Nick Klawon is one of three new firefighters sworn in last month at the Jamestown Fire Department. He’d considered being a firefighter before and finally decided to apply.
“... when your pager goes off it’s a pretty good adrenalin rush,” Klawon said. “There’s nothing quite like that. It’s pretty hard to describe but when you get a fire call, you flip a switch and go from just lounging at home to going and fighting a fire. … so it’s pretty fun in all those aspects.”
A Larimore, N.D., native, Klawon graduated from the University of Jamestown in 2013 with a degree in health and fitness administration. He remained in Jamestown. After working at Newman Signs in the print division for about a year, he decided he also had the time to be a firefighter, and his employer signed off on it.
“I wanted to do something, I wanted to volunteer and do something where I could give back to the community, kind of be more involved with community stuff and that seemed like a good option,” Klawon said of becoming a firefighter.
He discussed it with his wife, Lynzee. The couple have a 1-year-old son.
“I’ve thought about it a few times over the years, so this wasn’t the first time I brought it up to her. She’s very supportive,” he said. “She was a little bit hesitant, she had a lot of questions but she’s definitely very supportive.”
Klawon started a six-month apprenticeship in February after his application was accepted and he passed a physical. He was given a pager for the Jamestown Fire Department and went on his first call within the first week.
“That’s good because during your apprenticeship you’re learning how everything works so it’s good that you go out on as many calls as you can during that time so you can learn,” he said. “As an apprentice, they’re not going to have you going in and attacking a fire, you’re going to stand off to the side and just kind of watch and observe,” maybe help with minor tasks, he said.
Being able to go out on those initial calls affirmed for Klawon that he made the right decision to apply to be a firefighter.
Apprentices go through a six-month probationary period. Besides going on calls, Klawon, like the other apprentices, was learning the department’s standard operating procedures, the trucks and the equipment.
“The first four months of my apprenticeship we didn’t meet at all because of the pandemic,” he said. But there were still training studies to do.
“I was fortunate during our apprenticeship we did the Firefighter I training,” he said. “With that, I got a lot more extensive training than I would have otherwise (at that time).”
Jim Reuther, chief of the Jamestown Fire Department, said the three newly sworn-in firefighters completed their Firefighter I training during their probationary period when it’s typically done after.
“They went through a lot of work to get this done,” Reuther said. “They were determined that they were going to get this done. The ability to do that in your six months of work (during the probationary period) is a lot of work, a lot of work.”
He said firefighters typically complete Firefighter I training in one to two years after the probationary period. Volunteer firefighters must be Firefighter I certified, which includes more comprehensive training in aspects of firefighting and passing hands-on and written tests.
Klawon said being a volunteer firefighter is “a bit of a time commitment” but it isn’t that bad.
“.. we all get together, it’s just like a big group of friends you get to hang out with three times a month,” he said. “We do our training but it’s pretty laid back, we’re all kind of there and hanging out together.”
Reuther said apprentices are paid $300, $150 for each of the two quarters during that initial six months. Firefighters are paid $20.86 hourly for training and calls.
Reuther said there are 27 firefighters in the department at present and two apprentices who recently started training. The ideal number for the department is 38.
“We got six over the last year and it’s great,” he said of new applications. “We went for a long time not even handing out an application and all of a sudden it just turned around.”
The Fire Department is also working with the University of Jamestown, providing an internship for the first time to a student interested in firefighting who will receive 120 hours of training, Reuther said.
Reuther said employers of the volunteer firefighters are important to the department as well.
“I’m still pleased the employers are still allowing them to leave their work when they’re needed," he said. "Can’t thank the employers enough for that. The employers are actually a big part of this too.”
Klawon encourages anyone considering firefighting to get an application and speak with Reuther to learn more about the work.
“It’s very rewarding and it’s a lot of fun, too,” Klawon said. “Everyone’s very supportive. It is not an intimidating environment at all. It can be overwhelming at times trying to learn everything but if you come into it with an open mind and a willingness to learn you’ll catch on pretty quick.”