Casper Firefighters Report to Wyoming: A Day in the Life, Winter Weather Safety
Firefighters and public information officers with Casper Fire-EMS stopped by the Townsquare Media building to chat on the Report to Wyoming podcast about life at the fire station, teamwork, and winter safety.
Andrew Sundell and Dane Andersen began working for the Casper Fire-EMS Department around the same time.
Sundell said he fell into it. One summer he was out golfing with a friend who suggested he test for the fire department, which led to him going to Casper College for his fire science degree, "and the rest is history." He's been with the city of Casper for eleven years and was a volunteer for the Mills fire department for two years before that.
Andersen, also an engineer for the department, started about six months after Sundell. He said his dad was a firefighter, and he knew for a long time that he would become one, too. Before Casper came calling he was with the Evansville fire department for five years.
Trying to get a glimpse of day-to-day life at the fire station, I asked them what a typical day is like.
"There are no typical days," said Andersen.
What they do know is that they will need to check equipment, plan meals, and usually workout. At any time someone might call 911 and their day completely changes.
Sundell touched on teamwork and how important is to have each other's back, but also because of the vast amount of responsibilities the fire department handles on a daily basis.
A big part of their team building is attributed to the time spent at the station and around the kitchen table.
"The old guys--older than us--that have been on twenty years plus share stories from when they got hired and the fires they went on twenty years ago, and we ask questions and learn from them," said Sundell.
"The fire department is like a second family, and it's kind of the day-to-day stuff where we grow closer together."
They rotate two full days on, four full days off, 365 days a year.
Andersen said, "Our career turns into spending almost a third of our adult lives with our co-workers in a fire station--or a fire house, sometimes might be more apropriate to call it."
When asked who does the cooking Andersen said they all do. Everyone takes turns doing laundry, cleaning and all the other things you do in a home. This translates very well into emergency response.
"Dane is being a little modest," said Sundell. "He currently has the reputation as the best chef on the Casper Fire Deparment."
He said most guys have one or two recipes up their sleeve, but Andersen has a whole menu.
"I enjoy it, it's one of my favorite things to do," said Andersen.
Sundell's go-tos are "cheeseburgers, mac n' cheese with bacon, ice cream, shakes and malts."
We shifted into a more serious topic, which concerns winter weather and some of the hazards that come along with it.
As the holidays ramp up, so do increased risks for structure fires.
Space heaters, wood stoves, holiday cooking and electrical things all pose a serious risk to the community. December, January, and February are the leading months for fires caused by those devices, said Andersen, including improper disposal of charcoal briquettes, fireplace ashes and smoking materials.
"I always think back to Christmas Vacation with Clark Griswald where he plugs in 20 miles of Christmas lights all into one," said Andersen. "We do see stuff like that happen and sometimes it [a structure fire] is directly related to plugging in Christmas lights."
If he had to guess, Sundell said that probably only 50% of households have working fire alarms and smoke detectors.
"They save lives. Fire grows rapidly and can have you trapped before you know it. Especially at night."
Andersen said that when people fall asleep, so do their noses.
Casper Fire-EMS purchases smojke detectors through grant funds and they can provide and install them for anyone in the community, at no cost, whether you own your own home or you live in an apartment. You simply have to calll the fire station and ask.
Andersen said that unattended cooking is probably one of the leading causes of structure fires this time of year.
He noted to never leave the stove on, even if it's just for a few minutes to go to the bathroom or run outside and check on something. Always turn off the stove if you are not able to keep an eye on it.
What's the most dangerous thing, then, in the winter?
Andersen said the most dangerous thing firefighters do this time of the year are river rescues.
"When you have ice on the river there is zero margin for error. If the ice cracks and breaks and someone falls in, we are not able to get them back out. They are under the ice and there is literally nothing we can do, and that goes for our guys as well. So the safety message with that is to avoid the river in the winter time."
"On the heels of that, a lot of people walk their pets, their dogs, during the wintertime. Please keep your dogs on their leashes when you're out at Morad park or wherever because when a dog runs away, either the owner will run out to try to save it or we have to put ourselves in the most dangerous situation imaginable."
Sundell added that in the wintertime there are increases in the accidents on the roadways, and responding to those accidents, whether they're here in town, on the interstate, or the highways, is always very dangerous.
His parting advice to listeners was to remind yourself of that. Wyoming road conditions can change rapidly, sometimes within a couple miles of each other. "Watch out for all the crews that are out there: fire crews, law enforcement, folks tasked with clearing the roads like our city plows and WYDOT."
"Slow down. It can't be said enough.
Really consider, 'At my speed am I going to be able to react and stop in time if I come over the hill and see something in the middle of the road I'm traveling on?'
'Am I going to be able to stop in these conditions?'
Ask yourself, am I following too closely?'