23 years of fighting fires
BADGER — Jeff Brundige has seen plenty of changes since he became a Badger volunteer firefighter 23 years ago.
The training and requirements for firefighters have shifted in many ways.
And this year, his own duties have changed as Brundige took on the role of Badger Fire Chief.
“It’s a little more involved, yes,” he said.
Of course, the basics that attracted Brundige to the department aren’t likely to change too much. He became interested in volunteering shortly after he moved to Badger, to his house on the corner of the main road heading south.
“I was out in my yard one night, when all of a sudden, all these fire trucks went flying around the corner,” he said. “That kind of got my attention. So I kind of followed them down the street, and they just went a couple miles out of town, and there was a motorcycle wreck.”
After he saw the department at work helping out at the accident, Brundige wanted to join.
He saw a man outside washing a fire truck a couple days later and just stopped by to ask what it would take to join the department.
“I had no knowledge of volunteer versus career or anything. I was just curious what it involved to be on there,” Brundige said. “It was basically ‘come to two meetings, and after that we vote on you and you get voted on.’ I came to the next meetings and got voted on.”
Some of the biggest fires Brundige has seen were when Badger was called to work with other departments.
“I’ve been to Fort Dodge a couple times, assisted with those,” he said. “The first one I was on with them was when the old city garage was on fire. That was at Third and Central (Avenue). It’s not there anymore.”
Badger was also called in back in 2014 when an old church burned to the ground on First Avenue North. Six departments from around the area were called in on a Saturday, and battled the massive fire from about 1:45 to 9:30 p.m.
While fires are fortunately few in number, Brundige said the fire department gets numerous accident calls.
“We are mostly EMS now,” he said. “Car accidents.”
And there have been some bad ones over the years.
“One of them was just north of town here,” Brundige said. “A guy was on an open tractor, going home late at night, and somebody just plowed into him.”
“Kids. Kids are always hard.”
That’s when the camaraderie between firefighters is especially important.
“We have excellent support,” he said. “When we have a bad one, we look out for each other. We keep an eye on each other. Talk it out.”
And of course, the good outcomes are always a positive and lift his spirits.
Other times, the department has had some strange calls.
“There was a semi full of pigs, that were scattered everywhere,” Brundige said. “I think they were in a rendering truck. They weren’t live.”
“It was hot. … They were greasy and slimy.”
Nevertheless the firefighters helped clear the street, Brundige said.
“We always help out,” he said. “I was not expecting that one.”
The amount of training has changed since Brundige first started.
“Back then we did your basic fire control, some EMS,” he said. “But now if you get certified in Firefighter 1 or 2 or whatever level, there’s a mandatory 24-hour continuing ed every year.”
He added that he also undergoes Hazmat training and has to take a refresher course each year.
“It takes a lot more hours today than it did back then.”
As chief, Brundige runs reports entered into a computer to be sent off to the state, and keeps in touch with the fire board, the governing body made up of all the surrounding township. He also provides the board with a budget.
Of course, like most departments, Badger has its own fundraisers on top of the tax levy it brings in. It holds the fireman’s ball in fall and an omelet breakfast in spring.
And coming up on July 29, the department will hold its first Badger Firehouse Rock, from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, featuring Vic Ferrari.
“We tried to do that two years ago,” said Brundige, explaining how heavy rains and lightning forced the show to be canceled.
The department purchased a large new fire truck last year and this year it will likely seek to replace its brush truck.
“That’s a small truck to get in quick,” he said. “For small grass fires.”
The current one is homemade, Brundige added. They bought a truck from Fort Dodge Ford Toyota and added a hose from an old truck and a pump. The tank was donated by a farmer.
Brundige has three children who have grown and moved out and four grandchildren with one on the way.
“So if I’m not doing something here, I’m usually doing something with the grandkids,” he said.
It’s not up to Brundige whether he’ll be chief next year. He said the department votes every November. But he’s willing to do the work.
“I’m willing to stick it out as long as they’ll have me,” he said.
Helping the community is why he’s kept at it for 23 years.
“Just the satisfaction of giving back. Helping people — that’s the big thing,” he said. “Giving back to the community.”
“Along with every bad one, there’s a good one too, where you feel you made a difference.”