Volunteers make the Local Fire Departments Work


The Messenger had a few minutes to talk to Jake Hesse, the Training Captain for both Claremont and Dodge Center Fire Departments.

Here’s what we found out: Jake lives a bit east of Claremont. He’s originally from a small town called Denver, just north of Waterloo, Iowa. He attended Wartburg College in 2002 and the University of Northern Iowa in 2007. He is currently an Operations Manager for Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester.

He and his wife live on 10 acres with their daughter, 1 dog (Kenai), 3 outside cats (Simba, Cougar, and Goose) chickens and a couple of goats.

His hobbies include hunting, camping, kayaking, gardening, and spending time with his family. They run Hesse's Haunted Trail in October on their property. He also volunteering for local Fire Departments and instructing fire courses at Riverland Community College.

His first job was rouging tall corn stalks out of fields at the age of 14, making just $3.15 per hour!

He dislikes cantaloupe, honeydew, clams, sardines, Braun Schweiger and pickled pig’s feet.

The last song he listened to was "Save Me" by Jelly Roll.

His father, Glenn, was the most influential person in my life. He taught Jake to be brave, work hard, never quit, and to love deeply.

Jake hopes to retire out west and live in a log cabin in the mountains, someday.

Jake’s been on Claremont Fire Department since Jan. of 2020 and Dodge Center since August of 2017.

CFD is a volunteer department, so both Casey Dahl and Jake Klejewski are his bosses, as they are the Chief and Assistant Chief, respectively.

As the Training Captain, Jake oversees identifying the needs of the Department and implementing the training plan each month.

They train for a few reasons: First, firefighting is dangerous; needing to ensure that each of them are competent, capable, and confident in not only their skills, but also their brothers and sisters who are going into those dangerous situations with them.

They also train to ensure that they’re able to assist the members of the community as quickly and safely as possible. Each of the residents could count on them to help in an emergency.

On average CFD trains around 2-3 times per month. Sometimes more! They also try to train with other members of other fire departments as often as possible.

Primarily, he trains at CFD station, however, they train sometimes at other departments and even in Rochester at the Regional Training space.

Currently CFD has 19 members on the roster. DCFD has 24.

Firefighters must complete the state required Fire I education and it is highly suggested to complete the Fire II and Hazmat Training as well. Firefighters must complete an additional 72 hours of training every 3 years.

As a Level I Officer and Instructor Level I, Jake must also complete an additional 108 hours every 3 years to maintain his certifications.

CFD and DCFD are both volunteer departments.

“Unlike Owatonna, we don't have any full-time members, so we are all volunteer.” He said in a recent interview. CFD does offer some compensation for tasks each year, but he admits it is becoming more and more difficult to find people interested in volunteering. The department covers nearly all costs of training and gear.

“It can be difficult sometimes to drop what you're doing and respond to an incident. Many employers are very understanding about it being bigger than they are. The duty to the community is all our duties and is supported by nearly all employers.”

The local FDs are looking for honest, hardworking members who are ready to give back to their community. There is a lot of time invested, so it is imperative families are not only aware, but fully on board. The departments are very family friendly, but the job requires time away from home.

Regarding Emergency Medical, CFD has a separate first responders’ group that is a stand-alone group. They all must complete the EMR certification. Some are EMT's like Jake and Chief Dahl.

The EMT certification is a national certification that requires a 3–4-month long course and 40 hours of continuing education.

Many departments have a physical agility test that is completed annually to ensure members are physically capable of doing the work safely.

When we asked Jake what motivates members, he said:

1. Members wanting to give back

2. Wanting to be a part of something larger than themselves.

3. Wanting to look cool, going into a burning building to fight fires and possibly save lives (who wouldn't want that?)

Jake wants us, as a community, to continue to support our fire departments.

Jake hopes interested parties will reach out to any of the members in the department to discuss the process of joining up. All members are open to answering questions about what it means to be a firefighter.

“If you have questions or concerns about buildings, your home or a building or home you own has unexpected or unknown hazards, it's great for us to know. Don't be afraid to reach out.”

Jake’s Tips to help keep your family safe:

Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors!

Talk to your family members about fire safety, have an escape plan.

Wear your seatbelt, wear a helmet, and please don't text and drive.

Jake encourages community members to stop by if they have questions or just want a tour.

Dodge Center has a Father's Day Weekend event: Friday June 14th from 4-8pm. They'll have burgers, brats, hotdogs, chips and root beer floats.

Also, say Hi to the CFD during Hog Fest.

The funds raised at events like this help replace old or worn-out equipment.

“The equipment we use is to keep the community safe. We want people to be supportive and feel like we are involved in their lives. Stop by, say hi, get involved however you can.”

Interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or EMR? Stop by on a Wednesday night at the Fire Hall or you can also contact City Hall at 528-2137.