January 16, 2009

Volunteers make New Town, Mountrail County a safer place

Volunteers make New Town, Mountrail County a safer place

By MARVIN BAKER

New Town’s volunteer Fire Department just completed another busy year in 2008 and is prepared for a similar year in 2009.

Jeff Gronos, who was recently elected to his third term as chief, said grass fires were down in 2008, however, other search and rescue calls were on the increase, mainly accidents.

"There were 85 fire and rescue-related calls in 2008," Gronos said. "That was just behind what we had in 2007."

He said there are 25 members of the all-volunteer department who often give up their family time to respond to all kinds of emergencies to keep the community and the countryside safe.

"We have guys who are really dedicated," Gronos said. "They’ll give up their family time to go at a moment’s notice. We’re 100 percent volunteer and it doesn’t hurt to get that out."

And that is something Gronos wants to point out. He said none of the people on the fire department have paid positions. They are all volunteer and funds to operate the department are generally raised by the firefighters themselves.

"There’s a misconception out there," Gronos said. "Some believe it is our job. We’re volunteers and we carry pagers and respond to a call. We don’t get paid for this. There are no salaries."

Jason Fulton is one of those volunteers. In addition to fighting fires, Fulton is the secretary-treasurer of the group. He is now in his fifth year in that capacity.

Like Gronos, he said 2008 was a busy year and he attributed most of it to increased oil activity across Mountrail County.

"It seemed busier than usual and it was probably because of the oil activity," he said. "It was mostly routine, but we seem to be getting more car accidents."

Gronos said road conditions can be a huge factor in many of those accidents and reminds motorists that slowing down this time of year is critical because of the icy conditions on our roadways.

"We always want to promote safety and for people to slow down," Gronos said. "Given our snow conditions, we’re not used to this."

Also this time of year, space heaters and power cords can be a primary cause of fires.

In addition, Gronos said it’s always wise to make sure the extension cord you are using to plug your vehicle in, is rated properly and, with all the snow western North Dakota has had this year, keeping sewer vents free of snow and ice is critical.

The other important thing to remember is to have smoke detectors and fire extinguishers on hand. Gronos said everyone should those two items for their own safety and if there are any questions, they should call a firefighter they know and they will give the proper advice.


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