September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Kuhn volunteers as junior firefighter

High school student, works on family dairy while carrying pager
Samantha Kuhn, from Fort Atkinson, Iowa, volunteers her time as a junior firefighter. In addition to this role, the 17-year-old also helps on her parents’ dairy farm and serves as a dairy princess. (photo by Misty Troester)
Samantha Kuhn, from Fort Atkinson, Iowa, volunteers her time as a junior firefighter. In addition to this role, the 17-year-old also helps on her parents’ dairy farm and serves as a dairy princess. (photo by Misty Troester)

By Krista M. Sheehan- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

FORT ATKINSON, Iowa - No matter where she is - helping on her family's dairy farm, working her part-time job as a waitress at the country club or singing in the church choir - Samantha Kuhn is ready.
"If I hear my pager go off, I throw my shoes on, take off and go," Kuhn said.
The 17-year-old junior at Turkey Valley High School carries a pager as a junior firefighter for the Fort Atkinson Volunteer Fire Department. The fire station is located six miles from her family's 60-cow dairy farm, which is owned and operated by Kuhn's parents, Steve and Kim.
A family friend, who is also the assistant fire chief in Fort Atkinson, sparked Kuhn's interest in the junior firefighter program.
"I helped my dad get ready for the Fourth of July fireworks so I had to watch the safety instructions," Kuhn said.
Knowing this, Kuhn's family friend asked her if she would like to be part of a county-wide mock disaster performed by the Calmar and Fort Atkinson fire departments.
"I played one of the wounded people with a couple of my friends and we really enjoyed it. That's when I knew I wanted to be part of the fire department," Kuhn said.
Kuhn said being in the mock disaster helped her learn the job of a firefighter and drew her into the program
"They (the firefighters) were helping people and I like to help people quite a bit," she said.
Since June 22, 2009, Kuhn has been a junior firefighter in Fort Atkinson - the third in the junior program and the second female to be a part of the fire department. The junior firefighter program, which is open to students aged 16 to 17, allows youth to learn about and be a part of the fire department; however, there are some restrictions. Kuhn cannot talk to media while on the scene, go into a burning building or drive the fire trucks. She also must be attended on a fire call by the chief or someone the chief assigns.
In addition to the mock disaster, Kuhn has responded to three fire calls since joining the fire department. Her first call was a shed fire.
"I felt awesome because I knew I was helping these people, but at the same time I was scared because I didn't want to do something to make it worse," Kuhn said about the call. "Luckily my fire chief, Ron Franzen, kept me in line, told me what to do and things to check out."
While on a call, Kuhn's biggest responsibility is gathering the tags on the back of each firefighters helmet. When firefighters arrive at a scene they take a tag off their helmet then collect it again at the end.
"We make sure everyone gets their tags once everything is taken care of and safe. If we don't have someone who reports back we know we need to go find this person," Kuhn said.
Kuhn is also a go-to girl while on call for getting items for the chief, sending messages between firefighters working on a blaze and taking water to the firefighters as they come out of burning buildings to keep them hydrated. Handling hoses is another one of her jobs; however, standing five feet two inches tall, Kuhn is not always the first one for that duty.
"Because I'm smaller, I can't really handle the hoses by myself and for the heavy duty hoses all I can do is sit on them on the ground because they're too heavy," she said.
Another challenge for Kuhn as a junior fire fighter is knowing her place while at a call.
"When we're at the station we're all relaxed but at a fire scene it's completely different. There's a lot more pressure, and nerves and adrenaline ... there will be a lot of stuff happening and some of it we might be unsure about," Kuhn said.
However, Kuhn tries to do what the fire chief asks of her.
"I have to be out of the way yet know what I'm doing. I try to find a balance," she said.
Beyond fire calls, Kuhn and the firefighters are first responders and storm spotters. She also goes to meetings at the fire station two times a month. She said the time she spends at the station and the camaraderie formed between the 25-person team is her favorite part about being a firefighter.
"We are all pretty close like a family. The guys really respect me," Kuhn said. "We always have fun. It's a great way to get to know people and to get to know the area."
From her experience, Kuhn knows she'll continue firefighting in her future - at least for the next couple years. She will continue the junior program through her senior year. When she turns 18, Kuhn will be able to take on the full responsibilities of a firefighter. Although undecided about her college plans, Kuhn would like to return as often as possible to be a part of the fire department. There may also be a future in firefighting.
"I would like to know what its like to be a professional firefighter but I'm not sure I would like having the constant risk or having to live at the fire station," she said.
But until then, she'll focus on her time in the Fort Atkinson Volunteer Fire Department.
"It feels really good when something is burning and people are so thankful for your help."[[In-content Ad]]


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