Ryan Hauck doesn’t get too comfortable these days.
In fact, it’s been that way for years.
BY BRYAN GALLEGOS
Hauck knows he can be called out at any time. You see, Hauck is a volunteer firefighter.
He knows his world can be turned upside down at any moment. And it has.
“We’ve been called out at all hours and all kinds of weather conditions,” said the veteran firefighter.
Hauck is the chief of the West Dunn Fire Protection District, a position he was elected to in December. The district includes the fire halls in Killdeer and Dunn County, the tankers, tracks and emergency vehicles and 35 volunteer firefighters.
And despite the volatile, unpredictable and dangerous nature of the business, Hauck enjoys what he does – serving the community and helping people.
“I do it because I know somebody is going to need help,” Hauck said. “We see people at their worst times. It’s our job to make sure they are taken care of.”
But it comes at a price. The volunteers miss quiet family time, birthday parties, ball games, outings with friends, concerts or other general free-time activities because they have been called out on an emergency.
Hauck knows all about that. The 32-year-old chief is married and has two children. They were in the middle of a birthday celebration when he got a call of a fire. He hugged his daughters, gave his wife a kiss and was off.
Whether it’s responding to a house fire in Dunn Center, a blaze at a disposal site near Killdeer, or an accident near Manning, the volunteers put their own safety on the line. They must be strong, physically, and – more importantly in some cases – mentally.
“When that tone goes off, you have to have a positive attitude. You have to keep your head on straight,” Hauck said.
The volunteers go into each call out with a fresh perspective because each case is unique. No fire is the same. No accident is cliché. And the victims can be anybody – strangers, or even friends and family.
Early in his career, Hauck responded to a call that still haunts him.
His cousin had just moved to the area with his wife and two children. They were returning the U-Haul truck to Dickinson.
The department got a call about an auto accident involving a U-Haul vehicle. His thoughts immediately went to his cousin, but Hauck forced those thoughts out of his mind because he had to focus on his duty.
But when he arrived on the scene, Hauck knew it was his cousin. He fought back the excruciating emotional surge and did his job.
Before continuing with the story, Hauck looked away for a second. His lip quivered before saying his cousin didn’t make it.
“You have to remember, you’re there to respond and to take care of them (victims),” Hauck said, his voice wavering a bit.
Hauck grew up in Dunn County and graduated from Killdeer High School 2003. He went to North Dakota State University but returned home during the summer and worked for the county, driving a tanker watering the roads. Sometimes he would help the fire department on call outs.
He was asked to join at that time, but declined because he would be leaving back to college.
However, moved back to Dunn County for good in 2007 and took over his grandparents’ ranching operation southeast of Dunn Center.
He applied for and was accepted as a member of the fire protection district out of the Dunn Center Hall. He also volunteered with Killdeer Area Ambulance Service.
In 2016, Hauck was elected assistant fire chief and was in charge of the Dunn Center Hall. He was then asked to run for fire district’s top spot last year and was elected.
As fire chief, he has to look at things with a wide-angle-lens mentality. He has to make sure everybody can respond safely to the incident and returns home safely and that they have the necessary resources available for the situation. He needs to be sure they are adequately trained in the most updated techniques available.
“I guess I like the pressure,” he chuckled. “Maybe it’s the little kid in me. I get to drive that big red truck.”
But he is not a one-man show by any means. He’s quick to point out that he works with a lot of talented and caring people. Tyler Pittsley is the First Assistant Chief and is in charge of the Killdeer Fire Hall and Shaun Lambert is the Second Assistant Chief and is in charge of the Dunn Center Hall.
And the roster is made up of 35 individuals between the two halls who are willing to drop whatever they are doing in a seconds notice to help people.
“Because that’s what needs to be done,” Hauck said.