Woolstock FD responds to proposal

WOOLSTOCK A proposal which would change the fire agreement for a large portion of Cass Township has stirred up strong reactions.

Dr. Mark Dearden, a Cass Township resident, proposed that the Webster City Fire Department assume coverage for the southern half of the community in October of 2013. The proposal was again discussed at a meeting in Webster City last week. Following the meeting, Woolstock Fire Department Fire Chief Chase Pruismann said many people who contacted him were concerned and upset about the proposal and assertions made in it.

Namely, Pruismann said he was concerned with the idea that his department had not responded to fires. Dearden said, in his proposal, that it was reported to him on several occasions that the Woolstock Fire Department wasn’t able to respond at all to fires in the area due to lack of firefighters responding. In those cases, Dearden said the Webster City Fire Department had to respond.

“There has never been a time where we have not responded,” Pruismann said.

The Woolstock Fire Department has mutual aid agreements with fire departments in surrounding areas. Having a mutual aid agreement means a department can call another to assist them in an emergency. Pruismann said his department has such agreements with Webster City, Blairsburg, Eagle Grove and other nearby communities. He said the Woolstock Fire Department often makes mutual aid calls for structure or car fires. In those serious circumstances, Pruismann said the department will call for aid no matter what.

“If we get called down to a fire, for instance, down by Webster City, my first instinct is going to be, let’s get Webster City rolling. They’re the closest. Then, when we come there, it’s still Woolstock’s fire, but Webster City was there to respond first.”

Pruismann is one of 20 volunteers who staff the Woolstock Fire Department. This year will be his eighth with the department and he has been the Fire Chief since November of 2013. In addition to fighting fires, he said the department assists the city with street cleaning, in car rollovers and by directing traffic as needed.

One of Dearden’s reasons for creating his proposal is that the Webster City Fire Department has four full-time firefighters during the day and 22 volunteer firefighters. He said many of those firefighters work in Webster City and can answer calls during the day. While Pruismann said there are times during the year where the Woolstock Fire Department is stressed to bring in firefighters during an emergency, they’re always able to pick up the phone and respond to calls.

“We still respond with the amount of people we have, we always call on mutual aid,” Pruismann said. “With the guys that we have, they are so dedicated that a lot of times we don’t have to worry about it.”

He said that all fire departments with volunteers, including Webster City, won’t be able to have every volunteer firefighter at every emergency.

Another reason Dearden listed was that the Webster City Fire Department is better equipped than the Woolstock Fire Department. Pruismann said his department just spent $12,000 on brand-new, high quality turnout gear, has brand new hoses, guns and self-contained breathing apparatuses.

Some of Webster City’s additional equipment, according to Pruismann is owned because they are a fire and rescue squad. He said that includes jaws of life for a person trapped in a car and blocking to keep a half-rolled car from completely rolling over. Woolstock’s department does not include that rescue portion because they do not have enough trained emergency medical technicians in their volunteer staff. Despite that lack of a rescue component to his department, Pruismann said he is confident that cooperation between Woolstock and other area fire departments keeps local residents safe.

If the proposal were to come into being, it could be a detriment to the Woolstock Fire Department. Woolstock Township Trustee Bryan Claude said the townships covered by the department would have to pay more with the loss of a portion of Cass Township. It would then take the department longer to pay off a new truck or piece of equipment, which is further complicated by the high cost of fire equipment, according to Claude.

Overall, Pruismann said he’s concerned that Dearden did not come to him with the proposal. He said he’s open to meeting with him to discuss the plan. However, he doesn’t believe it’s necessary.

“For years, we’ve taken care of it. Webster City has had our back, we’ve had Webster City’s back. There’s not a real need to change in my eyes,” Pruismann said.

While the first reports of last week’s meeting concerned many people who have talked to Pruismann since, he said it won’t put a damper on the morale of either the Woolstock or Webster City departments. Whether working with other departments or alone, whether this proposal goes through or not, Pruismann said the Woolstock Fire Department will remain strong.

“I would put my entire fire department against any fire department in the world. No problem. The guys we have now are a very motivated group, always looking to do the right thing and have no problem working with the guys at Webster City,” Pruismann said.

Cass Township trustees are expected to discuss the proposal over the next few weeks, according to Dearden.