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Grant gives Emerado firefighters needed space

EMERADO, N.D.--When there's an emergency, the Emerado Fire Department is there. And soon they'll be able to get there more quickly. The fire department was awarded a grant for a building expansion, which will allow firefighters to get out more ef...

Emerado Fire Chief Brent Mesdahl walks between fire trucks parked bumper to bumper in the department's crowded fire hall. A grant from the Otto Bremer foundation for $125,000 will allow for building expansion. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Emerado Fire Chief Brent Nesdahl walks between fire trucks parked bumper to bumper in the department's crowded fire hall. A grant from the Otto Bremer foundation for $125,000 will allow for building expansion. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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EMERADO, N.D.-When there's an emergency, the Emerado Fire Department is there. And soon they'll be able to get there more quickly.

The fire department was awarded a grant for a building expansion, which will allow firefighters to get out more efficiently, Emerado Fire Chief Brent Nesdahl said. The Otto Bremer Trust recently gave the all-volunteer department $125,000.

Nesdahl said the building is so cramped that the department is storing its trucks less than 5 feet apart and often has to move equipment in order to make a run. Nesdahl said that depending on where trucks are placed in the space they currently have, the department is not able to mobilize quickly.

Nesdahl said the grant money will go towards building "essentially a large lean-to shed" to make more space for training and meeting space. The funds will also cover widening the doors of the firehouse to make getting trucks in and out easier.

Construction will start this spring, and the majority of it will be completed over the summer.

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Currently, the only space for the volunteers to meet is also where the vehicles are kept.

"Our office space is small to begin with," Nesdahl said. "But if there's a call and we're meeting at the same time, the room where we're at is filled with smoke and fumes from the trucks."

More calls

The Fire Department's runs have increased considerably over the past five years, Nesdahl said.

When he started 10 years ago, the department averaged between 70 and 80 runs a year. Last year it was 111 and in 2017 to was 117.

The fire department also act as first responders for the area. Nesdahl said the majority of calls are medical.

The fire department does not get tax dollars from the city, so getting a grant like this is "a huge deal," Nesdahl said.

David Hakensen, communications consultant for the Otto Bremer Trust, said the grant the Emerado Fire Department was given is "significant."
"We give out grants of all sizes, but this is certainly a large one," Hakensen said.
The Emerado Fire Department has been operating out of the firehouse for years without any modification, Hakensen said.

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"The size of their space has become a hardship for them," Hakensen said. "They don't have space to train. They have plenty of volunteers. Recruiting isn't the problem. It's the space to train their new employees."

The Emerado Public School District got a $100,000 grant from the Otto Bremer Trust in 2017, and that is where Nesdahl said he and the department got the idea to apply.

The trust gives based on community needs, Hakensen said.

In 2018 the Otto Bremer Trust awarded nearly $10.3 million to communities in North Dakota, Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

The expansion will not impact the volunteers' ability to answer calls for help, Nesdahl said.

With this grant and eventually the expansion, Nesdahl said he hopes to create a better environment for the 25 existing volunteer firefighters.

"Training is hard enough, but when you're in the same room as four running trucks and you've got the noise and the smoke and you're trying to go through a PowerPoint, it's even more difficult," Nesdahl said. "With this new space we might even be able to attract new volunteers."

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