The annual "Be Somebody" event is part social gathering, part vehicle show, part recruitment effort. And it’s all about the volunteers who make the choice to serve.

“The biggest thing is helping your neighbor,” Town of Superior Fire Chief Darryl Fiegle said. “The guy next door that needs help, he doesn’t have to wait for two hours or for someone from a major city to come out and help him. He can call a neighbor down the street.”

Members of area volunteer fire departments aren’t just firefighters. They respond to calls of all types, from vehicle crashes and water rescues to falls and missing person searches. Ninety percent of all calls are medical, Fiegle said.

“Anything that people call 911 for, we’re dispatched to,” Lakeside Fire Chief Nova Nordstrom said.

In Douglas County, she said, "volunteer" really means "volunteer."

“Our members are not paid to show up; they’re not paid to go on calls; they’re not paid to go to training. They’re taking time away from families, sometimes work,” Nordstrom said. “People are taking time away from their lives to do that.

“And without them, there’s nobody.”

Residents can support their local department without becoming first responders. Wascott Fire Chief Tom Michalek said they need help with bookkeeping, maintenance work, accounting, radio work, traffic control, even just washing fire trucks off after a run. And many departments have a cadet program for teens.

“It’s not hard and it’s not scary,” said Hope Nordrum, 18, who went through the cadet program. “Everyone’s really supportive.”

Visitors to the "Be Somebody" event got a chance to see the latest first response equipment, vehicles and training aids, including a trauma dummy that moves and squirts simulated blood.

“We haven’t been up here for it before, but this is really cool with all the different agencies,” said Douglas County native Kristi Hall, who was visiting from Lakeville, Minnesota, with her husband, Jerry, and children, Torin, 9, and Delaney, 4. “It’s a really cool learning experience for them.”

The children got to sit inside the Life Link III helicopter.

“It’s a helicopter ambulance,” Torin said.

The lineup of fire trucks, ambulances and boats included two 2019 Sea-Doo water rescue craft owned by the town of Wascott. The small, nimble craft were funded through the sale of the department’s larger rescue boat.

“We can get there a little quicker, launch on any lake, just get there and assess a patient and take care of the immediate needs,” Michalek said.

Park ranger Tam Hofman with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore took the opportunity to remind visitors of Lake Superior’s dangers. During the previous week, she’d rescued two kayakers from 37-degree water.

“Nobody intends on going into the water, but it happens all the time,” Hofman said.

She encouraged everyone paddling on the lake to use a sea kayak with a wetsuit and skirt.

“Know your limitations. Do not underestimate Lake Superior and do not overestimate your abilities,” Hoffman said. “And wear your PFD (personal flotation device), for heaven’s sake.”

The "Be Somebody" event is a chance for first responders to connect.

“It’s nice to come out to events like this, where we’re not under a time crunch,” Life Link paramedic Adam Longman said. “We can meet some of the first responders we’re working with and when we do have those critical situations, you recognize a familiar face.”

Life Link II pilot Mani Ignatius summed up the main purpose of the event in two points.

“One is to let people know that we are here at their service, and the second, of course, is it gives younger people the opportunity to see us up close and get inspired,” he said.

Contact your local fire department or call 888-926-1676 to volunteer in Douglas County.