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Farmington Fire hosts open houses in March

Farmington Fire Department will host three upcoming recruitment open houses. Firefighters Tim Vanderlinde (left), Justin Kelly and Amanda Christensen report the service is a rewarding commitment to help those in need and become a part of the community. There will be three open houses in March for any interested in learning more. Kara Hildreth / contributor

Do you have a burning passion to serve your community as a firefighter?

If you are curious, you can attend one upcoming recruiting open house hosted by the Farmington Fire Department.

The informal sessions are designed to extinguish questions you may have about what is means to sign up to become a volunteer, paid, on-call firefighter.

New recruits will study at the fire academy as part of joint training with Apple Valley, Lakeville and Farmington departments. Most courses are taught in Apple Valley.

"You have to focus on getting through the fire academy to learn the basic firefighting skills and then take part in Monday night trainings or Tuesday day trainings," Farmington Fire Chief Justin Elvestad said.

Currently, the Farmington Fire Department has 46 firefighters, but Farmington City Council has approved up to 60 members. "We would like to hit that target," Elvestad said.

New recruits need to pass a physical ability test and a medical evaluation and be cleared to wear a respirator. Recruits also must pass written and oral interviews.

Firefighter Amanda Christenson, 35, has served on the department for eight years. Today she is a squad leader and works with new recruits to mentor them and help them get acquainted and answer questions.

"It is kind of like an officer position, but not really and I am in transition,and looking to move up to be lieutenant or captain and something and gives me a step in that direction," Christenson said.

As one of two women on the department, she encourages all to come and check it out.

"A lot of people look at the physical part and think I can't do it, but they should come and try on the fear and come in for a station tour," she said.

"It is very physically demanding but you have to understand you are working on a team and you are always going out on calls together and you can rely on each other," Christenson said.

"We are always looking out for each other's safety," she added.

There are many hours of training at first and the classes take time, but then the learning means you continue to learn something new nearly every day.

"What I love about it is I get to serve community and help my neighbors during their time of need," she added.

She encourages women to come try out if they have the desire or curiosity. "If a female is trying out, I recommend checking out the agility test and seeing what it is all about because it takes more upper body strength," Christenson said.

Working professionally as a corrections officer in human service under the realm of public safety, Christenson said she likes the family camaraderie of the fire department.

"It is one big family and we have our banquet each year and it is nice to see everybody and hang out and take classes together," she said.

"We watch out for each other a lot and it is a big part of my life and it is really like a family because if anyone hurt themselves and needed their sidewalks shoveled and needed help, then we would help each other out," Christenson said.

Firefighter Tim Vanderlinde recommends people who are curious show up and ask questions as a 16-year veteran firefighter.

"It is nice being able to help people who are having a bad day because you know when the pager goes off something is going wrong," he said.

Understanding the commitment and time away from family can be hard to grasp at first, Vanderlinde, 37, said many times the pager calls go off during a family activity, celebration or dinner out with friends.

Responding to 45 percent of calls, Vanderlinde shows up for 15 to 20 calls a month. Since he works locally for Dakota Electric in Farmington, he has freedom to respond to calls during his work day if needed.

"It is a great group of guys and that is one of the bonuses, and now we have good leaders involved and so it is starting to be a fun place to be and everything is good," Vanderlinde said.

At the end of calls, he said he feels a sense of pride helping out a person in need.

"When you can help someone out, it always feels good."

During his tenure, he feels fortunate to have gained valued emergency medical training.

"I stop at car accidents and my boys always worry about the calls at car crash," he said.

Vanderlinde said maybe he has inspired his youngest to consider the fire service because he gets excited going down to the fire house and likes when his father responds to calls.

New firefighter Justin Kelly, 32, has been working on completed his training since he signed up last July.

"I have always wanted to be a firefighter like a lot of kids growing up, and I know for some it fades after a while but it was always something on my mind," Kelly said.

As native to Farmington, after college and moving around, he became settled and decided to pursue his dream of serving in the fire service.

"I wanted to be able to give back to community I grew up in, and give back to the city and the community I grew up in and where my family is," said Kelly.

Following in family members' shoes who have served in fire service, the paramedics or as part of an EMT team, he is excited that soon he will be able to respond to fire calls.

Professionally, he works as a senior data consultant and is able to telecommute a few days and week and that means he will be available to answer day calls.

"We come from all places professionally, but the one common denominator is that we are all passionate about fire service and helping the community and that is what brings us all together," Kelly said.

"The training process is pretty long and a decent amount of work, but everyone has gone through it and everyone is there to help you," said Kelly.

Serving those in need is paramount to everyone who signs up for the fire service, touting the chief's words and the department's motto, Kelly said.

"We will go to trainings and joke around and laugh and then it is time to work and buckle down and focus," he said.

Kelly added "It is really great group of people who all share the same passion and that is what it is all about."

Chief Elvestad said "Anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a firefighter should come down and see what it is all about."

If you go ...

What: Farmington firefighter open house

When and where: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 14. Fire Station 2, 19695 Municipal Drive

7 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, Fire Station 1, 21625 Denmark Ave.

8 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, Fire Station 2, 19695 Municipal Drive

No registration is necessary.