Byron volunteer firefighter Dan Pries was honored recently by the Byron city council for his 33 years of service. Pictured from left to right are: Council members Bob Meyer and Alan De Keyrel, Mayor Ann Diercks, Dan Pries, and council members Bret Baumbach and Jason Snow.
Photo courtesy of the Byron City Council.
By David Richards
Dan Pries reflected on his career as a volunteer Byron firefighter last week, a career that's spanned more than three decades and six presidents.
It's also covered more than half of his life for the 59-year-old, who retired from the job in June after 33 years.
"I haven't thought of it that way," Pries said. "But it feels good to have done that."
Pries was honored recently by the Byron City Council for all his hours of service, long nights of battling flames and mop up duty, attending training or simply helping with the Fireman's Dance, the biggest fundraiser each year.
"To give up all he has so that he could be of service not only to Byron but to the townships, we should all be thankful to him and to all the other volunteers," Byron mayor Ann Diercks said. "That's time away from their families. It's a heck of a commitment; I hope people realize what they give up."
Pries graduated from Byron High School in 1972. He and his wife Becky have a daughter Cathy, and a son Kris. Kris is also on Byron Fire and Rescue, as is Bob, Dan's nephew.
At one time, there were four Pries' on the department, Dan and his brothers Frank, Jim and Jerry.
Frank moved to Wisconsin in 1981, and the other two retired about 12 years ago. Bob is Jim's son.
"Most of us were already around town a lot," Dan said of how his family became involved with Byron Fire.
Dan worked as the transportation director for Byron Public Schools and now owns Earl's, which sells everything from chainsaws and snow blowers.
He said the late night pager calls didn't bother him. Emergency 9-1-1 Byron Fire calls go to Rochester law enforcement, which then page the Byron volunteers, with each fireman having a pager.
"Not really," he said, when asked if his wife minded the pager. "Some nights, she wouldn't even hear it."
As a small town, fires in Byron are rare, but fire calls are not.
Dan said the department receives 50-65 calls a year, everything from faulty smoke alarms to yes, a few fires.
The busiest it ever was, he said, was several years back when in a span of two years, an apartment complex, a house and a grain elevator all went up in flames.
"It can be scary," he said about the job. "You have a lot of gear, and there's the heat. It's not a place for someone who's claustrophobic. We've been really lucky, though. We've been safe. You have to trust the people you go in with."
And trust them, Dan did and still does, as some of his favorite memories are of the camaraderie with the rest of the volunteers.
"I think they're one of the best volunteer fire departments around, although I may be a little prejudice," he said.