As a 39 year old native of DeWitt, I grew here doing the same things that kids today do – school and sports. I think I was 5 or 6 years old when we had a chimney fire at our house one evening. My sister and I were sent across the street to our neighbor’s house. I remember watching out the window in amazement at all the fire trucks and firefighters working to put out the fire and making sure things were safe for us again. Not long after that my father decided to become a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department, where he is still a member of 33 years.
Fast forward to 2006. My wife Jodee and I had our first girl, Hannah. It was then that I decided it was time for me to give back to the community that had taken care of me so well. I became a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department as well in October of 2006. In addition to Hannah, we have Hailee who is 7 and Jack who is 3. Our kids love the fact that I am a volunteer firefighter. They get to do things that a lot of other kids don’t get a chance to do like ride in the fire trucks during parades and going up to the fire station at any time. Sometimes they want to bring their friends along! Each summer there is a family picnic at Westbrook Park that our kids look forward to just as I did when I was young.
My wife and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a whole new “family” with the fire department. Most of the people we probably would not have even met and become so close had I not decided to join.
We are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Let me put that into perspective; we don’t get a day off. When that pager goes off, you react and respond. It may be at night when we are sleeping, during the day while at work or even while attending Church. We don’t get to choose when it goes off. I have missed family dinners, birthday parties, weddings and work. But it is all worth it. When you see that look of terror in a stranger’s eye when you show up and the relief when you leave, that’s when it hits you. We made a difference. We made a positive impact on that person’s life.
During the first year of membership a new firefighter is required to be FireFighter 1 certified. That is a 120 hour course and a passing grade on a written and hands on exam to get the certification. Firefighter 1 teaches the basic firefighting fundamentals that are essential to the job. The state of Iowa also requires 24 hours of training each year for volunteer firefighters. Our department has 2 1/2 trainings each month on the 4th Monday of the month. There are times when it is hard to find that balance of being a good father, husband and have a full time job, but with great support from my wife and kids, we manage.
Being a member of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department makes me feel like I can give back to my community. It gives me great pride that I am a small part of our 30 person department. We all feel like we can be positive roll models for our own kids as well as all the kids in our community. We are very fortunate to have the support that everyone provides. We have awesome equipment, a great group of firefighters and the best community around!
I would encourage everyone to not hesitate to volunteer for anything you feel passionate about, whether it be coaching youth sports or a 4H volunteer, there is always room for more volunteers. Without volunteers our community could not deliver the opportunities that we offer! If anyone has any interest in becoming part of the DeWitt Volunteer Fire Department you may talk to me or any of the other 29 members.
Jeff Peters, DeWitt Resident & Proud Volunteer for the DeWitt Fire Department