By Louis Hoglund

More than $2 billion in total land and building value is under the protection of the Pelican Rapids Volunteer Fire Department. The above chart shows the combined land-structure value in the first column. Fire contracts are based on a formula calculated by population of the city or township; estimated market value of land and structures; and the number of fire calls.
Area township boards will review the fire contracts at annual meetings next week, on March 14.
NOTE: Dunn Township, which includes most of Pelican Lake within its borders, is nearing the $1 billion mark in estimated market value. Because of the abundant lakeshore property in Dunn, the township’s taxpayers cover about $64,000 of the total annual operating and capital costs of the Pelican fire department. Lida Township, with Lida, Lizzie and Crystal Lakes within its boundaries, also pays a substantial portion of fire protection costs annually—at about $35,000.
The city of Pelican Rapids pays about $70,000 annually toward the fire department.

Attendees had the opportunity to inspect the Pelican Rapids Fire Department fleet at the Feb. 27 annual meeting.

For 73 years, area townships have depended on the Pelican Rapids Fire Department. 

“We’ve all worked together….And it’s been a long relationship,” said Fire Chief Trevor Steeves, at one of the best-attended annual meetings in several years. Fourteen area city and township officials were present Feb. 27. 

“We need you guys,” said Steeves, who noted that Pelican firefighters serve about 300 square miles of lake and farm country surrounding the city of Pelican.  

The year-round population in the Pelican fire service territory is about 9,000, but it swells easily to more than 30,000 on peak summer weekends. 

Contracts with the city of Pelican, Erhard, and nine area townships fund most of the department’s annual budget, which was nearly $350,000 in 2022. 

Dunn Township, for example, was the location of 21 of the department’s 93 calls in 2022. The formula for each jurisdiction’s contract is based on fire calls and estimated market value. With vast, high-value lakeshore property at nearly $1 billion, Dunn paid about $63,000 in 2022. The city of Pelican, with 30 calls and property values of about $140 million, was billed about $70,000 for the 2022 fire department budget. 

Nearly every township and city in the Pelican Rapids Fire Department service area was in attendance at the annual meeting Feb. 27, from Erhards Grove to Scambler Township.
New to the audience was recently appointed Dunn town board member Adrian Lund, who gathered information to report back to the town board in March.

Total fire calls were actually down from 101 in 2021. Twenty of those were medical-related. Chief Steeves emphasized that the Pelican FD is not an emergency medical technician unit, but firefighters do respond to medical calls—particularly when Ringdahl Ambulance units are all out on call. 

Interestingly, only 10 of the 2022 calls were genuine structure fires. Many of the calls are for medical assists, and a high number of false alarms—in large part due to the prevalence of security system misfires, especially in lake homes. 

The annual meeting with contract areas is held each year in February, so township officers can report back to constituents at the annual township meetings in March. 

A few notes from the fire meeting:

 • There were five retirements over the past few years, representing about 110 years of firefighting experience. The good news, the roster is full at 24—with a blend of youth and veteran firefighters. 

• A new wildland truck, a Ford 150, is among the new additions to the Pelican FD fleet. The rig was purchased with the aid of a 50 percent DNR grant. 

• The cost to outfit one firefighter, from boots up to the helmet, is about $4,000.

• The fire hall, built 20 years ago, will be paid off in 2027, which will then save more than $70,000 a year.

• But with inflation and general increase in costs, savings tend to be eaten up. The cost of a new firetruck, for example, is likely to exceed $400,000. The newest truck in the fleet, acquired in 2019, cost closer to $300,000.

• Bigger ticket equipment like firetrucks are lease-to-buy contracts, which helps keep the budget fairly level year to year—rather than buying with a single payment, which causes expense peaks and valleys for townships and cities.