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Scanlon will join fire district

Several firefighters including Battalion Chief Steve Kolodge and firefighter Jason Maki walk through a new supportive housing development with Dan Hart, resident manager, to find out the layout of the buildings and equipment. Jana Peterson/

Scanlon is in.

As of last Thursday's Scanlon City Council meeting, the Cloquet Area Fire District welcomed its newest member. Council members and Mayor Jim Putnam voted unanimously to join Cloquet and Perch Lake Township in the fire district.

Darren Guentzel, current Scanlon fire chief, said the all-volunteer department is happy to join the C.A.F.D. Membership will be good for the community, he said, and increased training will benefit both the firefighters and community members.

"Our coverage during the daytime hours has been the biggest problem because a lot of our volunteers work out of town," Guentzel said. "This will help with that, plus we're hoping it will help with retaining and availability of firefighters."

C.A.F.D. Fire Chief Jim Langenbrunner called the decision a "win-win" for everyone.

"It makes us stronger and we can provide a much more effective level of service to the citizens of Scanlon with them being a member," Langenbrunner said, adding that the C.A.F.D. has 22 full-time staff, plus 18 paid on-call staff now. With the addition of Scanlon, he anticipates another 18 to 20 paid on-call firefighters coming on board.

"If a fire breaks out anywhere [in the fire district], we have a coordinated response, with people coming from two or more stations, but who work under one command with clear assignments," Langenbrunner said. "That's very difficult to do if you're working with different volunteer fire departments."

Scanlon residents will pay a cost for that improved service, starting Jan. 1, 2011. That's when tax bills will go up approximately $88. While the city of Scanlon's $87 fire services tax will disappear from tax bills, the C.A.F.D. has its own state-authorized taxing authority and can set levies, similar to the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District and Cloquet School District. The C.A.F.D. levy for 2011 will be $175, said Bob DeCaigny, chairman of the fire district board.

"Of course, they're also paying for ambulance service with that, which they've never done before," DeCaigny said.

Langenbrunner explained that, thanks to extremely low reimbursement rates from Medicare and Medicaid, among others, ambulance services can no long recover costs through fees charged for service.

The work of consolidating with Scanlon will begin almost immediately, Langenbrunner said. One of the Scanlon fire trucks (purchased as a backup) will be retired. Administrative offices, including Langenbrunner's and the division chief of training, will move to the Scanlon Community Center. The community center will become the C.A.F.D.'s Station Three.

Discussions have been held with other communities about joining the fire district, including Thomson, Carlton and the Fond du Lac Reservation. Any additional members have to be located along the existing borders of the fire district. DeCaigny noted that the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee and Cloquet Area Fire District Board continue to work together to establish a contract for a fire services agreement.

Equipping a fire district

It takes a range of tools to serve a fire district. The Cloquet Area Fire District boasts the following fire-fighting and life-saving equipment:

Station 1 (Cloquet)

Four advanced life support ambulances

Two structural engines (primarily used for structure fires)

One 95-foot aerial platform

One heavy rescue vehicle

One multi-use wildfire rig

One utility vehicle

Station 2 (Perch Lake)

One pumper-tanker engine

Two tenders (water tanker trucks)

One wildfire rig/brush truck

One multi-wheel ATV for off-road rescues

One structural engine

Soon-to-be Station 3 (Scanlon)

Two fire engines (one would be retired immediately)

One wildfire truck

One multi-use first responder vehicle