Tri-state volunteer fire training event continues as COVID-19 concerns rise

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Volunteer firefighters from across the tri-state area are in Sioux City for a two-day training event at Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC).

Last week, the WITCC campus decided to move classes online due to COVID-19, however, they allowed the training event to continue on campus.

Around 350 men and women volunteer firefighters attended Saturday’s training event.

Before even walking into a classroom, everyone had to get screened to make sure they were feeling well before heading into the first training session.

“I’ve only had one person call and say, ‘I have potentially been exposed.’ He says, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘Stay home,'” said Steve Ebsen, Woodbury County Fire Association.

The fire service training event brought in people from Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota, where COVID-19 cases are slowly on the rise.

“They took our temperatures and wanted to make sure no one had a fever. So I think they screened every one to make sure they are healthy,” said Matt Seikel, a volunteer Firefighter from Okoboji.

“We’re just trying to be safe. We’re not taking any unnecessary risks. So we have the signs posted about washing hands,” said Ebsen.

Despite growing COVID-19 concerns, the Woodbury County Fire Association decided to hold the two-day training event as scheduled.

The training helps better prepare rural area firefighters to handle potential real-life scenarios, spending time both inside and outside the classroom.

“We teach them various skills everything from wearing the uniform properly to going through the smoke trailer, the attack trailer, ventilation, school bus rescue, and advance vehicle rescue,” said Ebsen.

Some of the first-year volunteers geared up for the very first time.

“I really also looking forward to going through the trailer and seeing what that environment’s like. I’ve never had any experience with that before,” said Ann Braverman, a volunteer firefighter from Okoboji.

The overall lesson for veterans and new volunteers is to keep the community and themselves safe during emergency situations.

“Whether it’s a car accident or walking into someone’s house you never know what you’re walking into. But that’s part of the job and that’s what you have to do. We’re here to help people and I don’t mind if there is a risk factor,” said Seikel.

The training event will continue on Sunday. This is, of course, a nice boost in the economy as many of the visitors are staying at local hotels and eating at restaurants during their stay.

When dealing with first responders, they ask if you call 911 for any reason.

It is advised that you let the dispatcher know if you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing.

This is a precautionary measure they are asking the public to take in Siouxland.

It will help keep our first responders safe and healthy.

Again, as of Saturday night, there are no known cases or suspected COVID-19 cases in Woodbury County.

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