8 • DAILY NEWS
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
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Fallen Firefighters Memorial
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Families of firefighters who died in the line of duty, firefighters from around the state, community members and citizens attended the second annual Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Memorial held Sept. 29 at the new Fallen Firefighter Monument on the State Capitol grounds. The memorial has fire poles with the names of the fallen firefighters on them, above. During the ceremony, members of Minnesota fire departments lined the sidewalk as they paid respect to the families of fallen firefighters, right.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Published by the Daily News
• • • •
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2 • DAILY NEWS
Emotional tribute to fallen firefighter
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Above: Kathy Diekman was met by three Breckenridge firefighters at the Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial a few weeks ago. She is shown with, Tyler Slettedahl, Rob Jirak and Curt Holtz. Below right: Jim Hunkins, Diekman’s late father, died of a heart attack while on scene at a fire in 1985. His name was put on the memorial and Diekman said it was an emotional experience to see his name among the other fallen firefighters of Minnesota.
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Minnesota’s fallen firefighters. The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation coordinates the effort to recognize those who died in the line of duty and provides support and resources to fire departments, firefighters and their families throughout the state. Diekman and her husband, Tom Schmaltz, attended the solemn ceremony along with three firefighters from the Breckenridge Fire Department. Diekman said her dad fought the Stratford Hotel fire and was “so proud of being a firefighter.” She said she feels great pride for all firefighters and found the ceremony to be heart-
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BY CARRIE MCDERMOTT • DAILY NEWS email@example.com
Approximately 1,000 Minnesotans gathered last month in St. Paul to pay tribute to firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Families of firefighters who died in the line of duty, firefighters from around the state, community members and citizens attended the second annual Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Monument held Sept. 29 at the new Fallen Firefighter Memorial on the State Capitol grounds. One of those honored this year was James “Jim” Hunkins, father of Chahinkapa Zoo’s director, Kathy Diekman. Hunkins died Jan. 2, 1985 from a heart attack while on the scene of a fire in Breckenridge. The memorial was dedicated last year, and contains the names of 208 fallen firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1881. The memorial service is held each year on the last Sunday in September, which has been designated as the state’s official day to honor
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SEE FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL, PAGE 7
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FIREFIGHTERS MEMORIAL: Ceremony was ‘heartfelt’ for one daughter CONTINUED FROM PAGE 2
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Kathy Diekman stands beside her father’s name at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
felt. She was happily surprised to see her dad’s fire house represented by the three who attended with their wives. One of those firefighters, Curt Holtz, worked with Hunkins on the department for several years, and said, “Firemen are like family. It would have been wrong if someone didn’t go.” He thought the ceremony was impressive and the memorial itself was “simple but nice.” Holtz, who works for Smith Motors, is also an Emergency Medical Technician and works with the Breckenridge Ambulance Service. Names of those honored are engraved on poles which surround a statue of a firefighter holding onto a ladder and carrying a child. Before the ceremony, fire personnel wore their dress blues and lined the sidewalk that the families walked through before being seated. “I was impressed,” Holtz said. “There had to be 500 firemen there.” Breckenridge Firefighter Rob Jirak, a 10year veteran, said he’s never seen anything so moving. “The sheer respect, statewide, was amazing,” he said. “They read the stories of those they were honoring, who they were, and how they died. The Governor was there, the Commissioner of Public Safety was there. It was very moving.” Tyler Slettedhal also attended the ceremony with his firefighter brothers, and said the ceremony was extremely formal and very interesting. “There was the 1:58 p.m. ringing of the bells across Minnesota, where any religious organization or affiliation is asked to ring a bell in remembrance for the fallen firefighters in Minnesota,” he said, “It was a pretty powerful ceremony. It was on the scale of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” He described four ladder trucks that were holding up large American flags, and a total of seven fire trucks parked around the ceremony to signify the number of departments that had several casualties including Minneapolis, Duluth, St. Paul and Virginia. “They are all heroes,” Diekman said of the Minnesota firefighters.
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DAILY NEWS • 7
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6 • DAILY NEWS
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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
Chief embraces being a firefighter
We’re proud of our local Fire Departments in their efforts to make our community safe.
BY MATTHEW LIEDKE • DAILY NEWS firstname.lastname@example.org
Excitement, adrenaline and the responsibility to help the public – this is what faces all firefighters, and Wahpeton Fire Chief Derek Miller embraces all of it. A Wahpeton native, Miller said he had a goal of becoming a firefighter since his childhood, and in September 1999, that goal was achieved. Miller was working at Comstock and since he already knew people on the fire department, it was the right time to join. Since joining the Wahpeton Fire Department, Miller has worked his way through several ranks. He spent time as a training officer, second assistant and as first assistant. As the five-year term for Miller’s predecessor, Dale Rubish, came to an end as fire chief, Miller thought it was the right time to take the next step. He ran unopposed for the position that is decided by Wahpeton firefighters through a vote. Since taking over the role, Miller said what has changed the most for him is the amount of paperwork. “We have to report to the city for budget time, write reports to the state and basically make sure everything runs smoothly,” Miller said. “It’s different than what I was doing before. When you take over as chief there’s definitely more paperwork involved. You have to stay in contact with the mayor and city administrator.” Despite not being in the fire hall 24/7, he is always on call. Miller said that as fire chief, he always has to be ready. This includes having to leave events he is attending with his wife, Kari, and sons, Braden and Jordan. “Sometimes it’s difficult, because of family functions,” Miller said. “Holidays and summers can be tough. Football games, baseball games, there’s stuff that you do miss out on, but you just have to make up for it in other ways.” When it comes to the department, Miller said there is a good crew ready to answer the calls. “We have a really good bunch of guys,”
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
Firefighter part of a group giving back to Breck
Home Mutual Insurance Co. 502 2nd Avenue North Wahpeton, ND 701-642-4101
BY MATTHEW LIEDKE •DAILY NEWS
Wahpeton Fire Chief Derek Miller said the department is full of dependable firefighters who are well trained for any emergency.
Miller said, “It’s a younger group. We have all kinds on the team, fro, plumbers, electricians and some contractors, like myself,” Miller said. Recently the department got together to enjoy a night at the racetrack to cheer on a fellow firefighter who had a car in a race. When it comes to training and entering burning buildings, Miller said the Wahpeton Fire Department has the right gear to get the job done. “We have some cool tools, for us to have the equipment that we do have, we are really fortunate,” he said. When the calls do come in, Miller explained that there is an adrenaline rush. “It’s exciting, the diversity of what we do here. You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. Miller said the most rewarding thing as chief is helping the community. “Just being able to help at fires, helping people in need,” Miller said. “We have the school tours, getting the kids involved with it. We try to help out wherever we can.”
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BY PRESTON YAGGIE • DAILY NEWS INTERN
Rob Jirak has been in Breckenridge for almost his entire life. As a child he loved watching fire trucks in parades and meeting the firefighters. Flash-forward a couple of decades and he still enjoys the lights and the trucks, but now he’s on the other side of the wheel. “It’s really nice when you get to see the kids in parades when you’re in fire trucks or visiting schools,” he said. “Because they get to see us without all of our equipment on and see that we’re people too.” Rob was born and raised in Breckenridge. He loves this community and after he went to Fargo for college, he knew he wanted to come back. In early 2000, he and his wife, Emily, who also grew up in Breckenridge, were married. Jirak works on a farm a few miles out of town. As soon as he came back to his hometown, Jirak volunteered with the Breckenridge Fire Department. “I had a few buddies on the fire department and it was always something I wanted to do,” he said. “It’s good that it’s voluntary because you just have a bunch of guys who want to give back to their community.” Jirak said he’s seen almost everything from small oven fires to houses surrounded in smoke. One of his most memorable calls was a two-story house that was on fire. One of the firefighters saw a hand pressing on the window of the top floor. Through dedication, skill and determination firefighters safely extracted the person from the house. Jirak is also a loving husband and father. He and his wife have two daughters, 11 and 2. “My wife and kids are the most important things in the world to me. Saving a person’s life is a different rush from that,” he said, “but both feelings are very rewarding.” Being involved as a firefighter isn’t all intense scenarios. It is always fulfilling, and it can be also be fun. Jirak said one of the parts he most enjoys is the camaraderie of being on a team. He loves working with his buddies and the social aspect of being a firefighter. Growing up in a town like Breckenridge is a
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Breckenridge firefighter Rob Jirak has the best of both worlds, a loving family and the brotherhood of a group of men who protect his back during emergency calls.
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good place for being on an all-volunteer staff, he said. There is a sense of togetherness since many of these men have known each other their entire lives. “If I didn’t know anybody on the department before I joined, I probably would have never joined. It’s nice when you’re with a bunch of guys all the time who have your back,” Jirak said. “When you go out there, whether it’s a small fire caused by an appliance, or a big one caused by a gas leak or something, you have to have guys who stand beside you and who have your back.” He has the best of both worlds, a loving family and the brotherhood of a group of men who protect each other during emergencies, he said. He’s more than happy to help out his community when something bad happens. Even now, he loves it when children get excited to see fire trucks at school or in parades, because he knows he was the same at their age. He calls himself a protective father and being protective is a good quality for a job where you may have to save someone’s life.
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DAILY NEWS • 3
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4 • DAILY NEWS
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
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Thank you for your service and dedication
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013
Breckenridge Fire Department
DAILY NEWS •5
Highway 13 West Wahpeton 701-642-5300
The Breckenridge Fire Department is shown in front of the emergency entrance at St. Francis Health Care Campus: Top row from left: Blair Miranowski, Brad Wall, Andy Finkral, Nate Summerville, Tom Meyer, Tyler Slettedahl and Travis Boesen. Middle row: Mark Campbell, Doug Lorenz, Paul Mergens, Mike Johnson, Andy Blau-
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fuss, Bob Heisier, Louis Tschakert, Eric Johanson, Russ Wilson and Brian Conzemius. Front Row: Curt Holtz, Jeff Snyder, Scott Johnson, Rob Jirak, Rick Kropp, Jeff Paur, Keith Robertsdahl and Rod Berhow. Not pictured: Glenn Klostreich, Brian VanTassel and Max Roberts.
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