What do most little boys want to do when they grow up? Something exciting for sure like a being a fireman.

But for Brad Moser, a native son of Yankton, it’s more about the service.

“It’s kind of the way I was raised,” Moser said.

“My dad was a civil servant as a sheriff and later a policeman in Yankton. Then my brothers started out with the ambulance and then the fire department.”

Being part of a family of 10 children, Moser had a lot of good role models to follow, so when he was old enough, he just followed suit.

Today Moser is one of 44 volunteer firemen for the Yankton Volunteer Fire Department, a department which has grown and changed in the 22 years he has been a member. He now serves as a captain in the hierarchy of the organization, one of four who act in supervisor roles at fires, serving under the fire chief and deputy chief, who are the only full-time fire officials in Yankton.

A fire call within the city limits has a response time of four to five minutes and Moser can be at either station easily in three minutes. As a civil engineer for the City of Yankton with an office on the same block, he walks across the alley to the fire station downtown. If the call comes after hours, he lives only a couple blocks from Station Two on the north end of town and he usually tries to be the first at the station or even on site.

“When my wife and I first started looking for a house, I only liked the houses which were just a block or two from the station,” Moser said with a smile. “Sure, I want to be the first one there, the first one to gear up. I worked near the station and lived near the station. I was gung-ho and was on as many trucks as a guy could get on.”

That describes Moser’s competitive nature but also displays his desire for excellence in service.

“When I first started, there were fewer volunteers and it also took longer to train individuals to serve,” Moser said.

Over the years, there are more volunteers on the roster who are more experienced and trained as instructors and therefore more able to train new firemen. Along with the added experience, Moser said, the training is more local and available.

Training sessions are held two Mondays a month in a two to three-hour session. Sometimes it may be nothing more than a repetitive session, going over techniques but making sure all the volunteers know the steps and pitfalls during a drill make it much easier when the crew is at the scene of a live fire. Firefighting practices have remained the same over the years although there are some new tactics available but it is pretty basic stuff Moser said.

Practice makes perfect.

Every year there is a state-wide Fire School with two days of training sessions. All firemen are encouraged to attend and the Yankton Dept. makes sure someone goes to receive the training and bring it back to the local crew, so all become acquainted with new tactics. There are district training sessions also available. Moser said the Yankton department is fortunate to have a volunteer who lives in Yankton and is a full-time firefighter in Sioux Falls. He always has access to new training methods and new equipment suggestions, so Yankton stays up to date.

Along with that training, there is also HazMat training to be certified in and occasionally, the monthly training will include mock drills in conjunction with Emergency Management for natural disasters or terroristic threats. The mock drills develop protocols for these incidents. They have done a mock drill which involved a school bus and a train derailment with a chemical spill which introduced the firemen to correct handling of these types of incidents.

Some of the firemen volunteers may work for a towing company or salvage yard and a Monday night session may happen in a junk yard Moser said. The owners allow the firemen to come in and use the salvaged trucks or cars for training. The instructors will run different scenarios and let the firemen work out possible solutions, cutting up the salvaged bodies for extractions.

Occasionally, a Monday night session is a live burn session, or a smoke machine is used to simulate what it’s like in a fire situation by limiting visibility and then trying different search patterns.

Fire tactics at a scene have changed over the years Moser noted.

When he started as a volunteer, the firemen arrived at a fire, put the fire out and ventilated a house of the smoke. Now, in certain instances,

firemen have learned to use ventilation to fight a fire, push the smoke out and then attack the fire. So different techniques have improved firefighting.

But before all that drilling, each volunteer goes through two levels of certification to become an active firefighter. There is testing and even when they are approved, there is a six-month probation period of active firefighting to be sure the new recruit fits with the firefighting team. The vetting is so involved, in Moser’s 22 years, he has only seen one probationary volunteer removed from the fire dept team. When he completed his testing years ago, it wasn’t available in Yankton and he had to go out of town to be certified. That’s all in-house now.

“There is a vetting process before all the training starts and I have been involved in the interview process,” Moser said. “You can get a pretty good idea about a person as you interview them either by answers or nuances about the way they act. We are very careful about adding new volunteers.”

Moser never did find a favorite truck in the fire department’s fleet, but he admitted he likes to drive the rescue truck to accidents. That being said, he typically doesn’t drive a truck to a fire because he is in the back packing up. Some firemen do become specialized in one truck or another as one of the department’s rules is if a fireman drives a truck, he has to operate a truck. So, he has to operate the pumper and know everything about that truck if he drives it. Most firemen come to the job and grab on to what interests them the most.

When new tactics become approved or new equipment needed, the city does an excellent job of finding the funding Moser said. The equipment is always top notch and when new is needed, the volunteers have access to it. Each fireman has two sets of bunker gear to wear at fires and many keep one set in their vehicle, which makes it possible for them to respond directly to the fire instead of heading to the station.

One item Moser remembers from earlier years of firefighting were day boots. These rubber boots came up to middle thigh and their heavy jackets came down and covered the top of these boots. At one time, the boots, jackets and helmets were carried on the truck and firemen could travel directly to the fire and gear up there. These eventually gave way to full-fledge bunker gear. No gear is carried on the truck anymore, so firefighters have to either answer a call at a station to gear up or keep a set with them.

In his early years, Moser wanted to be gearing up with air packs and ready to ride the truck in minutes. As a captain, he takes on a different role.

“I am more involved with accountability at a fire ground,” Moser said. “I keep track of the firefighters going in and out of the fire, checking air packs, watching for exposures, where the fires are taking off.”

Moser describes the system to keep track of the firefighters at a scene of a fire. They are all equipped with tags on their helmets and he makes sure he has the tags for every fireman going in, so they know how many firemen are in and then again when they come out.

“On occasion I do still get involved in a fire depending on how many firemen show up at a scene,” Moser said. “But I have always been a die-hard air pack guy and I always wanted to be in the fire and that has always been my role through my career.”

Moser has found wearing the pack is getting more challenging over the years and the younger guys need to be involved more so it is easier to stay in his role as captain, managing the fire from the outside.

Over the years Moser has collected several memorable fire incidents and he believes every fireman has incidents they will never forget. Besides fire calls, the volunteer firemen also answer calls for accidents in the county to complete extractions. Some of these calls are very emotional and there’s always a handful of incidents which will never be forgotten. Counseling and debriefing are always available after fire calls and especially if there is a death at the scene.

Accident calls are more frequently heard over the firemen’s pagers and smart phones today. Even the calls for grass fires have been more seldom this year. Moser said the firemen are trained in patient packaging, assist with loading in an ambulance and even set up a landing zone for the helicopter in some cases. The firemen also do traffic control around the scene.

“We do what we can,” Moser said.

Although over the years, the department has had hazmat training thanks to volunteer firemen who worked at some of the manufacturing plants in Yankton, a bigger concern now are the meth labs and some of the drugs available for illegal use. A fire in a situation with those chemicals can cause firemen to go down after just a whiff of what is cooking in the high heat.

“The unknowns we encounter make it more dangerous all the time,” Moser said.

Reviewing the volunteer roster, Moser said they just added the largest group of recruits this year who are fully-certified volunteers but acknowledging the average age of the volunteers in the Yankton group is quite high. There are a few firemen who have 30 years of service under their belt and they may be seeing more turnover.

“As we grow and our responsibilities change, we become parents, so does our view of the fire department,” Moser said. “I think about retirement now more than I ever did before and I can see the change happen in myself and others.”

Moser’s family is quite supportive of his passion for firefighting. His wife Stephanie is part of a very active Auxiliary, who sponsor many family-oriented activities for firemen families and provide sandwiches and support when a fire is raging. His two children, Quentin and Payton, grew up with the firemen philosophy, knowing when the fire dept. calls, dad drops everything and goes. Due to his children’s active schedule, he sometimes misses calls on his smart phone.

“I do hope I have instilled a call to service in my children,” Moser said.

The department has jumped into the 21st Century by providing an application on smart phones for those who have one which will notify the volunteers of a fire or a call. A fireman can respond he is coming or not, where he is going – the fire station or fire scene and bring up a map for directions. His movement is also tracked through the GPS on the phone and the new large screen fire board on the stations’ wall will list those who responded so it can be checked before the fire trucks leave. Moser thinks this is a great addition to the fire department’s box of firefighting tools.

If a fire call is rural, all firefighters have to go to a station as the first need is to get all the trucks to the scene. Moser added the volunteers better be quick because the trucks are leaving. When he is at work, fellow firefighters in his office can have half the truck loaded, waiting for a guy just a block away, ready to go in 45 seconds. Ideally there should be three guys in the back of a fire engine packing up, one driver and one operating the radio and sirens.

All the firemen carry a pager even if they have a smart phone. Moser said it’s part of his apparel even when he goes out of town.

“Most of the time I forget I even have it on,” Moser said.

Sometimes when Moser is out of town and his phone app alerts him to a call, his first reaction is regret he’s missing the fire because he always wants to be there to help.

“There’s a lot of experience and knowledge in our department and I trust every man in the department,” Moser said. “You have to be able to depend and trust the guy next to you fighting the fire. All of our firefighters are pretty dedicated to the training and realize it’s best for the safety of all.”

Dedication pays off as well.