Someone You Should Know: Burlington Fire Chief keeps the bar high

Local News

For some, being a first responder is a full-time job.

For others, they volunteer their time, but the dedication is no less.

One example is in Burlington.

The Burlington Fire Chief has 15 years with the department, and 13 years as Chief.

“I’m not here to get a pat on the back,” said Karter Lesmann. “I’m here to help those that need it.”

Karter Lesmann doesn’t spend countless hours training for and responding to some 75 to 125 calls a year for accolades.

Some days are good and some days aren’t. But as he says, he knows someone’s got to do it, “I do it for the community, not so much myself.”

Lesmann has trained hundreds of people and has books and books of certifications.

He says it’s never enough, though.

He keeps up with all the necessary training and beyond for the sake of his own safety and everyone on his crew, “I feel that if I’m going to be chief, I need to be trained to the highest level that there is offered to us as firefighters.”

Another one of his top priorities is PPE — and not the kind that you’ve heard a lot about lately due to the pandemic — it’s the kind that’s vital with or without a pandemic.

During his time as chief, every truck in the fleet has been upgraded and there are at least 30 new sets of gear, some of which have been replaced more than once.

After all, as Lesmann says, fires can’t be fought safely without the proper gear – and again – safety is the No. 1 priority

“Any given call I could have anywhere from five to 15-20 guys to respond,” he explained. “And I’m responsible for every one of those people…so I need to make sure that they’re trained properly to do what we need done and then when we get to that call, that they’re trained to do everything that they need to do so that they can return home to their loved ones again.”

One of those guys is 19-year-old Austin, Karter’s son.

“I’ve been running around here since Dad started, and Grandpa did it,” Austin said. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

He’s been a part of the department for about five years but he’s witnessed his dad’s dedication just about his whole life.

“Growing up, I looked up to him .. he was our hero, ya know? We’d be eating supper and he’d have to leave. It was sad to see him go. I know there were lots of nights when we’d finish supper if he had to leave .. and we’d come up here and sit and wait for him to get back. Because we knew that he was going to be OK because that’s his number one goal.. is everybody will come home.”

With years of commitment, thousands of hours of training, and the important goal to protect the people in his path, Karter Lesmann is someone you should know.

Lesmann acknowledged that he can’t do his job without the help of others but he sure does lead by example.

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