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Keene firemen named 2013 Emergency Responders of the Year

Posted 7/17/13 (Wed)

By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer

Described as true first responders, and essential to the Keene Fire Department, John Rolfsrud, Keene Fire Department Fire Chief, and Luke Olson, the department’s Assistant Fire Chief, have been chosen as the 2013 Emergency Responders of the Year.
According to Jerry Samuelson, McKenzie County Emergency manager, the Keene Fire Department has evolved since the start of the oil boom, from putting out grass and house fires to responding to traffic accidents and medical emergencies.
“The Keene Fire Department is not just a rural fire department anymore,” states Samuelson. “They do crash and rescue as well as house and grass fires.”
“We went from doing grass fires with six people on the department to doing just about everything,” states Rolfsrud.
Samuelson states that it was Rolfsrud and Olson who led the department in making the changes necessary to meet their community’s changing needs.
“Rolfsrud and Olson have been the leaders in the Keene Fire Department,” states Samuelson. “Thanks to their efforts, the men of the Keene Fire Department are current on all their training, and they have upgraded all their training.”
And along with upgrading the department’s training, Rolfsrud and Olson have worked to upgrade the department’s equipment as well.
In recent years the Keene Fire Department has acquired five additional trucks, going from just two fire trucks to the seven they now use on a regular basis.
One new vehicle in particular is the department’s new crash and rescue truck, which they acquired through a fundraising effort.
“We wrote letters to oil companies asking them to help us with a crash and rescue vehicle,” states Rolfsrud. “Then we had 12 guys who went out of their way to do the training for the vehicle in Watford City.”
In addition to vehicles and equipment, the Keene Fire Department roster has grown from six men to roughly 30.
And, according to Olson, the Keene Fire Department used to average 15 to 20 calls a year. But since the boom they have more than tripled that number.
“Last year we averaged 70 calls,” states Olson. “It is July and we have already taken 35 calls, which means we are on pace to beat last year’s average.”
“Rolfsrud and Olson are true first responders in the sense that they are always there, are actively involved, and are usually the first men on the scene,” states Samuelson.
With one man camp and a few RV parks in their first response zone, Olson and Rolfsrud state their biggest issue has been traffic.
“We have received a lot more crash and rescue calls than before,” states Olson.
Additionally, Rolfsrud and Olson state they have dealt with a high number of medical calls as well. And with the increased number of wells being drilled by Keene, some of them have included rig injuries.
Rolfsrud has served with the Keene Fire Department for over 10 years. Olson has been with the department for eight years, three of which have been as assistant fire chief. But both Rolfsrud and Olson credit the men they serve with for the success of their department.
“If we had a bunch of guys who didn’t want to do anything, it wouldn’t be much of a department no matter what I did,” states Rolfsrud. “But the men make my job a lot easier, because they are enthusiastic about what they do and they do it really well.”