HARWOOD, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Nathan Keller is a volunteer firefighter and has wanted to serve the community for nearly as long as he can remember.
"My dad was a volunteer fireman," Keller says. "Just seeing what he was able to do to help protect and serve the community - I wanted to do that."
He even says he moved to Harwood because of its volunteer squad. "When I finished school at NDSU, I stayed in the area. And was looking for a small community to volunteer with again. And Harwood was a perfect fit," Keller adds.
But his dreams are currently in jeopardy.
"If I couldn't do it? I'd be devastated," says Keller.
And so is the community.
The department's protective gear for firefighters is nearly at the end of its 10 year life span. Once that time expires, the gear shouldn't be used on calls - which can affect the station's response to fires, car crashes, medical emergencies, and staffing.
"It's tough enough to staff a volunteer agency as it is, we ask a lot of our volunteers," says Harwood Fire and Rescue's Assistant Chief Brian Giere. "If we can't protect them and keep them safe, and get them back home safely, it's going to be that much tougher to get them to respond to calls."
And their challenge also affects the communities surrounding Harwood.
"We also provide support to our mutual aide - we'll work with West Fargo Fire, Argusville, or Gardener, Grandin, Moorhead. We dealt with Fargo Fire," Giere says.
While Crystal Sugar's $5,000 grant is helpful - Harwood Fire and Rescue still has a long way to go to keep the community safe.
"Right now we have 17 volunteers that are outfitted with turn out gear," says Giere. "It's expensive. For each set of gear, you're looking at about $3,500."
And certain traditions alive.
"I'd like to think I'm making him proud. Following in his footsteps and giving back to the community," Keller says.
If you'd like to help, Harwood Fire and Rescue is hosting a fundraiser April 28th. Organizers say the event will feature a nice meal, raffles, games, and a silent auction. It will be held at the Harwood Community Center.