Grand Rapids Volunteer Firefighters in it for Long Haul
By Jacob Mathias
The Grand Rapids Fire Department is run completely by volunteers but the firefighters see it as more than just a way to kill time.
At the fire department’s annual appreciation dinner on October 13, the 52 volunteer members were acknowledged and awards were given for longevity. Some firefighters have been with the department for 30 years or more.
Fire Chief Don Bohn and Captain Mike Szwajkowski said working at the GRFD is very rewarding.
“I tell people it’s going to be one of the most rewarding things you ever do in your life is getting involved in something like this,” said Bohn. “There’s a lot of good organizations out there. Everybody’s got a good cause but some of the things you see or do throughout your career in the fire department are life changing.”
Length-of-Service awards were given to the following firefighters:
30 Years: Chief Don Bohn
20 years: Pete Bushmaker
15 years: Capt. Mark Mahoney
10 years: Capt. Mike Duchrow
5 years: Eric Neville
“It’s not a job. It’s a privilege to serve this department,” said Szwajkowski. “It was a dream of mine.”
The GRFD does better than most in keeping volunteer firefighters on staff, but are always looking for help, especially those available during daytime hours. Until recent years, much of the fire department staff had been shift workers from the various mills and factories in the area which made daytime volunteers easy to find.
“The odds that we’re going to turn people away are slim,” said Bohn.
The GRFD station is located at 2410 48th St. S in Wisconsin Rapids.