by Steve Peterson
Volunteer fire departments were something new for Patrick Birgess when he moved to Hawarden.
“Where I grew up in the West, it was in big cities and they always had paid (full-time) departments,” said Birgess. “I wanted to give back to the community.”
Birgess’s community spirit and dedication to the Hawarden Fire and Rescue Department was honored by his peers as he is the department’s Fireman of the Year for 2012. The honor is presented each January after voting by members for the previous year.
Birgess joined the Hawarden Fire Department in October 2011. He has completed Firefighter I and Firefighter II training through the Akron and Hawarden Fire Departments. He has started Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) work through Northwest Iowa Community College in Sheldon’s course at Hawarden Regional Healthcare.
“It’s four hours, two times a week,” said Birgess, who joined the fire department at age 45.
Fire Chief Jon Strong congratulated Birgess on the honor during a recent training night.
“Most people are surprised (when they win it),” said Chief Strong.
Birgess said he has been impressed with Hawarden since moving here and being part of the community. He has a five-year-old daughter, Madilyn. He works as a machinist at Rock Industries in Rock Valley, about 30 minutes away and mostly takes post-work calls.
“But if we need the whole department for a call, then employers let their fire department members go to a call,” said Strong.
Birgess grew up in Las Vegas, Nev., and lived in Portland, Ore., before moving to Northwest Iowa.
“I was rebellious growing up. I never thought I would be part of something so structured. I admire the dedication of the volunteer firemen. I’m sure there were a lot of other guys who were more deserving than I,” said Birgess.
Birgess in particular thanks Firefighter Jeff Carr, the department’s treasurer, as helping and encouraging him to join.
Birgess said the physical demands of being a firefighter have not been a problem so far for him.
“It’s the mental aspect of it; how to attack a fire in a proper way that’s the challenge,” said Birgess.
“My goal is to complete the EMT class and maybe be an officer someday,” said Birgess.
Then it was back to the twice-monthly training session on a Wednesday night at the Hawarden Fire Station.
In other Hawarden Fire Department news, Chief Strong said the department has participated in the State of Iowa Fire Marshall’s program to distribute new smoke detectors.
“We worked with Ireton Fire Department and the schools,” he said. “The detectors are so much better now.”