If you call any small town in America home—or operate a business in a low-population community—there’s a good chance that the people responding to emergency calls in your area are volunteers.
According to the Firefighters and EMS Fund, seven out of 10 U.S. firefighters are serving in unpaid positions—most holding down full-time jobs as well.
CEC is proud of its employees and their ongoing dedication to serving their communities. For some, that means participating in race fundraisers. For others, it means spending time at a local school. For four of our employees working in fire and security, it means stepping up to fill roles as volunteer firefighters.
Fire/Security Technician Jason Fiedler became a volunteer firefighter 23 years ago when a customer encouraged him to do so. Today, he responds to nearly 60% of Platteville Fire Department calls, whether it’s a barn fire, a car accident, or an emergency response after a tornado.
Fiedler serves as captain and also runs Fire Explorers, the department’s junior firefighter program, which was created to address the growing shortage of firefighters by providing education to those who aren’t old enough to join the fire department.
For Project Superintendent Mike Stratmoen, serving his community of Johnson Creek, WI, as a firefighter runs in the family. Among many relatives, his uncle served as lieutenant in Waukegan, IL, overseeing the town’s fire department.
Stratmoen says the knowledge he gains on the job about public safety equipment, including fire alarms, emergency exit access, and ADA compliance, has improved his performance as a firefighter—and vice versa. When he’s conducting inspections for customers, he’s able to go above and beyond what most inspectors look for to find possible problems and solutions that wouldn’t stand out without a background in firefighting.
“CEC is super supportive of my decision to serve as a volunteer firefighter,” says Stratmoen. “I was just promoted to fire chief, so I’ve taken on even more responsibility. CEC has allowed me to have the flexibility to juggle both and be present for both—not having to pick one over the other.”
Fire Inspector Adrian Peeper chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Doylestown, WI, in 2000. Completing training—a minimum 110-hour NFPA-certified course and fighting fires in a drill tower—is one of his proudest moments. “I was going through firefighter education during Sept. 11 and that really galvanized what I was doing,” he explains.
Seven years later, Peeper joined a second volunteer fire department in Rio, WI, due to a shortage of firefighters there. He says the combination of his work and volunteer experiences—combined with his associates degree in fire protection—helps him perform better on the job and when responding to calls. “Thanks to CEC, I have lots of specialized training in fire alarms that other firefighters don’t have. I’m sought after to complete fire inspections on behalf of my local fire department because of the knowledge I’ve built.”
For Tyler Rommel, also a fire inspector, becoming a volunteer firefighter was a decision he made right after high school. He also attended EMT school and joined an EMS department. When late-night shifts got to be too much, Rommel joined CEC to conduct fire inspections for customers—a job that still allows him to help people every day. “We make sure our customers are safe, and I truly enjoy that aspect of my job,” he says.
He also has the chance to help people out on the road, too. As Rommel responds to service calls during the day, he says he sometimes happens upon car accidents. Because of his volunteer experiences and training, he’s able to stop and assist until more help arrives.
Today, as captain of the Polk City Fire Department, Rommel directs emergency-scene operations and oversees daily fire station protocol. “Firefighters are always helping people on the worst days of their lives, which is a pretty cool thing to do,” he explains. “It’s a way to give back and help people, and I’ve built some amazing friendships along the way.”
These four agree that the reward is worth the effort: Serving as a volunteer firefighter is one of the most satisfying things you can do to help your community. “Across the country, departments are in desperate need,” says Peeper. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world to be able to be there to help someone.”