Quick response for volunteer fire departments - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Quick response for volunteer fire departments


Thousands of people throughout Eastern Iowa give their time and effort to volunteer fire departments, such as the one that was at the scene early Wednesday morning in La Porte City.

The chief of Centralia-Peosta's volunteer fire department, Jack Koetz, remembers a response that could have meant the difference between life and death.

On Aug. 3, 2010, when an explosion in the basement rocked a home near Peosta, Koetz was there.

"We were there in just a few minutes," he said.

Both his department and volunteers with the Epworth Fire Department responded to the explosion, which left three men, who had been working in the basement, with life-threatening third-degree burns.

"The doctors said that having a fast response to that call was a very big part of their good outcome," Koetz said.

The Peosta-Centralia Fire Department is made entirely of about 40 volunteers and is one of 12 volunteer fire departments in Dubuque County.

"It takes a special person to be willing to commit to that," Koetz said, "to put out that kind of time, you know, away from their family, away from their hobbies or jobs.

He said it doesn't take too much time away from jobs, but employers are generally understanding.

"They realize it could be themselves or their place that need the help, too," he said.

The department responds to about 180 calls for service each year.

"80 percent of our calls are actually EMS calls, so this is, by far, the truck that we use the most," Koetz said.

Volunteers know response time is critical.

"We shoot for less than 10 minutes, no matter what the call is," Koetz said. "Just as a rule of thumb, a fire will double its size every minute, so, just five minutes is just a huge amount more fire that you're fighting."

Koetz said the hard work is well worth the effort.

"When somebody has a favorable outcome, whether it's fire or EMS or whatever and we were able to make a difference, that keeps you going. It keeps your batteries charged," Koetz said.

As for the three men in the basement explosion, "I just saw two of, the two Conrad boys over the weekend," Koetz said. "They had a 'Thank God we're alive' party."

The initial emergency call comes into the 911 call center in Dubuque, where dispatchers trace the caller's location. They then alert people with the closest volunteer fire department, who rush to the scene.

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