The Wadena and District Fire Department has a new trailer dedicated to refuelling and assisting the STARS helicopters when they come to the area.
The Wadena volunteer firefighters, along with members of the Lions Club, below, and representatives of the Village of Margo, with the fuel trailer that will be used for refueling the helicopters. Back row, left to right, Ron Buhs, Todd Stephanowich, Bernie Rutko, Brian Weber, Myrna Daviduk, George Dawe, Jim Peszko, Allan Turnbull. Front row, left to right, Michael Rutko, Cody Turnbull, Harold Narfason, Chad Rist, Karter Narfason and Cal Halter.
Left to right, Lions Don Tait, Kerry Ziola, Harvey Bowers, Bernie Rutko and Chad Moir.
The trailer was bought by the Town of Wadena and sold to the fire department for $1. The basic trailer was then reinforced and modified to fit the needs of the fire department. Don Auchstaetter and Brian Weber generously donated their time to this, and the Wadena Lions helped raise money to contribute to outfitting the trailer.
STARS has provided the fuel pump, hoses, barrels and other necessities for the actual refuelling, but more equipment is required, particularly safety equipment.
Right now, the trailer can only carry up to 100 gallons of fuel for the helicopter, without hazardous-materials training, as the fuel is not ordinary diesel or gas. The helicopter can require up to a full barrel for refuelling per trip, depending on circumstances such as where the helicopter had to travel and what prevailing winds are like. Since the STARS helicopter can land wherever needed for emergency pickups, the amount of fuel used can vary.
The trailer was reinforced and outfitted to hold the barrels and various equipment needed. Specialty lights were purchased at BP Ag in Wadena and STARS stickers and decals were applied by DJ Yablonski’s in Wadena. The Wadena Lions Club bought special LED lights, called turbo flares, and pylons for marking accident and landing sites. The flares are visible for a long distance from the sky and aid in guiding the helicopter to a landing.
In a ceremony at the regular firefighters’ meeting last Wednesday evening, the Wadena Lions Club presented a cheque for $1500 to the fire department toward the trailer, and the Village of Margo presented a cheque for $500.
Two of the STARS helicopters currently can make the trip to the Wadena area – STARS9, out of Regina, and STARS11, out of Saskatoon. STARS11 requires refuelling every trip, but STARS9 does not always need it, as the aerial distance between Regina and Wadena is slightly shorter than the distance between Saskatoon and Wadena.
Former Fosston resident Greg Chorney, son of Bill and Linda Chorney, is the lead pilot out of Regina and in charge of the Regina area operations. His counterpart in Saskatoon is Brad Tolmie. Both have expressed their relief at having the refuelling service available here.
The Wadena Fire Department is still looking for donations toward safety equipment, and plans a fundraiser in the near future to buy a truck dedicated to pulling the trailer. At the moment, fire department members are generously using their personal vehicles to haul the trailer.
Donations can be made at the Town of Wadena office and are eligible for charitable receipts.
By Charlene Wirtz