Dan Stewart

Young, and in service

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Dayton volunteer firefighter Dan Stewart poses with one of the department's pumper trucks recently. Stewart is one of the department's newest members. He joined in June of 2016 when her moved to Dayton.

DAYTON — It’s a common problem and an ongoing issue in many small rural communities — local fire departments and EMS services that rely on volunteers can’t get enough of them to fully meet their needs.

Volunteer Dayton Firefighter Dan Stewart is helping to reverse that.

Stewart moved to Dayton in June of 2016 after purchasing a home for himself and his wife Mallary.

“We found a home we really liked,” he said. “It just worked out that way.”

Stewart, who is 25 years old, had wanted to be part of a volunteer department for some time.

“I wanted to settle down in a place before I joined a department,” he said.

He loves his volunteer job.

“I really, really enjoy what I do,” he said. “It’s the best thing I’ve done with my life so far.”

Being a volunteer firefighter is more than just putting on a set of turnout gear and spraying water. There’s a great deal of training, continuing education and hours spent doing many less-than-glamorous tasks.

Stewart thinks it’s important for members of a community to step forward and do what they can, especially the younger members of the community.

“It’s very important,” he said. “Who else is going to do it when the old timers are gone?”

The spirit of service is important to Stewart.

“I wanted to help out my community in any way I could,” he said.

During his year on the fire department, he’s gotten to work a few calls.

“A few structure fires,” he said. “Little ones here and there.”

Stewart is also a member of the Dayton Rescue Squad, where he currently serves as a driver.

In the future, he would like to take the classes to become a certified EMT.

“I’d like to,” he said. “It takes a little time.”

Stewart is also in line to take his required classes for his Firefighter 1 certification.

“I’m waiting for a class to be available,” he said.

Dayton Fire Chief Nick Dunbar is happy to have Stewart on the department.

“Dan came fresh into the fire service, EMS as well.” Dunbar said. “He’s been a really hard worker.”

Stewart also has an excellent rate of being able to respond to calls.

“He and I are tied for the most number of calls,” Dunbar said, adding the department looks for a number of criteria when seeking volunteer firefighters.

“We look for someone that will stick around and that’s willing to participate in the training to get them to full certification and then, hopefully, retain them.” Dunbar said.

He’s certain Stewart has those traits.

“He sure does,” he said.

Stewart is an operator for Van Diest Supply Facility in Duncombe. He graduated from Southeast Valley High School in 2010 and studied auto technology at Iowa Central Community College.

He plans on being in it for the long haul.

“We bought a place,” he said. “We’re settling down.”