Brownsdale#039;s fire department is an asset

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 16, 2002

The Brownsdale Fire Department is only one of six fire departments in the state of Minnesota that owns itself. It is not city owned. It was set up this way in 1945 by the municipality of Brownsdale and it works so well, the city doesn't want it any other way.

The fire chief for the last 10 years has been Phil Hatten, the owner of 3-H Lumber Yard. He has been a firefighter in four different community fire departments, having lived in Central Minnesota and Wisconsin. He has been a firefighter for 40 years.

Seven new firefighters took training to join the Brownsdale Fire Department this past year. They were needed as some volunteers had moved away from the area. The new firefighters took training right in Brownsdale. Five other new firefighters from the LeRoy, Lyle and Austin area took the training with them. The training was done by Riverland Community College instructors.

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"The college does a good job with the training. We had a couple of burns last winter. One was a house and two were vehicles. We have to go to more vehicle fires then houses but both are equally important," said Hatten.

The fire department in Brownsdale holds several fund raisers a year at the fire department hall. The first Sunday in May they hold a Pancake Feed and they usually have a good turnout. In the fall, the weekend before hunting season, there is a fish fry. The weekend before Thanksgiving, most of the town shows up for their annual Turkey Bingo.

"Every bingo is 10 cents a game and we give away 50 turkeys. If there are two winners we draw for this and give the low draw a compensation prize of a dollar. It is an intense night with everyone wanting to win a turkey," said Hatten.

The firefighters all take over their duties for these fund raisers. Dave Crabtree has been the bingo caller the last two years, but Hatten says that any of the firefighters could do this, as they have good voices that

carry. Hatten says that all the firefighters are good about organizing and helping on committees. There is one woman on the Brownsdale Fire Department and she is Melody Clark. She has been a part of this group for eight years.

"I work with a great bunch of guys. I was accepted right away by all of them.

I went through the same training. I became a firefighter to help out the community," said Clark.

She stays in shape for the strenuous work with her daily activity of working as waitress at the local restaurant and lifting and holding her 13 grandchildren.

This summer the fire department will be hosting a pork feed. The money raised from this fund raiser is allotted to purchase another fire truck.

"We are busiest with first responder calls. First responders stabilize the patient until the Gold Cross ambulance shows up. People are better at using 911 instead of trying to handle emergencies themselves. We might help someone that has a hard time breathing or an elderly person has fallen out of bed; we are there to help," said Hatten.

During the spring and summer the fire department members are storm watchers. Four firefighters drive in four different directions to keep track of storms.

Hatten likes being a firefighter because 1) it is a dedication to the community, 2) it is a personal motivation and 3) he is helping people in times of need.

"I've been in Brownsdale 25 years. It is a nice community," said Hatten.