Little Rice Emergency Services Unit: Ready to serve
Courtesy of the Little Rice Fire Department
TOWN OF LITTLE RICE – The Little Rice Fire Department Emergency Services Unit (ESU) is a mobile canteen team that has been operational for almost 20 years, but received a real test not once, but twice this past month, as it responded to two large fires in the Nokomis area.
The ESU stands ready to respond to larger incidents in a three-county area to offer cold water, Gatorade, hot drinks, and snacks to hardworking and sometimes exhausted firefighters and other first responders. For incidents that span several hours, the ESU provides more substantial food, such as beef stew and pizza.
The ESU is a critical component of firefighter rehabilitation on the fire ground. Firefighter rehabilitation is designed to ensure that the physical and mental well-being of members operating at the scene of an emergency does not deteriorate to the point where it affects the safety of any other members. Firefighting is inherently dangerous in the best of circumstances, and any additional physical or mental stress increases the danger.
Little Rice Fire Department volunteers staff the ESU, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rain or shine, and responds to any community in need of its services.
Oneida County is one of several in the area that has the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) in place. MABAS is a system fire departments activate when their event, such as a fire, overtax their local capabilities. In effect, MABAS is a call for help from neighboring departments. All fire departments have preplanned “cards” which they activate to ask for additional tankers, engines, chiefs and other special operating units such as the ESU. The Dispatch Center activates the card when asked by the Incident Commander.
The Little Rice ESU is on almost all of the cards from fire departments as a critical part of the MABAS system.
On board, the ESU sports a stovetop and coffee makers, working room for the volunteers, serving windows, a canopy for shade. Non-perishables like water and snacks are stored on the truck so it is always ready to roll. For longer events, the ESU can fill up with supplies stored at the fire station.
In the last month, the ESU was a welcome sight to firefighters as they were battling first, an auto salvage yard fire, and second, a structure fire in the neighboring township of Nokomis. When the incidents went well into mealtime, the ESU volunteers sought help from Billy Bob’s Sports Bar and Grill, near the fire scene. Billy Bob’s whipped up 15 pizzas for each incident and gave them to the ESU at half price. When the ESU volunteers were carrying the pizza out to their vehicle, two patrons of the restaurant handed the volunteers additional money to offset the cost of the food.
“When I saw the ESU, I knew we were going to well taken care of,” one firefighter remarked on scene. “It was a sight for sore eyes and bodies!”
“We’re very appreciative. Just that someone else is there with us who actually doesn’t have to be, who comes out at 4 o’clock in the morning on a cold winter night to serve us coffee and hot chocolate,” one lieutenant from a winter fire scene said. “It’s amazing that they volunteer their own time to help us out.”
The Town of Little Rice and donations from individuals, community groups and local fire departments fund the ESU.
To assist with funding the operation of the ESU, donations may be sent to Emergency Services Unit, Little Rice Fire Department, 3737 Highway Y, Tomahawk, Wis., 54487.
For more information on the ESU, contact Chief Larry Mathein at 715-612-5514.