Dell Mork, fire chief for the Scandinavia Fire Department, has a lot to be proud of.
He has been with the department for 28 years; but more important than that is the family tradition that he is carrying on.
“I wanted to become involved,” said Dell. “My dad, my uncles, my brothers have all been a part of the department at one time or another.”
“It’s rewarding,” he said. “Knowing that you went to help someone is a good feeling.”
Dell admits the hardest part of his job is that you know some of the people that you have to respond to.
“You are going there on what is most likely one of their worst days in life,” he said. “It can be heart-wrenching at times.”
Dell’s father agrees.
“It was hard going at times, when you knew well and good it was a family friend that you were responding to,” said Julian Mork.
Julian was with the department for 25 years.
The 81-year old recalled his early firefighting days.
“When I started, the fire station was at 380 Main Street, in Scandinavia,” he said, “right where the addition to Rosenthal’s house stands now.”
“It’s a tough job,” said Julian’s son-in-law, Jerry Rasmussen.
Rasmussen served with the department for 25 years, before retiring.
“I would definitely do it again,” he said.
“It was rewarding working with all the firefighters that I have,” said Jerry. “We became a very elite group.”
Rasmussen recalled his time as an assistant chief.
“The chief was out of town and there was a house fire,” he said. “It took forever. We ended up going back twice before it was finally out.”
“We were still cleaning up the trucks and then there was a kitchen fire in town,” said Rasmussen. “Just being in charge and getting all those calls, it was very frustrating. It bothered me for a long while.”
Brian Rasmussen, son to Jerry, has been on the department as well.
“I grew up knowing I would be a fireman,” said Brian. “Before I was ever with the department, I remember coming down to clean hoses after a fire.”
“My dad taught me everything he knows,” he said.
Dave Mork and his son Wes have both served on the Iola and Scandinavia fire departments.
“I remember going to grass fires with my dad when I was a kid,” said Dave. “It sticks with you.”
“I think it’s great that we have a family history of fighting fires,” said Wes.
Wes recalled his “first” fire fighting days.
“It’s funny now,” said Wes. “But it was not so funny then when I accidently started my dad’s house on fire. I put it out before the fire department got there. It was then that my dad encouraged me to get involved.”
After all the years of firefighting, the stories are many. The men seem to remember them all.
“There was a house fire in the early ‘80s,” said Dell. “We had a double fatality at that fire. Any time there is a fatality, it’s hard to take. And that time we lost two. Property can be replaced, people can’t be.”
“I remember a house fire out near Moon Lake,” said Wes. The section of the house we were able to save had a gun safe. The homeowner was very grateful as it contained guns that he had received from his grandfather.”
“Remember the Melby barn fire?” said Jerry. “We lost a lot of animals there.”
“I think only one or two survived,” said Julian.
Julian’s thoughts quickly change to the Jesse Sands barn fire.
“It completely burned down,” said Julian. “It was quite a shame.”
“The one thing that sticks out in my mind about that fire, was there was a manure pit on the side of the hill,” he said. “It was kind of hard to see, because it was not that big. Pat Riley fell right in.”
All the men agree that each fire has a definite character and that sticks with you.
The one fire that weighs heavy on the hearts of all of them is when the Jeff Mork family barn burnt down.
“All through high school I worked on that farm,” said Wes Mork. “Watching Jeff lose his livelihood was hard. All my childhood memories were on that farm.”
“Looking out the window and seeing those flames, just tore you up inside,” said Julian.
“I was at the station filling tankers,” said Jerry. “It was very difficult hearing that the family farm was gone.”
None of them consider themselves heroes.
“You don’t look at it that way,” said Dell.
“It is our job,” added Julian.
“We are trained to put out fires and that is what we do,” said Brian.
And the family tradition will carry on.
Julian’s 3-year old great-grandson, also named Julian, already loves the department.
The son of Wes and Michelle, little Julian already has his own fire gear, complete with a walkie-talkie, pager, badge and two fire helmets.
“Every time a fire page goes off, he pretends to go to the fire station,” said Michelle. “He talks to the chief, letting the chief know he is on his way to the fire.”
“Wes also has to sing Julian the fire truck song every night before bed,” she said. “The song describes Julian and Wes going to a fire, what they all need to wear and how they put the fire out. Julian always drives the new fire truck and holds the hose.”
Words of advice for the young man who may one day serve on the department?
“I would tell him to go for it, if it’s something he really wants to do,” said Dell. “I think it’s neat that our family tradition can carry on.”
“I would definitely encourage him to become involved,” said Brian.
“Make sure all the guys are trained right, do your job and make sure everyone goes home,” said Dave.
“I would tell him its a commitment, more than anything,” said Wes. “I would encourage him to do it full time if that is what he wants to do.”
“I would also tell him to listen to as many stories as possible from the older people on the department and learn what you can from them,” he said.
“Little Julian will have a lot people to help him learn everything he needs to do, from the others that served before him,” said Julian. “I am proud of my family and of the idea the Julian can carry the tradition on.”