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Elkader Fire Chief Scott Marmann, third from left, accepts a donation from PeopleService. Three employees of the company were on hand at the presentation: Kim Werger, Dennis White, and Jared Burkle. The money will be used to help purchase a new water rescue suit.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


There’s an ironic twist to a donation given last week to the Elkader Fire Department in honor of a recent daring rescue: The gift came from a company that employs two of the people involved in the heroic effort.

PeopleService, the company that operates Elkader’s water and wastewater services, has given the fire department $500 to put towards the purchase of a new water rescue suit. The department had two suits; one was damaged beyond repair when volunteer firefighter Caleb Shea waded into the Turkey River to save a driver trapped in his truck after an accident. Representing PeopleService at the check ceremony were Kim Werger, lead operator for the Elkader area, and Jared Burkle, assistant operator. Both had roles in the April 5 rescue. 

According to Werger, he and Burkle rushed to the parking lot of the Clayton County Courthouse mid-afternoon on April 5 after hearing that a truck had tumbled down the embankment into the icy Turkey River. Realizing a boat would be needed to take the two victims from the river to waiting ambulances, they raced back to the wastewater plant to get the 10-foot, flat-bottomed boat used to service the equipment in the ponds at the plant. (The fire department has a boat but it was too big for the job.)

“We tried to put the boat in down river but the current was too strong so we tried to launch by the dam next to the floodgates,” Werger explained. “We were able to get the boat in the water but the current from water coming over the dam made it impossible for Jared to paddle the boat to the pickup. With help from other firemen on the shore, ropes were tied to the board and Jared, with a life jacket on, walked the boat in chin-deep water out to the truck.”

Burkle, who is a volunteer firefighter, helped colleagues Shea and Corey Koehn get the victims into the boat and back to shore Meanwhile, Werger used a 4x4-drive pickup to assist the ambulance crew in getting the rescue basket and equipment to the spot where the victims were being brought up from the water to the waiting ambulances.

Though Werger and Burkle were modest about their role in the rescue, Fire Chief Scott Marmann noted that everyone involved in the effort deserves praise. The PeopleService Management team agreed, adding that they were especially proud of their employees’ part and also Burkle’s work with the fire department.

The PeopleService gift is one of several the Elkader Fire Department has received in the wake the rescue.

“A few unexpected gifts have come in and we certainly appreciate receiving them,” said Marmann. “It’s nice to know that the work we do is valued by our community.”

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