Wayne Kewitsch brings 25 years of experience in Minnesota’s fire service — and harrowing, first-hand understanding of the dangers firefighters face — to his new role helping firefighters across the state as MnFIRE’s first executive director. On Sunday, KSTP’s Eric Chaloux spoke with Kewitsch about his 20 years with the Richfield Fire Department, including the past nine as chief, and his goals for MnFIRE moving forward.
Kewitsch brings a dramatically unique perspective to the organization, after three recent life-threatening cardiac episodes. Cardiovascular disease is the top killer of firefighters nationwide and is by far the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service. Kewitsch is working to prevent health scares like his own from happening to any other firefighters.
Consequently, Kewitsch is leading MnFIRE’s efforts to provide all of Minnesota’s 20,000 firefighters with free health and wellness training to become “MnFIRE Aware” of their own occupational risks, thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Fire Service Advisory Committee. The training, taught by firefighters and other health experts, teaches firefighters how to protect themselves from the three most common problems experienced by firefighters: cardiac, emotional trauma and cancer, so they can continue to do their jobs and protect others.
“We want to make sure we take care of our firefighters while they take care of the community,” says Kewitsch.
Thanks to Eric Chaloux for highlighting this critical work. Watch the full interview here.