by Dennis Dalman
Nearly 200 people – mostly families – turned out for the Rice Fire Department’s annual open house Oct. 4 at the fire station.
Rice Fire Chief Scott Janski and his crew of firefighters welcomed visitors and invited them to enjoy hot dogs, cookies and refreshments, all served by fire-department volunteers.
The October fall weather was ideal for visitors to stroll around, chat and get to know their local firefighters.
A real treat, especially for the many children, were the big red fire rigs parked in front of the fire hall and the landing of a North Memorial Medical Center helicopter on the grassy lot across the street just southeast of the fire department. Children were allowed to crawl into the helicopter and the rigs. They also had a chance to color in coloring books in the city-council chambers.
Another thrill for the children was to meet and greet “Smokey the Bear” and get their pictures taken with him.
Another feature of the open house were two representatives from the Central Minnesota Chapter of the American Red Cross, signing up visitors who wanted to get free smoke detectors. (For more on that offer, see related story in today’s paper).
Chief Janski, in an interview with the Newsleader, said there are now 20 full-staff firefighters on the Rice Fire Department, although there is always need for more, as many as 15 more. Currently, the department is requesting residents to apply for firefighting positions. The only eligibility requirements are that someone be at least 18 years old and able to pass a physical exam and a written test. No experience is necessary, and the fire department will thoroughly train anyone who qualifies.
Applications can be picked up at the fire hall, or they can be sent by calling 320-393-2180.
The firefighters on the department are volunteers, although they do get paid $12 per hour during fire calls. The department, Janski noted, answers on average from 160 to 180 calls per year – fire calls, medical calls, rescue calls. Most, he said, are medical calls. The response time from the time firefighters are paged until they arrive on the scene of the emergency averages from six to eight minutes, which Janski said is considered an excellent response time.