By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
HOWARD – Howard Fire Rescue honored 15 battalion chiefs, lieutenants and full-time firefighters in a badge-pinning and swearing-in ceremony at the Jan. 22 meeting of the Howard Village Board.
The ceremony, Fire Chief Dennis Staeven said, recognizes the commitment to service those who choose a career in firefighting demonstrate and celebrates their commitment to the community.
“A badge-pinning ceremony is about honoring those who have dedicated their careers to a greater good,” Staeven said. “Those who will drop what they are doing on a moment’s notice to help a complete stranger. Tonight, I would like to honor not only the paid-on-call members, but the full-time members who chose to make a career of service to the Village of Howard.”
Three battalion chiefs — Steve Nick, Stefan Schaefer and Tim Moes — were honored at Monday night’s meeting.
“A battalion chief’s role in the department is to run the day-to-day shift operations,” Staeven said. “They set the scheduling, supervise the line staff, lead training sessions, conduct fire inspections and command incident scenes. They all have specific roles whether it be training, prevention, operations, equipment maintenance, special events or recruitment. They work in conjunction with the assistant chief and I to constantly look at ways to make positive change or improve the department. The years of experience and knowledge these gentlemen have are invaluable to this organization and the village of Howard.”
Also recognized during the ceremony were lieutenants Shane Lestrud, Jared Hohol and Joe Young.
“The lieutenant role is to direct the staff operation of the engines, ladders or ambulances on scenes,” Staeven said. “They work directly under the battalion chiefs and are the first line of supervision for the department. They are the working supervisors that turn into role models for the new generations entering the fire service. I view this position as the most important and the hardest position to be in. Balancing the needs of your staff and keeping your battalion chiefs happy can be a daunting task. I’m very proud of each of you and am confident you can accomplish these tasks.”
Nine full-time firefighters were also pinned and sworn in — Ryan Schindler, Carrie Dhuey, Jeff Mayerl, Cory Zegers, Jamie Lenzner, Damon Gutsch, Greg Nelezen, Dirk Larson and Adam Marler.
After making the decision to allow Howard’s contract with County Rescue to expire at the end of 2023 and instead establish its own rescue service, the village received a $1.2 million FEMA SAFER Grant which allowed Howard Fire Rescue to hire additional full-time staff to assist with that new service.
“The firefighters’ role in the department, for lack of a better term, are the grunts of the department,” Staeven said. “When not responding to ambulance, fire or service calls, they’re cleaning equipment, hosting tours, conducting inspections and doing building maintenance — or cooking Chief Nick’s favorite meal of dinosaur nuggets and mac and cheese. As a firefighter, you gain your best experience. You learn from the staff that was here before you and from your peers who you trained beside. This is the time you really learn how to be part of the organization — and how to play the best pranks on your coworkers. To the full-time firefighters… the village of Howard thanks you for your service and dedication.”
In addition to these full-time firefighters, Howard Fire Rescue is also supported by many part-time, paid-on-call staff members, whose service was also honored at Monday night’s meeting.
“I would like to recognize the part-time staff, also known as the paid-on-call staff — 34 members that have careers unrelated to the fire service, who have completed the same training as full-time staff,” Staeven said. “These members respond to the call, whether they’re on duty at the station, or at home, or out for dinner or at a child’s soccer game. I want to thank their families for allowing them to be part of this organization… I’m very proud to serve with each and every one of you and proud of your service to the community and to the village of Howard.”