Before the oil boom, the Dickinson Fire Department averaged about 300 calls for service a year, and they’re already on pace to double that number this year.
Fire chief Robert Sivak said one of the main reasons it’s able to provide service to the community is because of its volunteers
When Zach Stroh and Salatha Featherstone aren’t working their regular jobs, they’re fighting fires.
“I have lived here my whole life. I grew up here, and I wanted to give back, ” said Stroh.
Featherstone, who works at Maverick’s Saloon in Dickinson and is also a full time mom, said volunteering is just in her blood.
“It something that my father has done all of my life, so I have been in the fire trucks.”
Assistant fire Chief Deb Barros said the department is made up of 46 people and 30 of them are volunteers.
“It makes us feel proud that people are willing to give up there time. . . that they could be doing other things”.
Once a month around 7 O’ Clock at night Stroh and Featherstone go to the Dickinson fire facility for training exercises with other members of the department, when they could be at home relaxing after a hard day of work, and in the Winter time North Dakota can be unfriendly even for a volunteer firefighter.
“We try not to be out there in below zero weather just because of how hard it is on the equipment, but if it is 15, 25, 30 degrees, you will see us out there.” said Barros
And on this particular Thursday night in October when the weather was nice, Stroh and Featherstone took advantage of it by working on putting out dumpster fires and liquid fires with other members of the department.
“Today we worked on our fire streams. . . and banking and rolling with foam, ” said Featherstone.
Stroh, who works as a full time diesel mechanic at Black Hills trucking, said firefighters use “the use of foam splash technique on boiling liquids” to smother the fire and instead of attacking it directly with water.
Stroh and Featherstone have only been with the department for about six months, and each has been on only one call , and it was non-fire related.
“My heart was pumping. . . the adrenaline was going, ” said Stroh.
Featherstone said she felt somewhat the same when she went out on her first medical call.
“My heart was racing a thousand miles per minute”.
However, when that call does come they feel they’ll be ready.
“Its just a great experience to have under your belt and help your community internally,” said Featherstone.
The Dickinson Fire Departments said they offer their volunteers a stipend, but many would say that’s not why they volunteer,