A Mott firefighter was inducted into the North Dakota Firefighters’ Hall of Fame Saturday in a ceremony in the Garrison City Auditorium.
Dale Zich joined the fire department in 1977, learning from the veterans, including his father.
Now, he is the veteran with 41 years of experience at a station staffed by 28 volunteer firemen.
When he was growing up in Mott, Zich remembers his father responding the whistle whenever it went off.
He admits that his own children have had to go through the same experience with him, having family activities interrupted when the alarm went off and he had to report for duty.
Zach was inducted after a series of ceremonies at the museum. It started with an open house at the North Dakota Firefighters Museum. Next, there was a Fallen Firefighters Remebrance, followed by a social.
Supper was followed by the banquet and induction ceremony.
Zich, who graduated in 1970, when to college in Valley City State College, then spent two years at a trade college south of Fargo in Wahpeton for training as an auto mechanic.
After returning to Mott, he found the opportunity to join the Mott Fire Department in 1977 when he was 25 years old.
He never left.
“I was living right in town, so I was always available for the fire department,” he said.
After a while, he took up farming on land north of Mott. He has grown a variety of crops over the years, from wheat to sunflowers and flax. “It has been mostly wheat.
“I have retired from the farm. I am 67. My son is kind of taking over, so I just help him some,” Zich added.
He said that he has had an ever-charging role over the years with the Mott Fire Department. “I was the first training officer the department ever had. I have held about every other position the fire department has ever had, including chief and assistant chief,” he said.
“I guess the only I wasn’t was secretary. Nobody could read my writing and I don’t type – so they would have been in trouble,” he said with a chuckle.
According to Zich, it was the chief of the Mott Fire Department, Troy Mosbrucker, who nominated him early in the summer. However, he wasn’t notified until late September that he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Garrison Fire Fighter Museum.
After he was married, Zich and his wife built a new home in Mott and have gone on to raise two children.
Both seemed to have followed him into emergency services. His son, Justin, lives in Bismarck. His daughter, Stacy, lives in Fargo.
“For the first 15 or 16 years I was in the department I was also with the ambulance. My son was a paramedic and my daughter was an EMT (emergency medical technician), so they kind of followed me a little,” he said.
So of the biggest events that have happened in Mott have also involved the fire department. “I remember when the Holiday House Hotel in town burned down (Nov. 6, 1989). A little before that, one of our two elevators in town. That was two big businesses in town that we lost that we couldn’t save when I was part of the fire department.”
Only one was rebuilt, he recalled.
“I was on the co-operative board at the time that bought another one,” he said.
“Eventually, they decided to stay in the agronomy business and the grain-handling business, Zich added.
Over the years, the types of fires the department had to respond to have changed.
“More and more of our calls have been to grass fires, field fires or combine fires – agricultural-type fires.
“There were more home fires when I first started. People have gotten better at protecting their homes and taking care of the home fires.
“The agricultural field and stuff can start a fire and there is not much prevention that you can do,” he said.
That change has also forced the fire department to change and adapt to meet the new needs with new equipment and training, Zich explained.
“Since I first started, our building has expanded twice. We have added quite a few more trucks and types of trucks to fight the grass and land-type fires than we had before,” said.
Even after 41 years, Zich still has plans to keep working with the fire department. “I have offered to quit, but I have been told I can’t. I have things that I can still be teaching them and ways I can still help. So, they’ve asked me to stay on for a while yet,” he said.
“Every so often, I ask them and they say I should stay awhile longer. With a vote of confidence like that, it is hard to leave.
“I don’t think I will make 50. I don’t know how long I will be with the department. But, as long as my health and my body can stand up to it… I have been a farmer so long and abused my body so much for a lot of years. As long as my body can handle it and the department puts up with me, I will stay for a few more years.
“I have no deadline and I have no goal to set for how long I will stay with the department. We will just play it by ear,” he added.
When it comes to making the trip to Garrison for the induction ceremony, Zich said it will be a fast trip because of several family events where he’ll have to be back for.
“I am excited. It is an unbelievable honor, but we had some stuff scheduled before that, so we are going to have to sneak over to this great event and then afterwards, sneak back,” he said. “It will all work out. We’ll get it all done. We have commitments for both Friday night and Saturday night.”
He admitted it will be a little bit of a family affair Saturday in Garrison. He will be joined by his wife, his son and his family, along with other members of the Mott Fire Department.
He also admitted that his trip to the museum will be the first time he has visited the
“We have driven by and kept thinking we should stop by. Now, I wish I would have been there so I knew what it looks like. But, I am sure I will be visiting more from here on out,” he said.
When he gets back into town, he’ll be waiting again for the beeper to go off, calling the fire department into action. It has been years since the giant horn was used to call the fire department that then entire town would here.
“It is only the family that gets woke up now, not the whole town,” he said.