TALMAGE – Talmage voters restructured the rural fire board after four of five members declined nomination and a sprightly community discussion over firefighting training.

Moments after the newly-elected board members took their seats, motions were made to authorize signatures that would pay the bills. The old methods collided with the new.

Board President Allan Gottwald, the only one of five members to remain on the board, listened to outgoing board members who said the state requirement for two signatures for bank withdrawals are not really relevant to such a small board. If broad authority to pay the bills is given, they said, the board would not have to meet every month.

"Fire doesn't take it easy on volunteers because they are volunteers"



The convenience seemed to be met with agreement, but Stephanie DeGroot, whose firefighter training in the State Fire Marshal’s program has qualified her for the master’s degree level, pushed Gottwald to find a letter from the state in his stack of documents.

Two signatures are needed, she said, as Gottwald produced the letter for the new board members to view.

The Talmage Fire Board decided to take a new direction. Not only in tightening accounting controls, but in support of firefighter training and safety.

With the meeting room packed shoulder to shoulder with residents and rumors of equal opportunity investigations and dangerous situations for volunteers, Gottwald said he would seek nomination for the board because he believes fresh faces will bring positive change.

Firefighter Randy Brehm talked about the need to set priorities.

Brehm: “Since I’ve been on there, there has been many times when the volunteer firemen have been like ‘we want training, we need training,’ and it gets poo pooed to the next meeting and to the next meeting and to the next meeting. We’ve been trying to do more and more with that.

"There has even been some members on the board that have said well, we just don’t have time for the training. Well, that’ s not necessarily true. At our last firemen’s meeting we have decided to start meeting earlier and do training.”

Brehm’s wife Megan is among the new fire board members, along with DeGroot and Diane Bohlken.

Also elected to the board was Gage Boyce, who is a National Guard member and works for the Lincoln Fire Department.

 Boyce: “Volunteer fire services are held to the exact same standards as the paid fire service. Fire doesn’t take it easy on volunteers because they are volunteers. We have two fully trained, certified fire instructors on the department who are willing to put on fire certification training.”

DeGroot, who was removed as assistant fire chief prior to the meeting, is the other certified trainer.

She was elected by one vote and echoed Gottwald’s optimism that fresh faces on the fire board will help the Talmage Fire Department improve in terms of training, reduced liability and volunteer safety.