For the past several years, the number of members of the Osseo Fire Department have been shrinking. But that has all changed.

The Osseo Fire Department has added seven new firefighters to the department.“This was the most firefighters I can remember joining in one year,” said Fire Chief Mike Phenow. “We started recruiting at the Easter Egg Hunt in mid-April 2019 and closed the application period a week after Night to Unite in mid-August 2019. We promoted it pretty heavily all spring and summer. After an interview process, background checks, physical ability test, and health screening, they were approved for hire by the City Council in mid-October last year. In all, we hired seven firefighters. Two already had all of their required certifications and five were going to go through training.”

The two certified new hires are Nic Martinson and Sam Mulvaney. The five new hires that went through academy are: Breanna Duggan, Andrew Larkins, Bryce Merrill, John Nyquist and Mackenzie Phenow.

The department is now at 27 firefighters. Phenow said he would like to have a total of 30.

The five recruits started the fire academy last November and completed almost 200 hours of training, which included NFPA Firefighter I, Firefighter II, Hazardous Materials Operations classes and state certification tests.

“The class would have normally been done at the end of April, but didn’t finish until the end of June because of a two-month hiatus due to COVID-19,” Phenow said. “It was very tough on the recruits to have to put their schooling on hold, especially so close to the end.”

The five graduates from training were officially recognized in July with a ceremony.

“It’s a huge benefit to the department,” he said of the new firefighters. “They bring a new eagerness and energy to the department. They’re coming out of a great academy with their heads full of knowledge about the fire service. They’re trained and ready to help their community.”

The department hopes to start up the hiring process again next year.

The Press asked each of the new firefighters a few questions so that readers can get to know them.

Breanna Duggan

Why did you decide to become an Osseo firefighter? I decided to become an Osseo Firefighter because I enjoy adrenaline and adventure. Being a firefighter you never know what could happen next and it keeps things new and interesting. I also enjoy helping other people and being a part of the community I live in.  

What does it mean to be an Osseo firefighter? To be an Osseo Firefighter it means being an honest, empathetic, strong, and helpful member of the community serving its residents.

How was the academy? The academy pushed me to learn more about myself in things I can do that I previously didn’t know I could.  

What was the best part of the academy? My favorite part of the academy was all the hands on work we did. I also loved how we learned as a team just like how a fire department operates.

What was the most difficult part the academy?: The most difficult part of the academy was the Hazmat portion for me, a lot of extra time and studying went into that portion specifically cause I struggled with the material.  

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’m very grateful to have been given this opportunity to be an Osseo Firefighter, and grateful to have gained some great knowledge with Fire 1, Fire 2, and Hazmat. I look forward to continuing my education as a firefighter and member of the community of Osseo.  

Andrew Larkins

Why did you decide to become an Osseo firefighter? Osseo is a community of opportunities and values. I believe that some of Osseo values are much of my own, community, family and grown and development is the reasons why I wanted to become an Osseo firefighter.

What dose it mean to be an Osseo firefighter? To me it means bravery, integrity, community, compassion and leadership. I’ve learned as an Osseo firefighter to lead with my actions and not just with my words.

How was the academy? Elk River Academy was a great learning platform. Even through a pandemic my fellow brothers and sisters pressed threw and overcome. And Elk River Academy was their to help along the way.

What was the best part of the academy? Building relationships with other classmates and overcoming many obstacles and having stories to tell of our. Failures and success.

What was the most difficult part of the academy?: The Covid 19 pandemic. As we was suppose to get done with the academy at times commutation was hard to achieve.

Nic Martinson

To me being a firefighter is about helping people in their time of need. I decided to be an Osseo firefighter to serve the community and gain more experience. Firefighting is my passion and I enjoy going to work both in live calls as well as training.

I was first introduced to fire and rescue while I was in the Navy. I participated in ship board firefighting and basic rescue. After the Navy I received my certificates in Firefighting 1&2, Hazmat Operations, and EMT-B from Riverland Community College.

I have experience as an EMT from a volunteer ambulance company as well as technical rescue experience in high/low angle rope rescue, confined space rescue, and water rescue.

Bryce Merrill

Why did you decide to become an Osseo firefighter? I was tired of the same, everyday cycle and needed a change. In my job I have worked with all types of first responders but I always had the most fun with members of the surrounding fire departments. Then one night I was getting dinner downtown Osseo and ran into four members of the Osseo FD. After talking with them for awhile they said they were looking for recruits and I should apply. Later to find out it was the chief, captain, lieutenant and a firefighter.

What does it mean to be an Osseo firefighter? Pride in the community that we serve. Everyone on the deartment will drop whatever their doing to help someone.

How was the academy? The academy was very interesting. There was a lot of changes that made things difficult because if COVID-19. But overall I learned so much about the job and have a new found respect for this role.

What was the best part of the academy? The hands on experiences such as car extrication and the science behind doing it correctly. The live burn was hands down the best part. Being able to see the characteristics of fire progression right in front of you was invigorating and using what we learned other the last nine months was worth it.

What was the most difficult part the academy?: COVID-19. It made it very difficult to get things done. Elk River Academy did their best to teach us and get us graduated even with all the bumps in the road.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I’m glad that I made the decision to step up and be part of the Osseo FD. I look forward to what the future holds and what differences I can make in peoples lives.

Sam Mulvaney

Why did you decide to become an Osseo firefighter? I decided to become an Osseo firefighter because I thought it would be very humbling being able to give back in the community that I grew up around, including being a graduate from Osseo High School. I love the close nit community relations that the city of Osseo brings, also living in the area and coming from being a firefighter in the Marine Corps Reserves, it gives me great opportunities to not only bring but keep expanding my knowledge and experience of the field even in a different aspect on the civilian side while I get to do what I love and serve the community.

What does it mean to be an Osseo firefighter? It means being a part of a bond where everyone has each others backs and you can always rely on each other. As well as having that service forth mindset, surrounding yourself with people who are willing to go the extra mile for complete strangers, really helps being able to grow in life.

How was the academy? I was one of the two new hires who came into the department with all of my certifications already. I attended the Department of Defense Fire Academy in San Angelo, Texas after joining the Marine Corps. The Louis F. Garland (DoD) Fire Academy is a full-time, roughly 20-week fire academy which prepares all branches of the military as well as international militaries and fire departments to be trained as firefighters.

John Nyquist

Why did you decide to become an Osseo firefighter? I have always wanted to become a firefighter going back to when I was in my 20s. I did not feel that I had the time to commit to give 100% to the job until now that I am semi-retired from my professional job of over 40 years.

What does it mean to be an Osseo firefighter?: I have a lot of personal satisfaction in graduating the Elk River Fire Academy and becoming fully certified by the State of Minnesota. I take a lot of pride being able to serve the residents of Osseo. This is also a great opportunity to help teach the fire safety message to all Osseo residents, especially to young children.

How was the academy? The Fire Academy is a very big commitment. Both personal and for family. It requires many hours of studying to keep up with each class session (two times a week for six months). There was a great group of dedicated and hard working instructors who worked closely with all of us recruits. The hands on training sessions took us from bitter cold -25 degrees F on ladder training night, to hot and humid 90 degrees F on our live house burn.

What was the best part of the academy? The numerous hands-on training activities were very fun to learn to prepare us for real life situations. The camaraderie with all of the other 16 Fire Academy recruits will last a lifetime. It was a lot of hard work with many rewarding benefits.

What was the most difficult part the academy?: We had to go through a two month training postponement lapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This made it difficult to get back into the same studying routine once classes started back up.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I was the oldest person in the Academy at 62 years old. I was able to meet all of the demanding requirements to become an Osseo Firefighter. I can still remember when I was a little kid going to the fire station and being in awe of the fire engines and all of the firefighters. One of my high school teachers was a volunteer firefighter in my home town of Two Harbors  I will never forget when he had to extricate me out of a car after being in a terrible auto accident using the jaws of life. The opportunity to give back means very much to me.

Mackenzie Phenow  

Why did you decide to become an Osseo firefighter? Last summer my dad, Osseo Fire Captain 11, was talking about needing new hires for the department. On a whim I decided to apply! I did not know what I was in for, but I was ready for the new, exciting challenge. I was also eager to carry on the family legacy, and become the first fifth generation Phenow on Osseo Fire Department, plus first female Phenow.

What does it mean to be an Osseo firefighter? It means a lot to me to be on the department. I love serving the community and helping however I can. It is such an honor to be on and being able to be apart of this fire family. The brother/sisterhood is truly an amazing thing to be involved in.

How was the academy? The Fire Academy was one of the best things I have done. I did things I never thought I would be able to do, and met amazing friends along the way. I learned valuable knowledge from the instructors that I will never forget. There were many challenges that I was able to overcome and achieve.

What was the best part of the academy? I had so much self doubt about being a female joining the department. I wasn’t confident in my training and what I was doing. The best part of academy was the support I received from everybody apart of Fire Academy. Everybody supported everybody and we all became each other’s support system. I have made lifelong friends through academy.

What was the most difficult part the academy? The most difficult apart of academy was finishing it during COVID. We had just started HazMat when classes were put on pause. We were out for about two months before being able to begin classes again.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? I am so incredibly happy to be apart of this family and look forward to the continued knowledge and lessons I will learn!

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