Mulder and Hoelsema, new SCFD volunteers

Jason Mulder and Peter Hoelsema are two of the new recruits at the Sioux Center Fire Department, with plenty of training yet to come.

SIOUX CENTER—It might be hard to tell underneath the helmets, but there are five new faces at the Sioux Center Fire Department: Nate Mostard, Travis Andersen, Jack Brundell, Peter Hoelsema and Jason Mulder.

Hoelsema, 25, and Mulder, 38, sat down to speak about their experiences so far as newcomers to the fire department.

Hoelsema is a project manager for Interstates. He’s originally from Grand Rapids, MI, and came to Sioux Center to study at Dordt College. He graduated in 2016.

He joined the fire department after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper calling for recruits.

“I never thought about it until I saw the ad,” he said. “But I saw it and thought about it, and it really combines some of my favorite things: teamwork, service, leadership, working with my hands and trust.”

He doesn’t have family or friends working as firefighters.

Mulder is originally from Waupun, WI, and he likewise came to Sioux Center to attend Dordt. He stuck around ever since, and now has a wife and three daughters.

He also decided to join the fire department after seeing an ad. Although nobody in his family was involved in a fire department, he did have some friends who were.

“It was something I thought was interesting, but I was never really in a position where it worked out for me,” he said. “When we moved to Sioux Center and settled in over the course of a couple years, I began looking around to see how best I could be involved in the community, whether it was church, school or something in the community.”

He got to know a few of the guys on the team, and he became convinced that this was how he was going to contribute to the community.

Owning his own business, he had the flexibility to do this, too. Mulder owns M Design & Promotions, which handles apparel and promotional items.

Having been a part of the fire department for a few months, Mulder said he was somewhat surprised by the level of commitment the firefighters have to their work.

“I figured that, but to see it was still something else,” he said.

Hoelsema was surprised by how much goes on at a fire department between service calls.

“A regular person in Sioux Center doesn’t really notice the fire department unless something starts on fire and they see them. But it’s cool to be a part of something that’s operating so much behind the scenes, and when people need us, we’re ready,” Hoelsema said.

They joined around March this year, and like the other new volunteers, they have yet to go through the specialized firefighting training course, Firefighter 1.

That consists of 130 hours of classroom and hands-on training before they can take a test in March 2020 to become officially certified as firefighters, said assistant fire chief Dale Vander Berg.

“It really gets into the basics of how the department runs, different types of fires, different types of construction, where you would have problems,” he said.

New recruits are limited in what tasks they can perform at an emergency scene during their first year. That’s simply a safety consideration, according to Vander Berg, considering all that they have yet to learn.

Although it’s only been a few months into their time at the fire department, Hoelsema and Mulder have enjoyed their time there so far.

For Mulder, it’s been great getting to know the other firefighters since joining.

“It’s fun to get to know people who share values and want to give back and support the community. I like being a part of that,” he said.

Hoelsema has enjoyed the service aspect of being a firefighter, being there for others in need.

As Vander Berg knows from more than 20 years with the Sioux Center Fire Department, having support from businesses is crucial to making a volunteer fire department viable.

“We’re so fortunate to have businesses that will allow our volunteers to do that,” he said. “We’re very thankful for that because it is a big deal.”