When Stacy Schmidt went to visit Fire Chief Joel McColl about partnering on a promotion to benefit the Savage Fire Department, the answer to her question was sitting right in front of her.
“When I went to talk to Chief McColl, right on his desk he had the new fire helmet,” said Schmidt, liquor facilities manager at Savage City Liquor. “He said they really wanted to order this new style because it was safer for the firefighters, and it wasn’t in their budget.”
After some discussion, both Schmidt and McColl were sold on the idea of offering a promotion with Hook and Ladder wine that would benefit the department, with proceeds going specifically toward new helmets.
“It makes it more tangible for the customer to know where that money is going,” said Schmidt. “Part of my mission is to seek out opportunities like this.”
As a result of the three parties’ collaboration, during the month of July, Hook and Ladder winery will donate $2 from each bottle of their wine sold at Savage City Liquor toward the helmets.
There’s also a free Hook and Ladder winetasting event Saturday, July 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Marketplace location, with donations accepted. That day from noon to 7 p.m., firefighters will help carry purchases out to cars.
The idea originally was suggested by Schmidt’s vendor, a Hook and Ladder wine distributor. The California-based winery likes to collaborate with fire departments on fundraising because its founder was a firefighter, Schmidt said.
Savage City Liquor, as a municipal liquor store, directs its profits back into the community, to places like the library and the McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center, McColl said.
McColl said Savage’s liquor stores have been “very good to the entire community,” and that the promotion was a natural fit.
Schmidt said the “the timing was perfect,” because McColl was in the process of ordering the new, brimless European-style helmets. A few months earlier, the helmets had been offered to the department’s 40 firefighters to try as a safer alternative to their traditional helmets with brims.
“We’ve got a lot of firefighters that are interested in migrating to the newer-style helmet, only because of the comfort and the safety factors,” said McColl.
The new design is streamlined and distributes weight more evenly, reducing shoulder and neck strain. With no brims, it also lessens a firefighters’ chances of being entangled in wiring or having their necks jarred by falling debris during a fire. Over the past three years, other departments, including Eagan and Apple Valley, have moved toward the new model, which fits like a motorcycle helmet, he said.
Also, “On auto crashes … it’s easier for them to gain entry into an automobile to provide patient care,” McColl said. The current helmets often must be removed to crawl through a car window.
McColl emphasized that “there’s pros and cons to both” styles, and that the traditional helmets aren’t unsafe. But because of firefighters’ preference, the department would like to transition a majority of them into wearing the new style over the next few years, he said.
The new helmets are $370 each, about $110 more than the current model.
The Savage Fire Department is a paid, on-call department of 40 firefighters, plus two full-time staff, who respond to 400 calls annually, McColl said. Firefighters today “need to start placing a higher priority on safety,” he said, and the helmets will help them do that.
The firefighters “obviously aren’t doing it for the money,” he said. “I’ve probably got 40 of the best residents in the city that I can call firefighters.”