When emergencies flare up and the horns start to blare, it is the firefighter who is among the first to be there.
Every year, the Webster City Fire Department honors a person who acts on the call and dedicates their well-being toward keeping others safe — from fires or any other force from man or nature.
This past weekend, the WCFD honored its Firefighter of the Year among other substantial accolades this past Saturday at the Ed Prince Building at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds, 1200 Bluff St., Webster City.
Within the gathering, Hunter Hayes — who has served for the WCFD for nearly a half-decade and hails from a long lineage of firefighters — earned the honorable distinction. Hayes was associated with combating flames for his entire life, as his grandfather, father, uncle, brother, cousin and other family members, have risen to the call.
“Our Firefighter of the Year has been in the department for almost five years,” said Chuck Stansfield, Webster City fire chief. “Prior to that, he was seen around scenes and training all of the time throughout his life.”
“(Hayes) is passionate about firefighting,” Stansfield said. “He brings energy, aggressiveness, drive and commitment to our department. He continues his family’s legacy of firefighting in a way that should make all before him proud. He is a vital part of our department and can be counted on heavily on scenes.”
According to the seasoned fireman, Hayes comes from a line of firefighters that spans back five decades. As a kid, he would advise his father to be safe when responding to calls and running out to scenes.
At his first live fire training, Hayes was one of the fuel men for his dad. Once he turned 18, Hayes decided to carry on the family legacy, and test for volunteer training — all while he was a senior at Webster City High School.
“With his eagerness, family ties and passion to be a firefighter, it was an easy decision,” Stansfield said.
In 2018, Hayes became a volunteer fireman with the WCFD and quickly earned his Firefighter I certification. Hayes also became certified in Hazmat Ops.
Fast forward to 2022, Hayes went to the Fire Department Instructors Conference out of Indianapolis, Indiana. It is a premier event among firefighters, who engage in a week’s worth of training and courses.
Among those hands-on seminars are vehicle extrication, flashover, forcible entry and stretching hoselines.
When he returned from Indiana, Hayes brought over that knowledge to the WCFD and conducted a difficult vehicle extrication exercise for senior personnel.
“He also taught some of our members a new way to advance hose during a fire,” Stansfield said. “More recently, he showed off his forcible entry skills during one of our drills by blowing past our forcible entry prop.”
Due to his heritage and his own acquired knowledge, Hayes has become a vital member of the local fire force.
“(Hayes) takes any chance he can get to train or be a part of experiences that can improve his fire fighting ability,” Stansfield said. “He has also joined another surrounding fire department, and is very helpful to them — not only being an additional person, but also in how scenes are run.”
View this article as it originally appeared in the Daily Freeman-Journal.
Last modified: March 7, 2023