When the pager went off in the middle of the night, it didn’t take long for volunteer firefighter Tim Flock’s head to clear.
“I don’t know if there was a whole lot of cobweb clearing,” Flock said. “You don’t have time.”
Flock has answered the call of the Oakdale Fire Department clearly and conscientiously for 30 years. He retired from firefighting this month, and his fellow volunteers honored him Tuesday night at the town of LaGrange Fire Station.
“He is one of our members who was always a hard worker for us, whether it’s at a fire or here at the station,” Oakdale fire chief Bob Gnewikow said. “He was one of the first guys in and one of the last guys out.”
Flock joined the fire department in 1989 at the urging of Bill Beller. It didn’t require an overbearing sales pitch.
“I was looking for something in the community to be a part of, and it seemed like a good thing to do,” Flock said. “I don’t think he had to convince me too hard to join.”
It took only one week for Flock to respond to his first service call. He was part of the crew that was dispatched to a barn fire. He couldn’t go into the fire because “I was a rookie,” so he operated the water tank.
Over the years, he remembers notable calls, including an airplane crash that killed two people in a cranberry marsh, but he didn’t file away names and places in his memory bank.
“I’ve never been much for worrying about whose property it is; I’m just there to do what I can to help save it,” Flock said.
He said firefighting has advanced considerably in 30 years, both in terms of saving lives and property and firefighter safety.
“The training has gotten more in-depth,” Flock said. “We learn about building materials and what’s in them.”
He especially appreciates the self-contained breathing apparatus that firefighters use when they enter a building.
“You really need to wear your SCBA, even when you’re picking through the ashes,” Flock said. “You don’t want to be breathing the stuff that they build houses with anymore.”
Firefighting is a physically demanding task, and Flock, like every other volunteer, had to face the day when he could no longer meet the physical demands. He doesn’t have a desk job; he makes his living repairing HVAC systems.
“It’s pretty demanding,” he said. “My job that I do regularly is demanding, and I come home pretty tired. I’d go to a call in the middle of the night, and it would take me two days to recover.”
Gnewikow said whenever someone like Flock retires, it creates a hole in the department that has become increasingly difficult to fill.
“The recruitment right now is tough, but we are getting some new members,” Gnewikow said. “It’s really hard to replace somebody like Tim. He will really be missed.”
Flock treasurers the friendships he has made during his 30 years with the department and said, “I’ll miss the guys and other firefighters, but I’ll still be in the community. I’ll be around.”
Tomah Journal editor Steve Rundio can be reached at email@example.com.