Matt Krueger enjoys guiding firefighters through training

Helping others learn the different aspects of firefighting and rescue techniques comes “second nature” for Milroy Fire Department Chief Matt Krueger

Krueger provides training and software support for the Transportation Asset Management Systems at Minnesota Department of Transportation. When he steps into the Milroy Fire Hall, his main goal is to aid the other firefighters with their training needs.

“I enjoy helping others,” he said about providing that support to other MnDOT workers, or Milroy firefighters.

“I help guide that training through our training officers,” Krueger said. “We work closely with them. If I find things other departments are doing, I’ll pass that on to them, ‘ hey, this would be a really good training idea.’ The two guys we have in there, Nick (Mueller) and Jacob (Welu), both young guys. They have that passion.”

Krueger discovered the passion for serving his community as a volunteer firefighter while living in Lake Benton with his wife, Rachael.

“It all started with my wife’s cousin. We lived in Lake Benton at the time, he came up to me and said you want to join (the fire department). My father in law had been on the fire department,” he said. “We moved to Milroy. So as soon as we moved here, about nine years ago — it will be 10 this October — so I came to city hall and said ‘I’m on fire department here (Lake Benton) I would like to join up here. So I met with the current chief and just got on. I was young and it was interesting to me. I took a passion to it. I took some extra training they would hold in Marshall and different areas.”

Eventually, Krueger applied to become a training officer along with his present assistant fire chief, Dean Duscher.

“We kind of taken the steps together. We became training officer at the same time,” he said.

Soon after, the fire chief position was open.

“We kind of looked around. There’s not too many guys willing to take it. I’m young, my kids were really young at the time so it was something easy to do and I was passionate for it,” Krueger said.

“Dean, my assistant chief, when we do things, it’s together. It’s not one of us. We are always talking or messaging, ‘what about this, what about this.’ So when we bring things to the meeting, it’s not just things I want to do. It’s what we are looking to do together to guide the department.

“Even when on scene, with my years of experience, I still rely on a lot of different people that have been on for longer than I have and say, ‘hey what do you think right now,’ because I haven’t seen everything. There are guys on who have seen way more than I have.”

Krueger recalled a recent call to a road accident. All the firefighters returned to the hall to meet and discuss working the scene.

“Some guys pointed out some things. ‘hey, we could really use this right now.’ I said, ‘you tell me what we need and we will figure out how to get it.’ Their safety, whether it’s through training or being on a scene, is my no. 1 priority. If they left the hall, I’m bringing them to their families.”

According to Krueger, the department can staff 24 firefighters, but currently have 19. He’s hoping two volunteers taking the entry course will join the staff next month. However, he realizes there are firefighters currently on staff who are eligible to retire soon if they desire. So there is the constant challenge of recruiting.

Actually, Krueger said that challenge is a statewide problem.

“I know most of the departments around here, they could use more guys on their departments,” he said. “Finding guys, or gals, who are willing come and do this — that’a big thing.”

Prospective volunteers go through a probationary period requiring course work and testing.

“We put them trough that cert requirement. We have them join for little while, make sure this is what they really want to do before we send them through that course. We are pretty up front with it right away. After that one year you have been on, kind of call it the probationary period, we want to make sure they really want to do this,” he said.

“They get to ride along but they don’t get to anything on a call. They basically get to stand around and watch what we are doing. “ he said. “Because the class is not cheap to put them through. So if they don’t complete the class, the fire department flips the bill for it. If they complete the class we get reimbursed through the Minnesota Board of Firefighting Training and Education. The class is actually really good. The test has gotten a little tougher.”

And training doesn’t end with the entry courses and testing. One of the reasons is because the materials used in building homes.

“At a training the other night, he (trainer) said we live in big box that is ready to go up in flames. Learning what products are made of and keeping up with the knowledge. Trying to keep up with everything that keeps changing so fast.”


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