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NL Firefighters put community fun in fundraising

NLFD hosts 10th annual Salute to Summer
Ma-Ja (left) and Gabby Makpenon, of North Liberty, team up to aim the water stream from a fire hose at a target Saturday, Aug. 18, at the North Liberty Fire Department’s Salute to Summer event as Firefighter-EMT Mallory Barney watches. Salute to Summer is the volunteer fire department’s only fundraising event, and emphasizes family fun and bringing the community together, while providing additional money for equipment or other needs beyond the budget. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty Fire Department (NLFD) hosted its 10th annual “Salute to Summer” event Saturday, Aug. 18, at the fire station on Cherry Street. It was the second year for holding the event at the station, after eight years at the Scales Pointe Campground.
The NLFD ran approximately 700 calls in 2009, the first year for the event, and topped 860 the week of August 13.
As the volunteer fire department’s call volume continues to increase , putting more and more demands on the members, the move back to the station was made along with some downsizing of the event to make it more manageable for the crew.
Salute to Summer is the only fundraiser the department conducts annually, and while fire departments traditionally host pancake breakfasts or soup suppers or even a “firemen’s dance,” the NLFD went with a day of family-friendly activities for the community.
“It’s really a great opportunity for us,” Capt. Mike Johnston said. “It is a fundraiser for the department, but the whole idea is just to bring the community together, interact with the fire department and see what we’re all about.”
Johnston is the department’s Community Risk Reduction Captain.
“We’re so lucky here in North Liberty to have the support that we have, and it’s so cool to be able to bring the community together and show them the tools that they help us get,” he said.
Funds raised from the event, and through donations, supplement the department’s budget and make it possible to acquire additional equipment and/or special training opportunities. Some of the money from last year’s event was spent recently to improve the department’s rural water supply capabilities. There are no fire hydrants in the rural areas, which means every drop has to be trucked in. The NLFD purchased equipment to more efficiently handle water in portable tanks on the fire ground.
“That will help us hook up with our surrounding communities so that we all have a unified system, and our stuff works with Solon’s and Swisher’s and so on and so forth,” Lt. Jeff Jaeger, the Operations Lieutenant, said. “One of the things we’re really talking about for this year is getting some new hose and nozzles and standardizing the equipment on each of our engines (pumpers).”
The department has different sizes (capacity) of nozzles on Engine 112 (first-out pumper), Quint 114 (ladder truck usable as a pumper), Tanker-Pumper 113 and even Reserve Engine 117 (replaced as a front line unit by 112).
“What that does,” Lt. Jaeger said, “is that the pump operators really have to put a lot of thought into ‘what nozzle do I have on the end of that hose?’ If we can standardize all that, it’s going to make our jobs a little easier and it’s going to make things safer for the firefighters on the end of that line.”
One change this year saw food vendors, including the North Liberty Optimist Club, Turkey Grill, Kona Ice and T.C. Bonez Catering and BBQ, instead of the firefighters grilling and serving meals.
“It’s very labor-intensive,” Jaeger said. “So we’re really thankful that they came up and helped us out. That was one less thing that took our time and now we can really concentrate on the community that’s here.”
The department continues to actively recruit new members. For information about joining the NLFD contact Asst. Chief Bill Schmooke at 319-626-5717, ext. 5725, or online at https://nlfire.org.