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City notes: Firefighters give back to Rosemount

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On Friday of this week, the city of Rosemount will hold an informal gathering to give our thanks and best wishes to Scott Aker, retiring from the fire department after 31 years, the last 25 of them as chief. This is a big transition for Scott -- and also for our department. The city council has spent quite a bit of time thinking about the steps we need to take to maintain the safety of the community.

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Chief Aker presided over much change at Rosemount Fire. The department had to grow to keep up with the community's population. Firefighters' skill sets had to grow even more.

Modern firefighting techniques have become much more complex. Industrial and hazardous materials are a special challenge. And if that wasn't enough, firefighters have to train for hazards beyond simple fires. As I mentioned in this column last month, burning buildings fortunately are rare. But fire crews respond to accidents and alarms. When a call for help goes out because someone is hurt or ill, it's often a firefighter who is the first to provide medical treatment.

The call for help comes to the fire department on average twice a day, a rate that's been increasing the last few years. And the people who respond so swiftly to those calls, from the chief on down, are not fulltime city employees. They get paid per call to drop what they're doing, whether on their regular job or on their family time, and respond to the need. Their service saves Rosemount taxpayers considerable money.

The city has taken steps to improve the limited compensation our firefighters receive. Recently several of us met with some of the city's firefighters. What we heard was that while compensation is important, for most of the firefighters the overriding reason they take part is their desire to serve the community.

The city council appointed a new fire chief, Richard Schroeder, who is a 15-year veteran of the force. He will lead the Rosemount Fire Department effectively as the community continues to grow and as the demand for specialized skills continues to surge. Chief Schroeder is also a sergeant in the Dakota County Sheriff's Office, and his experience will facilitate close work with our police department and neighboring public safety agencies. Firefighters will receive additional training soon on responding to situations in which a suspect is attacking a group of people.

One of the biggest challenges for chief Schroeder and the council will continue to be finding enough personnel ready to answer the call. Many communities like ours have found it increasingly difficult to recruit as many firefighters as we would like to have. Folks generally have busier schedules these days. Daytime coverage is a particular challenge. With Rosemount's growth to the east of Highway 3, calls will inevitably increase.

We ask that the men and women of our community consider applying to join the Rosemount Fire Department. You can read more about the qualifications and what the job entails on the city website at ci.rosemount.mn.us/firefighting.

We are profoundly grateful to the people who have already taken up the challenge of serving in our fire department. If you can, we hope you'll join them.

Bill Droste is mayor of Rosemount. The City Notes column appears in the last issue of every month.

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