Crookston Firefighter Tom Feiro is retiring after 36 years as a member of the Crookston Fire Department and Crookston Firefighters Association. Feiro said he felt the time to retire was now. “I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while,” said Feiro. “And interestingly enough, the same feeling came over me when I retired from the University of Minnesota Crookston a year and 10 months ago. I just felt now is the time to do it. I made the decision and submitted my letter of retirement about a month and a half ago effective June 30.”

Feiro said he’ll miss the camaraderie in the department and helping the community. “The camaraderie at the department,” said Feiro. “Helping people in so many different ways, it’s not just fighting fires. It’s amazing what the fire department gets asked to do when people are having a bad day and need some assistance. I won’t miss all the meetings and some of that stuff, but that’s what sticks in my mind.”

Feiro said the bad call stick with you, but times have changed to help get through tough calls. “Bad ones, those do stick in your minds, and every once in awhile, depending on the type of call you’re on, that’s in the back of your mind,” said Feiro. “Are we going to deal with this again? I guess one of the things that changed over my career was the old way of dealing with it was if you went through a real bad situation, you sucked it up, and you didn’t talk to anybody about it. Well, that’s changed because they’ve found over the years that’s detrimental to the firefighters and emergency responders. Later in my career, I got involved with the Critical Incident Stress Management team in helping responders after dealing with a difficult call.”

A few significant incidents for the community stick out to Feiro. “The Opera Block fire was in ’85,” said Feiro. “It wasn’t even a year I’d been on the department yet. That was a big one, and I think we were on it for something like 23 hours. The ’97 flood really impacted the community, and the fire department played such a big role in that. The tornadoes that came through in ’14. We played a big role in that all through the night and into the next day. Those are some of the ones that really stick out.”

Feiro said things have changed a lot from the beginning when Crookston still had open cab trucks and having to rely on farmers for water at rural fires. “I told the guys the other night on Thursday at training, it was my last training, I gave them an idea of where we were at when I came on the department and where we’re at now,” said Feiro. “There were three open cab trucks yet on the fire department. We didn’t have a tanker for the rural calls. They used to get on the landline to call farmers if there was a fire at a house or a barn in the country. And call as many farmers as they could to come with their water trucks to give use water. We didn’t have grassfire fighting equipment; we had brooms. Then, also, we had a group of firefighters who, when they responded, seemed to get to the hall pretty quick. And the lead one was always Bob Cournia. Bob was always sitting in the truck whenever any of us got there. When we went out with Bob, he called his crew the A-Team. There were about 4 or 6 guys who lived on the south end or in the Woods Addition, and Bob always called them the A-team in the early years.”

Trucks have also changed from two- or three-man trucks to holding up to six firefighters and their equipment to change into on the way to a fire. “Most of the trucks were two-man, or three-man cabs, and a lot of them didn’t have seat belts,” said Feiro. “Now all the trucks are seat belts, lots of safety devices in it. You can seat anywhere from three to six firefighters depending on the unit. Our backpacks, our SCBAs (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus), used to be in the side compartments, so you didn’t put that on until you got to the fire. Probably in the late 80s, the trucks started to show up with SCBA brackets in the seat for us.”

Feiro has also been a critical figure in fundraising and grant writing for the association to get new equipment. He said it started with an ATV up to the recently purchased $450,000 truck last year. “Fundraising kind of started back in the early 90s,” said Feiro. “We needed to buy an ATV for grass fires. That’s where we started making pancakes in the morning. Back then, everybody would bring their griddles to the fire hall and set up wherever they could find an outlet. We found out we couldn’t use a lot of outlets being used because we’d be flipping breakers right and left. That was the first thing we fundraised for. Then, we started getting involved in doing an Ox Cart breakfast with the Police Department and Reserves. Over the years, we did a lot of grant writing. We applied for special grants through Bremer a number of times that we’re very helpful. And this last big fundraising event to purchase the latest engine for the rural association, the members started looking up all kinds of grant possibilities and filling out forms. Amazingly, 52 percent of that $450,000 truck was purchased through grants and matching donations that came in. That was phenomenal.”

In retirement, Feiro said he’ll continue to help his wife, Kim, with child care, although they have a goal to one day move closer to their grandkids. “After I retired from the university, I committed to helping my wife with her child care,” said Feiro. “We’ll be doing that for a little bit and be around Crookston for a little while. I guess our ultimate goal is to get closer to our grandchildren, and they’re in western Montana. No real plans yet, but it is a goal of ours.”

Feiro also thanked the members of the fire department and fire association for all they’ve done and will do. “I just want to thank the members of the Crookston Fire Department and the Crookston Firefighters Association for all they’ve done over the years and continue to do,” said Feiro. “I’m very grateful for the working relationships we have with our 13 townships and the City of Crookston to work together to provide a fire and rescue service in the area. Probably one of the proudest moments I had in my career, and I never thought this would happen in my career. But, how we were able to buy the old auto glass specialist building and develop a north station for the long-term future for emergency response in our community and townships.”

Feiro rolls his last hose at a firefighting training Thursday, June 25 – 

Tom’s Last Hose Roll After 36 Years!

Posted by Crookston Firefighter's Association on Thursday, 25 June 2020