The Jamestown Rural Fire Department has been on call in Stutsman County since 1949. Though Brian Paulson, chief of JRFD, hasn't been on staff the entire time, his 19 years working for the department earned him the promotion to fire chief.
JRFD is made up of 32 total crew members, including 25 firefighters and seven apprentices. The fire department takes on apprentices to train them and give them the opportunity to earn their certifications to fight fire, a process Paulson said can take anywhere between nine months to one year to complete.
"We invest a lot of time, money and energy in trying to get people to stay here," Paulson said. "Issues with recruitment come and go ... it was probably easier in years past now that certifications and training requirements are so strict."
Paulson said 32 crew members is his ideal size for the department, and the team is "right where we want to be." When JRFD does get a fire call, Paulson said not all 32 crew members typically show up on scene, but somewhere closer to 15 to 20.
The fire chief said the department responds to approximately 50 to 75 fire calls in one year, and the majority of them are for range land and wild land fires created by dry weather conditions. The department responds to an area of 828 square miles, which includes 22 townships outside of city limits.
"Not all the townships are whole townships, some of them are cut off somewhere in the middle," Paulson said.
Paulson said the department's currently at the ideal size, so recruitment is not an issue the fire chief faces this year. Instead, Paulson has other things on his agenda for the department, one of which includes a new $2.9 million fire hall located 1209 9th St. SE.
Space had become an issue over the years, as Paulson said JRFD's current fire hall is only 5,700 square feet. The new fire hall, which is estimated to open to the department on Jan. 14, 2020, more than triples the building capacity to 18,000 square feet.
"This gives us room to grow, we've been limited where we're at," Paulson said.
The space issue has an effect on the department while it responds to a fire call. When the crew members are summoned to the station to change into gear and commute to the emergency, 15 to 20 individuals converge to the fire hall. The problem: finding parking for 15 to 20 vehicles without blocking the fire trucks.
JRFD's jurisdiction lies outside of Jamestown's city limits, with the Jamestown Fire Department responding to calls within the city. Though the two departments work separately, Paulson said he is able to request mutual aid and vice versa.
This mutual aid can include a request for more equipment, resources or simply more people to control the fire, and Paulson said this generally happens a few times each year.
JRFD looks forward to moving to its new home next year, Paulson said, but before, during and after the move, Paulson will spend the time much like he has spent the last 19 years: on call, ready to take action and help anyone that needs it.