July 18, 2024

Greenfield Fire Department settles into temporary station

A corn head for a combine sits next to a Greenfield fire truck in a temporary facility Bill Hohertz made available to the fire department while they figure out a more permanent home after the May 21 tornado heavily damaged their station.

As one of the best told small town stories of sticking together would go, Greenfield Fire Department has a temporary fire station after the May 21 tornado thanks to the generosity of community members looking to help those who help them in their time of need.

Greenfield’s fire department saw its station on the corner of SE 5th Street and E Iowa Street get heavily damaged in the tornado to the point it isn’t usable anymore. The next morning, firefighters had a temporary solution as to where they would go to operate from.

“There is no doubt in our mind that this was the right thing to do,” said Clay Hohertz, whose dad owns the pole barn across from Cardinal IG where the fire department is currently operating from. “We were happy to help. We hope for a safe recovery for them as well as the community.”

The Hohertz Farms crew removed much of the contents of the shed. A corn combine head sits next to a row of turnout gear and a gravity flow wagon sits next to a fire truck. The firefighters are very grateful for how the situation is working out.

“This made me very happy that we could keep everything under one roof and all together instead of spread out over various buildings, like it could be. This is really the only viable option for us to even have a spot close,” said Fire Chief TJ Oder. “I think it was that next day that somebody called Bill and asked him. They came down immediately to pull everything out so that we could have everything sitting down here.”

On one end of the temporary station are the two grass rigs that are the first to roll on any medical call assist. In the middle portion of the building sit the department’s three biggest and newer trucks. Another sits on the other end.

The department’s main pumper truck was sitting in its usual spot in the old station when the tornado went over. The truck took the brunt of the west wall of the station caving in but is still operational. Firefighters say any damage to the trucks is cosmetic.

Oder was in the station with other firefighters when the tornado hit.

“It went really quick,” Oder said. Firefighters could hear the tornado coming, heard the bang when it hit and said their ears popped as it went over.

“Other than that, we didn’t get much dust or debris into the basement where we were at. We had an easy route to get back out too, so that was OK to know we weren’t buried,” Oder added. “We didn’t know what we’d find when we got to the top of the steps.”

Firefighter Jared Masker said that it is by design that the department takes trucks out to storm spot. They try to have no two trucks in the same area, to eliminate a scenario where they lose more than one truck in a storm.

Masker was the one who asked dispatch to sound the sirens.

“Lance [McFarland] was headed east and I was headed west. My goal was to intercept it at the old lake, but it beat me to town. We were at Lakeview and Mills when we saw it cross Lakeview,” Masker said. “I was at the station when I hollered for them to sound the sirens. They were having a hard time locating [the tornado] because it got rain wrapped,” Masker said. “That’s when Derek Perkey and I took one of the trucks out. We went south of town, saw them coming north, so we turned around and went west. That’s when a tornado came right down on top of the truck. It was not fun.”

Four firefighters lost homes in the tornado, leaving them to not only deal with a fire station that isn’t usable, but homes that are gone. The road to recovery will be long.

Greenfield Fire Department is thankful Audubon Fire Department donated used turnout gear for them to use. Much of the gear worn by the 20 members was destroyed.

Next steps for the fire department will be to rebuild a station. That process will depend a lot on fundraising. People can give to the Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department Foundation if they would like. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 346, Greenfield, Iowa, 50849.

“We’re still assessing the needs with insurance and everything else. With the Foundation, our whole mission is to support our members and the department,” McFarland said. “That’s anything above and beyond what the city and rural association do for us. This is when we’re going to need to use it. Building from scratch, having four of our members lose everything, this is the core purpose of why we’re raising the funds, in addition to what we do on our steak feed night.”

The fire department became fully operational again Saturday, June 1. From the tornado until then, various departments were partnering with Greenfield to also respond to calls.

“We’re going to support the community, just like we always have,” Oder said.

“Nothing changes, just our location,” McFarland concluded.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.