Volunteers fight fires, fundraise

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Guttenberg's firefighters must be prepared for any situation, so they practice situations like this car accident extrication training. (Press photo by Austin Greve)

By Molly Moser

The first step in fire protection for Guttenberg came in 1877, when the town council authorized the purchase of its first piece of fire equipment – a hand-operated pump with hose and fittings, purchased for a total of $380. On May 5, 1882, the Guttenberg Fire Department was officially created.

Volunteer members have dutifully served the community for well over a century, making calls in the City of Guttenberg and Jefferson Township, as well as Mallory, Millville and Clayton Townships. Today, about 5,000 people within an 80-square-mile area benefit from the protection of the Guttenberg Fire Department. 

“Annual expenses to run the fire department have been between $60,000 and $75,000,” said Jamie Blume, assistant city manager. “For the current fiscal year their budget is $96,650. We are currently 75 percent through the fiscal year and they have spent $40,091 or 41.5 percent of their budget.”

Insurance and minor equipment expenses have historically been the two biggest line items for the department. This year, minor equipment has cost the department $8,600, with over $5,000 going out for three new sets of bunker gear. New gear has a 10-year life-span, but some local firefighters are using gear that is 15 years old. 

Regular monthly costs to keep Guttenberg’s fire department operating are $300-$500 for vehicle operations, such as fuel, oil changes or boat maintenance; $350 for phone and internet at the station; $280 for city utilities, including water to fill the trucks and heat to keep that water from freezing in the tanks; $640 in insurance and about $180 in janitorial items and other miscellaneous supplies. 

  The need for a new roof on the fire station is looming in the city’s next fiscal year, which is expected to cost $20,000. The department’s 1991 pumper truck is currently getting a new water tank and pump overhaul with a ticket price of approximately $20,000. 

“The city budgets for the majority of the fire department expenditures and also receives property taxes and payments from the townships to support the department,” said Blume. 

The 26 members of Guttenberg’s volunteer fire department each passed a 180-hour firefighter 1 class and commit to 24 hours of annual training to keep up their certification. They also make up the Guttenberg Firefighters Association, a 501(c)3 organization, that holds the annual Firefighter's Dance to raise funds for purchasing essential equipment. In the past, those items have included an ATV and trailer as well as an enclosed equipment trailer. Funds were used to remodel the upper level of the fire station in 2007. The association also holds an endowment through the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, which is used to purchase new and replacement personal protective gear for volunteers, keeping  members as safe as possible during service and indirectly supporting the ongoing recruitment of new members.

Readers can support the volunteer fire department by attending the Firefighter's Dance, to be held at Lakeside Ballroom on Saturday, March 31. Firefighters are selling tickets for the dance, which will feature music by The Couleegans with Guttenberg native Jessi Eulberg from 7-11 p.m., food by Lakeside Ballroom, and raffle prizes donated by local businesses.

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