WINIFRED — At first glance, you likely wouldn't think anything is amiss inside the Winifred fire hall - but you'd be wrong. The fire hall is not nearly big enough for all of the fire department's vehicles. After decades of trying to build a bigger space, as of Friday a few signatures seemed to be all that stood in the way.
For Winifred Volunteer Fire Department Chief Josh Butcher, having a new fire hall would be a dream come true: "It definitely would be nice to have all of our stuff in one place so if there is another event we can send so-and-so to get such-and-such out of the fire hall, you know, rather than the trailer behind that vehicle behind that tree sort of thing."
He noted that because not all the vehicles can be stored indoors, some have to be winterized, as they stored outside wherever whoever is going to be using them is at.
While it's a dream that's been in the works for almost 30 years, 2021 proved it's a dream that needs to come true now more than ever.
"As we saw in this last year, the fire danger keeps getting up and up. Looking at some stats of humidity in the forests and whatnot, we're looking to have another pretty wild year next year,” said Butcher.
Norm Asbjornson, who is helping fund several projects in town, has agreed to help build the new fire hall, Butcher said, if 300 signatures pledging money and support could be collected by February 20.
"We're getting really close. We have a lot of friends and people in the department out collecting them. It's been kind of hard to get a hard number. Our estimate is right around that 250, 280 mark I think,” said Butcher.
Butcher's wife Nicole has been helping him collect signatures, including posting video updates on the fire department's Facebook page.
"As far as how challenging it's been, it's been easy. it's been a little more time consuming that I thought it would be. People have been very generous,” Nicole said.
On top of that, she had just given birth to their third child but said that's not going to stop her from helping.
"For my husband Josh and his family, even before he was born his father was a big part of the Winifred Fire Department. So for me, having that background of seeing how important it is for Josh and his family to help be a part of this. In the past, I haven't really had a good avenue to be a part of it myself,” Nicole said.
Along with Asbjornson, the couple is also getting help from Winifred resident Dave Udelhoven, who donated land for the new fire hall.
Assuming the signatures can be collected, Butcher and his wife hope to break ground for the new fire hall in May.