Colshan keeps Manson firefighters on track

MANSON – John Colshan’s Fire Department is active in the community.

In addition to their yearly training hours, all of his firefighters are required to do 24 hours of community service every year.

They can be seen directing traffic at football games and cooking pancake breakfasts once a month from November to April.

It’s one way a small-town volunteer force deals with fundraising.

Colshan has been fire chief since July 2009. He joined the Manson Fire Department in 1991, one year after he moved to the town.

“I had a roommate on the Fire Department. That’s how I decided to join,” Colshan said.

The firefighters elect a chief every two years.

“I guess they felt I could do the job,” he said.

With 29 firefighters, the department is larger than he’s ever seen it before. That’s one reason the community service is now required.

“It was getting to the point where we had the same six guys show up for everything. It’s volunteer, but you have to have some rules too,” he said.

The department also requires 24 hours of training every year, in order to be certified to go into a house.

“You have to make sure your guys are getting adequate training, not only to keep the state and federal government happy, but for the safety of your own guys. If they don’t know what they’re doing, or aren’t doing it right, somebody’s going to get hurt.”

All of the department’s training is up to Firefighter 1 standards, he said, and most of the volunteers go on to get their Firefighter 2 certification.

As chief, Colshan has to organize training times, manage finances and attend city council meetings.

“You have to keep the morale up,” he said. “They have to have so many hours of training and community service, and you can’t make it so it’s like a job. You have to make it fun in the workplace. You have to keep them interested, otherwise you’re not going to have anybody.

“One of the biggest things is, you want to make sure everybody goes home,” he said.

Colshan finds the extra work rewarding, even though it’s more or less a volunteer position.

“Actually I do get paid. Not very much. It probably figures out to about 50 cents an hour,” he said.

Why does he do it?

“Because they make me,” he said.

He’s only half joking.

“If you feel that your peers have the faith in you to lead them, then you put forth the extra effort to make them happy too,” he said. “And I do enjoy it. … I think everybody needs to give back to their community in some way. So the way I’ve chosen is, I’m a member of the Fire Department.”

Firefighter Josh Waller said Colshan excels at communication.

“John makes sure that he’s taken time to listen to everyone’s concerns. Everyone’s opinions are important to him, and he makes sure everyone gets the same level of respect,” said Waller. “He’s just a very personable guy. He’s always been very dedicated to the fire service. When he’s around you know things are going to be taken care of, and it’s going to be done right.”