At home in the fire hall [UPDATED]Published 4:06am Monday, April 22, 2013 Updated 6:11am Monday, April 22, 2013
Four young guys live together in a house. They can be found sharing meals together, playing with the dog and watching movies.
It might sound like a typical scenario, but they don’t live in any ordinary house. They live at the Fergus Falls Fire Department because, of course, they’re all firefighters.
Jordan Bach, Preston Berg, Joel Demmer and Zach Hoyer (along with his dog Duke), all moved in to the living quarters at the fire station this winter. It’s been about a decade since there have been this many guys living at the fire station. One firefighter lived there since 2010, and he moved out last summer.
“It was just time to find a new place to live,” Bach said, who’s been with the department for 1-1/2 years. “The rent’s nice. It’s free to live here.
“When a call comes in, we’re already here. We’re able to respond.”
That seems to be the biggest benefit for the guys, being able to be the first ones on the first truck that heads out to a call.
“It helps us greatly to get that truck out the door when we have people living here,” said Fire Chief Mark Hovland. “Just by having somebody in the building is a comfort to me.”
Their average response time is three minutes, Hovland said.
For Hoyer, he’s building a house in a year or two, so he was looking to save some money before he moved in. The experience was a plus, too.
“Getting out on the truck right away,” Hoyer said. “Every time you’re on a truck, you learn something new.”
Sometimes firefighters that live at the station for a year will end up with more experience than firefighters who have been at the job for five years, Bach said.
“You’re right at the station,” Demmer said. “It’s a great learning experience.”
Berg moved in as soon as he joined the department, so he’s much closer now than when he was living out in the country. He agreed that it’s a good experience.
“So you can see everything firsthand,” Berg said.
Not only have they developed a good sense of camaraderie with each other, but hanging around the firehouse has given them a chance to meet a lot of the other firefighters as well. It’s an opportunity to talk with some of the experienced ones and learn new things about the job.
“They’re very good about taking you under their wing,” Berg said.
The group of four paid on-call firefighters aren’t just hanging around the house 24-7 waiting for a call, however. They all have jobs in town and a couple of them go to school as well. But, the back of the fire station is where they always end up.
“We live here,” Demmer said. “This is home.”
They all have their own rooms, and there’s a kitchen and living area as well — just like you’d find in any other living quarters. They have a weekly rotation for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and it stays clean.
“If it got out of hand, Chief would be back here,” Bach said.
Their living quarters also become a public area when tours come through the department.
It’s also a benefit for members of the community to have the four guys around the firehouse. They’re able to answer phone calls that come in and can help with items that don’t take the entire department, like resetting fire alarms, or questions about burn permits or fire extinguishers.
The firehouse culture for these guys means they live as a family but work together as a team, Hovland said. He also said that as the landlord, he hasn’t had any tenant problems.
“This has actually been a pretty good group,” Hovland said. “They’ve bonded really well. They’ve come a long way in a short period of time.”