The Holmen Area Fire Department is exploring ways to further training opportunities and working relationships with area fire departments.

At its December meeting, the Holmen Area Fire District Association Board gave HAFD Fire Chief Paul Menches the green light to begin discussions with the La Crosse Fire Department in developing a program for vehicle maintenance.

Holmen resident and La Crosse County Board supervisor, Patrick Barlow, suggested at the fire association board’s Jan. 17 meeting that the departments could find other areas to work together.

“I appreciate that Holmen Fire is talking with La Crosse (fire department),” said Barlow. “I wonder if it could go further, such as training.”

Chief Menches indicated he had been considering such training opportunities with LCFD. He indicated the HAFD encountered some challenges coordinating fire suppression of 12-unit apartment fire that occurred earlier this month. The Galesville and the city of Onalaska fire departments assisted HAFD firefighters at the Jan. 12 fire.

“We haven’t trained much with other departments,” said Menches. “We’ll have to look into training with other departments. We’re operating our own training programs; we’ve gotten used to training in a vacuum.’

HAFD Lt. Jeremy Cook told board members the Holmen department could send several of its firefighters to get training with the city’s firefighters and then those HAFD firefighters would bring the information back to the department to instruct the Holmen responders in the techniques.

Board member Steve Michaels agreed with the idea of the HAFD training with the LCFD, but added the department should also consider training with other local departments.

Menches reported HAFD is planning to hold a 12-hour training symposium the latter part of February. The training would include large area search, rapid intervention and down firefighter training, in which mutual aid departments will be invited to join in the training.

HAFD serves the village of Holmen and the towns of Holland and Onalaska. Two representatives from each municipality sit on the fire board. The fire department is a private entity providing emergency medical service and fire protection and suppression to the three municipalities.

Menches also advised the board at its Jan. 17 meeting that he’s is in the process of applying for a FEMA Assistance to Firefighter grant in order to make upgrades to the fire station.

The department needs to install a system to remove vehicle exhaust from the station’s equipment bays and the chief indicated the meeting/training room needs information technology updates.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and see what we can do,” said Menches regarding the grant application.

If awarded the grant, the HAFD would need to provide 5 percent of the $100,000 request. The board voted to approve the efforts to pursue the grant and to supply the 5 percent match if the department is awarded the grant.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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