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Richard, George (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 54, Number 3 (Nov. 1952)

Richard, George
I worked my way through fire college,   pp. 20-22

Page 22

Becker and Alvin Hegna. Hegna was
bringing his wife to Madison to spend
a few days with relatives, while he and
Becker, who is assistant chief at Barron,
planned to put up at Swenson hall, the
men's residence hall that served as liv-
ing quarters for most Fire College stu-
dents. By the time we had arrived in
Madison and finished a Sunday night
supper on the Union Terrace, I had
begun to consider myself almost a mem-
ber of the 32-man Barron department
-even though I had never earned the
dollar an hour that's the salary of these
individuals when they're "on a fire" or
attending monthly drills.
   I had learned that the Barron depart-
ment is typical of small town opera-
tions, having no full time members at
all. Yearly stipends of $150 to the chief
and $75 to the assistant chief constitute
the only regular salaries, the other vol-
unteers working, so to speak, on com-
mission. In some towns, like in neigh-
boring Rice Lake, a paid staff of four
or five regulars is supplemented by sev-
eral dozen volunteers. And, of course,
in larger cities-say 10,000 and over-
the regular fire department staff is usu-
ally self-sufficient. We later found that
representatives of every kind of de-
partment set-up were in attendance at
the Fire College, including several from
multi-station cities of such size as Osh-
kosh and Eau Claire.
   After registering for rooms at Swen-
son hall (the tuition fee of $25 in-
Cluded lodging and meals) the firemen
were on their own until Monday morn-
ing, when the first class got underway.
While I didn't follow the nocturnal
activities of the group, reports indicated
that in some cases the visiting firemen
did enjoy a hot time in the old town
on that and the next two nights. Some
combined business with pleasure and
made informal inspection tours of vari-
ous Madison city fire department sta-
tions to get acquainted with the equip-
ment used in fighting fire in larger
   The first session of the college began
Monday at 10 a. m. sharp, with a punc-
tuality that prevailed throughout the
three-day program-this phenomenon
drawing the applause of all concerned.
Opening remarks were made by the
man upon whose shoulders had fallen
much of the arranging for the institute,
James Lichty, who's listed in the UW
staff directory as an instructor in the
Bureau of Community Development of
the Extension Division. Lichty handles
about 12 to 15 such clinics and short
courses a year. (The Commerce School
was a cooperator in the fire college
project.) He briefed the firemen on the
nature of the course and how it got
started, noting that a similar project
had failed in the late thirties after sev-
eral years of operation.
  A more encouraging prospect is en-
visaged for the present revival, at least
for next year, because Lichty's last mes-
sage to the firemen on Wednesday was
the advice that the institute is sched-
uled for August 10, 11 and 12, in
  Lichty himself would scarcely be
considered a fire fighting expert, but
the program that unfolded itself during
the next three days gave evidence that
he had been well advised by other spon-
sors of the Fire College, including the
Wisconsin Association of Fire Chiefs
and the Wisconsin Association of In-
surance Agents. T h e fire insurance
people, by the way, displayed zealous
THE REPORTING problem offered no handicap
to Richard Ingle of Iron River, Wis. An appli-
ance dealer, he brought along a wire-recorder.
interest in the entire proceedings and
their representatives contributed much
to the institute. This is not surprising,
since, while the presence of a well-
organized fire department in a commu-
nity does bring insurance rates way
down, fire losses are also held to a
  Our first instructor, in fact, was an
ebullient representative of the Western
Actuarial Bureau, Emmett Cox, who
rather reminded me of some sales man-
agers I have known. His salesmanship
consisted of selling firemen on the
proper approach to fire fighting and I
later learned that he had gravitated to
his present position from an early role
as smoke-eater in a regular fire depart-
   It would be futile-and an injustice
to the fire college faculty-to present
in this article everything that was said
and demonstrated during three days of
intensive instruction. My twenty-five
pages of notes would be the basis fbr
a pretty good sized book (and a com-
pletely uniauthoritative one, I'm afraid,
since some little of the information was
beyond my immediate comprehension).
For those who are interested in fire
fighting techniques, I make the sugges-
tion that they join the nearest volunteer
fire department! During the course of
three days, however, I did pick up some
items of information that seemed espe-
cially interesting, and I'll pass them
along, at the risk of being confused
with a writer of newspaper column
  Item: It's not such a good idea to
carry seven tons of water and equip-
ment on a ton-and-a-half truck. (This
may appear self-evident, but from the
general interest in this statement, it
appears that many departments have
considerable  difficulty in convincing
economy-minded town boards of the
  Item: Television s e t s operate at
much higher temperatures than radio
sets, and manufacturers provide for
adequate ventilation. Therefore, built-
in sets must be carefully installed to in-
sure enough air circulation. The 30,000
volts coursing   through  TV    sets is
another potential h a z a r d, although
safeguards are built into every set ap-
proved by the Underwriters Labora-
tories. Still a third TV hazard-also
guarded against in the set's manufac-
ture-is flying   glass from   breaking
tubes. That's why you see an unbreak-
able glass screen in front of the tube
on every set.
   Item: Firemen do think about sav-
ing property during a fire, and don't
chop holes in roofs and floors just for
the fun of it. The holes provide ven-
tilation, and also allow water to escape
from the building rapidly. A small floor
hole is preferable to a ruined, water-
soaked floor.
   Item: A fire chief or acting chief
has the authority to deputize a man
into the department in cases of emer-
gency. (That's fair warning!)
   Item: If you're rescuing a pilot in
a jet interceptor, be careful not to set
off any automatic ejector mechanisms.
You may find yourself propelled 30
feet into the air, with no parachute
   Item: Never straddle a hose.
   Many of these random pieces of in-
formation were gathered in the class-
        (continued on page 39)

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