. Test yours every month.”
Kuhlka has been a member of the Hewitt Fire Department for just over two years.
“I had taken an EMT basic class,” she recalls. An acquaintance who served on the Hewitt Fire Department suggested she apply. “I figured I’d give it a chance,” said Kuhlka.
Initially, Kuhlka did not intend to become a firefighter.
“At first I was only EMS,” she said. “They asked me if I wanted to do fire, and I wasn’t sure. They put me in gear, and it wasn’t that bad. The air packs aren’t as heavy as people would think. It’s difficult to move around in such big clothes with heat added, but you get used to it.”
Last year the Hewitt Fire Department, which consists of about 30 members, responded to almost 100 calls. Area fire departments continually recruit more members. As Kuhlka notes, “Most people volunteer where they live.” Members commit to attending monthly meetings and training.
“We train on a different topic each month,” Kuhlka said. They make a game of learning to control the water hoses by playing water soccer, yet the purpose is serious.
“You’ve got to trust your department,” she adds. “You’ve got to trust the people you work with. My life is in their hands, and their life is in my hands.”
The firefighters also learn to take care of themselves.
“The departments teach you to know when enough is enough,” says Kuhlka. “If you’re on a scene, they have a rehab tent to check and make sure your vitals are OK and you get something to drink. They will only ask you to do what you are comfortable doing, what you’ve been trained for. They don’t push you.”
She finds that the trainings help her to go beyond her comfort zone.
“You might train with fake smoke in a house, and then you’ll learn what you did wrong. The people with more experience train the younger ones. So you’re always safe.”
Although Kuhlka never imagined herself as a firefighter, she finds that helping people is the best reward for the hard work and the ongoing training. If interested in learning more about the work of a firefighter, ask any department member at Get Fired Up For Safety.
The event begins at noon on Sunday, Oct. 12 with a parade of fire and emergency vehicles from Marshfield and surrounding communities. With lights flashing and sirens howling, the vehicles travel from the fairgrounds west on 14th Street, then north on Central Avenue to the parking lots of north side businesses, including Culver’s, Rose Bowl, House of Heating, Gross Motors, Office Max, and Festival Foods.
Demonstrations and displays encourage fire prevention and safety. Children may test their skills during the Junior Firefighters’ Challenge in the Festival Foods parking lot and also take part in a bicycle confidence course. A favorite youth activity is the Teddy Bear Drop, in which firefighters attach small parachutes to children’s teddy bears, carry them up the ladder, and then drop them.
Hiller’s Party Rentals will set up a pay-per-play area, weather permitting. Adults are invited to bring their fire extinguishers for a safety check and refill from Steel Tech.
Participating fire departments include Arpin, Auburndale, Cameron, Chili, Hewitt, Lincoln, Loyal, Marshfield, McMillan, Pittsville, Richfield, Rock, Rudolph, Spencer, Stratford, and Vesper. Other participants include Hiller’s Party Rentals, Ministry Saint Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, Spirit Medical Transportation Service, and Wood County Dispatch. Members of Rose Bowl’s youth scholarship program will conduct a brat fry.
For more details search “Get Fired Up For Safety” on Facebook to visit the event’s page.