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Meet your Cook County Neighbor and Hovland Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief: Terry Spieker

Mar 12, 2023 05:54AM ● By Editor
Submitted photos.

A Boreal Community Media Exclusive - March 12, 2023

Tell us about your career.  How many years have you been a firefighter?  Where have you served?  
It has been 35 years of fire service for me this year.  I started my firefighter career in 1988 and spent 20 years in Willmar, MN on that fire department.  I retired from 20 years of service there as Captain of the Ladder Company.  I was also a State Fire Instructor for over 10 years, which started when I was on the Willmar Fire Department and continued when I moved to Cook County. 

I retired and moved to Hovland in 2010.  In 2011, I started at the Hovland Fire Department.  Several years later, I was elected to the Assistant Fire Chief, a role that I still hold today.   



What (or who) motivated you to become a firefighter?
That is a funny question that I get asked a lot over the years.  I probably joined the fire department for all the wrong reasons.  I had a coworker and close friend on the Willmar Fire Department who talked me into joining.  I originally joined to meet some new guys and establish drinking buddies.  I thought it would be cool to ride in fire trucks, so that enticed me to apply. 

Shortly after I started fire training, I absolutely fell in love with it.  It was self-motivating for me after that.  I was extremely blessed to have a good fire Captain (Dick Larson, Captain of Company 9) and will be forever indebted to him.  He may have saw my rough potential.

It soon became addicting, as the more I learned, the more I wanted to do.  Over the years I pushed myself to do as much as I could.  I moved up the ranks in Willmar, becoming a Training Officer, a Lieutenant for 10 years, eventually retiring as Captain of Ladder Company.  I started and was the head of the community education program in Willmar and also a member of the hazardous material team.  I tried to make the most of my career there.  When I moved to Hovland, I was asked to join the Hovland Fire Department.  It was a good way for me to extend my firefighting career here in Cook County.

What is one of the happiest outcomes that you have ever experienced on a call?  Scariest call that you have ever responded to?
In 35 years of service there are so many flashbacks of different calls.  One call in Willmar in 2004 stands out.  It was a grain elevator explosion.  I was working in my garden and heard 3 loud explosions and then my pager went off.  Most of the officers in my department were out of town looking at new fire truck. 

The explosion was at the Farm Service Elevator.  It was a frightening thought because I could hear it across town, so I knew it was big.  I also didn’t know if I was ready to deal with a situation that large, how many victims we would have, or what we would encounter.  Luckily, there was only one injured individual with slight cuts and lacerations.  This explosion was a 3-day event.

The interesting part of story is that there were supposed to be several electricians doing work inside of the building that particular day.  They were there in the morning working but their supply truck broke down enroute, so they were given the afternoon off. The other employees took the afternoon off for fishing.

The greatest thing that you can hear on a call is that everyone is accounted for and/or out of the building.  Once you know that your customers are safe, it allows you to focus on putting out the fires.  Structures can be replaced; human lives cannot be replaced.

One other scary call was a car fire in Hovland.  We didn’t know how it started at first but soon found out it was live power line.  I almost stepped the live power line when I was spraying water on the car. 


How many do you have on your team at the Hovland Fire Department?  Do you do monthly trainings?
We currently have 8 firefighters on our roster and 9 members of the S.T.O.P team.  The Hovland Fire Department developed the S.T.O.P program.  The primary job of the S.T.O.P team is road and traffic management, although they also fill in and help with whatever is needed. 

The Hovland Fire Department also started and helped to develop NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) national standards for roadside incidences. 

Firefighters do in-house trainings twice a month.  New members of the department do full training, which involves 100-140 hours of standardized courses in firefighter training.

These trainings are usually held weeknights and weekends to accommodate those with full-time day jobs.  

What are some of the biggest needs right now for the Hovland Fire Department?  Volunteers?  Monetary donations?  
All of the above.  The most difficult part is recruiting new members to join as first responders.  We really do need the next generation to step up.  When people call 911, they want someone to show up to help, but we need volunteers to take the plunge and do the job to make sure someone is there to assist in times of need.

The Hovland Fire Department is building a new fire hall.  We have a tight budget with a need for a training room, office, etc.  We also need to replace firefighter gear in the next couple of years which can take thousand of dollars. 

Monetary donations for the Hovland Fire Department can be sent to the following address: 

Hovland Volunteer Fire Department
PO 268
Hovland, MN  55606

If someone is considering joining the local EMS community in Cook County but is unsure if they are a good fit, what words of wisdom do you have for them?
Everyone is a good fit because we all must wear so many hats.  We can find a spot for you.  Whether you want to become a firefighter or a S.T.O.P. team member, we would welcome you.  People don’t always understand their full potential.  

Being in the fire service has been the best experience of my life.

What are some of the biggest changes or advancements that you have seen over the years with equipment, trainings, or protocols?
In 35 years, I have seen more than a few changes.  Technology improvements have been a big thing (truck and fire protection equipment).  There has been a lot more focus on safety that has increased over the years.  Risks such as smoke inhalation and cancer risk due to hazardous conditions has made safety protocols much stronger due to those dangers. Our trainings emphasize safety.

How can someone reach out to you if they are interested in joining your team?
Anyone with questions or interest can call me on my cell phone (602-810-9517) or email address ([email protected]).