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Strutting their stuff for a cause

Chad Carlson of the Brandon Fire Department worked his way down the runway to Toby Keith’s “As Good As I Once Was” during the tight T-shirt portion of the competition at last year's show. (File photo)

Area firefighters will be the center of attention on Jan. 7 — but not because of putting out any fires.

Instead, they'll be strutting down a runway as part of the second annual Firefighter's Runway Competition and Comedy Show.

The show serves as a way to raise money for the Lakes Area Crisis Response Team, a self-funded organization that offers stress mitigation and debriefing services to area emergency response agencies.

Jeff Tacker, president of the crisis team and chaplain for Alexandria Fire Department, says that the turnout last year — the first time the show was held — was good, but he is expecting it to be better this year.

"Last year was tremendous," he said. "But we think that this year is going to be better because we did it during harvest last year and a lot of our rural firefighters are farmers or work in that industry, so we lost some of them to that. ... So this year we're going to try it in winter when nothing is going on."

The doors will open at 6 p.m., and there will be music and hors d'oeuvres prior to the 7:30 start time of the runway and comedy show.

The four categories for the runway portion of the night include tight T-shirt, family, chiefs and officers, and bachelors.

The comedy portion will feature Alex Jackson, retired Minneapolis Fire Chief, as the comedian.

"He always gives a lot of recognition to firefighters and talks to them about their need to laugh, and how laughter helps mitigate stress," Tacker said. "He's funny, and he's pretty much family friendly."

The show is open to the public, though according to Tacker, much of the turnout includes firefighters.

"We've had tremendous support from the firefighting community because we're self-funded and they know that we have their back and we're there to help them," he said.

About the crisis team

The crisis team began two years ago, when Tacker realized there was a need in the area. It currently serves 11 fire departments in Douglas County, as well as agencies in Pope, Todd and Grant counties.

One of the main ways the crisis team aids area agencies is by holding debriefings after a traumatic event.

"Basically what we do is we go in when there's been a bad call and we work with the officers or firefighters to make sure that they don't get left behind or fall through the cracks," Tacker explained. "Rural America really suffers. One of the top 10 traumas is knowing your own victim, and just about every person in rural America who serves as a first responder or firefighter knows their victims."

Tacker says he often observes people ignoring their emotions after such an event, which can build and build over time.

"I call it stuffing," he said. "The way I explain it in a meeting is that it's like putting garbage in a trash can and not emptying it. You just keep pushing it down. And eventually you realize it needs to come out but it won't because it's so much garbage in there. We sometimes do that with our emotions and then we have a bigger problem."

One of the things Tacker stresses most is that emergency personnel need to remember the basics when taking care of themselves.

"Some of our teaching is to try to get them to get the most common things, like if you've been through a crisis, eat a proper diet, drink a lot of water and get some exercise," he said. "And talk about the event, that's the big one."

The team is completely self-funded and volunteer based. At any point, donations may be sent to the Lakes Area Crisis Response Team at P.O. box 571, Alexandria.

Firefighter's Runway Competition and Comedy Show

When: Saturday, Jan. 7. Doors open at 6 p.m. and show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Broadway Ballroom

Cost: $20 general admission, $25 for VIP admission and $200 for a table of eight. Tickets are available at Fat Daddy's, Kyles Barbershop and Trend and Couture.

For more information, contact Jeff Tacker at or (320) 304-0231. This benefit is sponsored by Fat Daddys, Budweiser and the Hampton Inn.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

(320) 763-1233