DUNCOMBE: Eric and Jolene Klein
A family affair
DUNCOMBE — Fighting fires is a family affair for Eric and Jolene Klein, of Duncombe.
The couple has given decades to the Duncombe Volunteer Fire Department, setting an example of community service their children have followed. Of their five kids, three sons are serving as firefighters. In addition, the Kleins have a son-in-law who is a firefighter and a daughter-in-law who serves, as well.
This family legacy all began with yard work.
“I was out raking leaves when a fire truck pulled up and they said, ‘get on, you’re fighting a fire,'” Eric Klein said.
That’s sometimes how it happens in small towns, he said. You grab who you can to help out, especially since the department was short staffed at the time with only a handful of volunteers on the roster. The fire chief, who was Klein’s brother-in-law, needed more bodies and knew where to find one.
Though his recruitment was spur-of-the-moment, his continued involvement stems from the camaraderie and sense of purpose being a part of the department provides.
“It’s just the brotherhood and sense of family,” Klein said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
And that goes for the community, as well, he added. When you respond to a call for help, you’re helping neighbors, friends and family. Perhaps his favorite aspect of volunteering with the department, though, is the community outreach events it does each year.
Topping that list are the water fights the department stages in July. Dressed in child-sized fire suits, the town kids get to face off and take aim with the water hoses in a bid to slide a target back and forth along a cable strung up over the street.
“They get to play firefighter for a day,” Klein said. “It’s the funnest thing in the world.”
Klein has been a member of the Duncombe department for 33 years and his wife, Jolene, has been an emergency medical technician — EMT — with the department for 23 years. Their youngest son, Kasey, just joined after spending two years as a junior firefighter. He is now serving along with his brother, Adam, and Adam’s wife, Miranda, who is an EMT. The Kleins’ oldest, Amanda, is married to Andy, a firefighter with the Webster City Fire Department, and the Kleins’ middle son, Kyle, is a firefighter with the Fort Dodge Fire Department.
“The kids have been involved in it since they were itty-bitty,” Eric Klein said. “They would hear the call-out and knew it meant we had to go. As they grew up they just followed along and became part of it.”
Klein has lived in Duncombe for 37 years. His family moved there in 1982 while he was a teen in high school. He has owned and operated a family construction business for past 22 years, and he is a member of the Duncombe Public Library Board.
“Everyone should be involved in their community in some way,” Klein said. “It makes you wiser about what’s going on around you, and it makes you appreciate people more.”