In just the past 30 years, many changes have occurred in the area of firefighting.
Osage Fire Chief Kurt Angell has seen many changes since he began as a fireman with the Osage Department 30 years ago.
“In some sense, fires have changed and are getting hotter,” he said. “Materials used in buildings and furnishings in the structures are more petroleum based, so fires burn hotter. Even, the bunker gear we now have is far different from the rubber boots and coats we used to wear.”
One big change has come with the design of homes today.
“Many homeowners are building open concept houses and fire spreads rapidly in these homes, because fire can go anywhere it wants. With older compartmentalized homes, with walls and doors, fires are more contained. That is why it’s important to close doors, if a fire occurs.”
Another change is the amount of water available to firefighters.
“Today’s trucks are bigger and carry more water,” he said. “Old engine 36 only sprayed 500 gallons of water per minute, while our newer engine sprays 1,500 gallons a minute.” Angell said the water supply in town is much better. “When I started we had six- and eight-inch mains. Now, we are getting 12-inch mains, around town, which are more efficient.”
Angell said small town fire departments are the largest group of trained people in a community. “They are trained on how to work together and they know how to work together,” he said. “So today’s departments are used in many ways. We are called to car accidents and do extrications with the Jaws of Life when necessary. Sometimes we help carry victims out of ditches on stretchers. We assist first responders and law enforcement on the scene and at times direct traffic. We have been out on machinery accidents with the Jaws as well.
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“We also do hazardous material training at the operational level, but we don’t go inside a hazard zone. The technicians from Mason City, who have the proper equipment go in, while we run support for them. Our firemen have also been called upon to help extract people who have been trapped in grain bins.”
Along with fighting fires, firemen are called upon to teach fire safety in the Osage Schools.
“Kindergarteners are given a tour during Fire Prevention Week. We go to the school and talk with second and fourth graders about fire prevention. Fourth grade classes are put in a room with fake smoke, to teach them how to crawl to safety. We also encourage students to go home and talk with their parents and grandparents about checking their smoke alarms,” Angell said.
Angell recalled a time, a few years ago, when the department was called to Spring Park after a wind storm had heavily damaged the town. While utility crews and law enforcement directed traffic and cleaned debris from roadways in Osage, firemen checked out Spring Park, freeing a women whose car had been trapped by two trees laying across the road.
Osage’s firemen also reach beyond the community to help. This year, members of the department raised over $1,800 for MDA Fill The Boot, which helps with MDA Research. They also raise money for department equipment, through their annual street dance and their community omelet feed held during Fire Prevention Week. They also operate the bingo stand during the Mitchell County Fair.
Sometimes, Osage’s Fire Department assists other departments with whom they have a mutual aid agreement. Volunteer firemen attend two meetings each month, one for training and one for business. They also help with checking and maintaining the department’s equipment.
“Even the tactics in how we fight fires has changed, because a lot of science goes into it,” Angell said. “It amazes me what former firefighters did with what they had.”