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Solon firefighter leads by example

 Firefighter Candace Wetter after she dragged herself and her nozzleman out of a window at a practice burn gone horribly wrong in October 2012.

Firefighter Candace Wetter after she dragged herself and her nozzleman out of a window at a practice burn gone horribly wrong in October 2012.

By Judy Reed

Solon firefighter Candace Wetter loves what she does. And she is determined to not only be the best firefighter she can be, but to help her fellow firefighters hone their skills as well. At the tender of age of 22, she has already been in the fire service for 7 years, and encountered numerous dangerous situations, including one as an intern, that could’ve scarred her for life.

Wetter comes from a firefighter family, and started as a junior firefighter in Wisconsin, when she was 15 years old. “My mom is a fire chief, my dad is a firefighter and my younger sister is a junior firefighter, all for the same department in our hometown where I grew up. I lived in the fire station growing up and have always been involved or around it in some fashion. This was something I just knew I wanted to do,” she explained. “I was told once that I would never make it as a full time firefighter. Well I am doing everything in my power to prove them wrong.”

That kind of determination and admitted bullheadedness has served her well.

N-Solon-FF-Candace-Wetter-pullquoteAs a junior firefighter, she said her job was to run around and take care of little tasks, such as retrieving equipment from the trucks or cleaning things. “More importantly, we were receiving on the job training and experience long before we even graduated high school. That helped me tremendously, because I such a significant head start,” she said.

Wetter took fire classes while still in high school, and worked her way into a firefighter position at 18 years old. In May 2012, she was offered a position of intern Firefighter/EMT for a department in a suburb of Madison Wisconsin, and a job as an adjunct fire instructor at a local college. Under the intern program, the firehouse was home to her and other interns while they worked on their associates degree in fire science, but got on the job guidance and training. It was there that she had a life-changing experience with fire.

Firefighter Candace Wetter wore full turnout gear when she competed in the Gazelle 5K earlier this year, just to prove she could.

Firefighter Candace Wetter wore full turnout gear when she competed in the Gazelle 5K earlier this year, just to prove she could.

Just five months later, on October 27, her department was invited to attend a multi-department live fire-training burn. Their burn room was in the garage, three feet below the foundation. Some of the instructors asked her and the other interns if they wanted to go in for the last burn. She and three others were on the hose, and she was second, making her the command officer. But once they got into the room, all did not go as planned. Her third and fourth crewmembers disappeared, and her nozzleman (in front of her) began to panic. She couldn’t figure out where the other two went and kept looking for them. When the blackest smoke she had ever seen dropped from the ceiling, she knew something had gone wrong and they need to get out of there. But her nozzleman could not move; he was paralyzed with fear, and she had to drag him out, while flames licked at her ears and her mask began to melt. As she reached the steps, the room flashed on them and she thought she was going to die as a 19-year-old firefighter. She caught a tiny ray of light out of a corner of her mask and finally bailed out a window with her nozzleman. She kept crawling, just wanting the burning to stop. She suffered first and second-degree burns, smoke inhalation, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Everyone had made it out; her third team member, who was also her best friend had left because of an equipment problem, and the fourth crewmember left as well. Neither had told her they were leaving. She also noted that at least nine rules of the National Fire Protection Association had been broken by those setting up the burn; and no one was watching or controlling the fire.

FF Wetter and other runners at the Gazelle 5K.

FF Wetter and other runners at the Gazelle 5K.

It took Wetter quite awhile to recover from the experience, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well. “We as firefighters and first responders deal with these types of things on a daily basis,” explained Wetter. “That is why we stress highly on the importance of firefighter mental well-being and behavioral health. We cannot help others, if we ourselves are hurting.”

She said the fire defiantly changed her and her outlook on a lot of things. “Since that fire, I have taken every single training or class that I had the opportunity to take. My best friends and I nearly died and I am hell bound to make every attempt at not letting history repeat itself. I grew up learning that I would make mistakes in my life. And when those mistakes happened, you learn from them, get back up, dust your boots off and do it again; until you got it right. This fire just took a little bit longer to stand back up from.”

Wetter said that her nozzleman’s brain and body shut down because he couldn’t figure out what to do. “That is why we train so much as firefighters. So when we may not have a quick answer to the problem, we will still have our training and field experience to back us up and come up with a solution. It is also why we have such strict requirements on mandatory training hours and academy curriculum.”

Wetter said she now fights fires from a much smarter standpoint. “We are constantly maintaining our situational awareness and observing changing conditions. We also use a risk-benefit analysis; what are our gains vs. what are our risks? About 100 firefighters die in the line of duty every single year. That is something I keep in the back of my head when I am on a scene or fire. We will make every attempt we can to do what we were sworn to do; save lives and protect property.  We also will make every attempt to bring all of our members home, after every call. When you come close to losing everything, you make every attempt to keep your crew up to speed and well trained. Again, that is why we train constantly. I am not here for myself; I am here for them; to make sure they make it back to their families at the end of the day.”

And Wetter does just that. She moved to Michigan in 2014, and has worked for Solon Fire Department for a little over two years, and helps train new recruits. She also works for Plainfield Fire Department and Life EMS. Solon Fire Chief Jeff Drake nominated Wetter this spring for a scholarship to the 2016 Fire Departments Instructor Conference.

He wrote that he nominated Wetter “due to her extreme passion to serve the community and her unwavering commitment to improve fireground safety through her extensive donation of time and talent to train new recruits on fire ground skills. In a very unselfish manner, FF Wetter is willing and able to attend various regional and national training seminars and then donate endless hours in sharing this knowledge within the SFD.” He went on to talk about the recruits she was training, and the countless hours of training classes she takes at her own cost.”

Wetter was awarded the all-expenses paid scholarship to attend the conference in Indianapolis, in April. “Thousands of firefighters attend this conference,” remarked Wetter. “I spent a week learning from some of the best chiefs, training officers and seasoned firefighters throughout the country. I took many different classes, ranging from firefighter mental health to rapid intervention and self-survival classes. I am extremely honored to have had that opportunity. I have already planned trainings at my departments to pass the knowledge on and to grow my departments so we are more prepared and proactive.”

Wetter is an inspiration to others around her, sometimes without knowing it. Earlier this spring, she ran the Gazelle 5K in Grand Rapids, in full firefighter gear, which she said weighs about 90 pounds. An email and photo of Wetter was sent to the GR Fire Chief from deputy city attorney Elizabeth White, asking if anyone knew who she was. In the email, White noted that she followed behind the firefighter all the way. “I’m 50 years old, and I don’t run much as a general rule. But as long as this girl kept running, so did I. I was so inspired by her determination, I [darn] near broke my personal 5K record!” She asked if anyone knew who she was to pass on her appreciation. “She inspired a lot of women today!” she wrote.

Wetter said she did it because she wanted a challenge. “I tend to get bored easily and wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I ran in my full turnout gear with my SCBA (self contained breathing apparatus). Someone told me that I couldn’t finish the 5k in my gear, so again, I was bound and determined to prove them wrong.”

The Post asked Wetter if she had any advice for young people who might want to become a firefighter. “I would tell any young person aspiring to be a firefighter that he/she needs to pace themselves. Also:

  • The fire service is a journey not a destination. You must first learn how to crawl, then walk, then jog, then run.
  • Enthusiasm, dedication & passion are an absolute must with this job, and they are all things we cannot teach from a book.
  • We never stop training and learning. From the first day on the job, to graduating from academy, to fighting fires every day. You must make it part of your life, because it can so easily take your life.
  • You need to have a hobby. Something other than fire or ems. Too much of something can never be good.
  • You need to have your crew’s back. Through thick and thin. Bottom line—we are a family.”

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Renaissance Faire this weekend


These guys did some sword fighting at last year’s Renaissance Faire.

These guys did some sword fighting at last year’s Renaissance Faire.

June 10-12

The Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce will once again turn Morley Park into something out of the Middle Ages when they host the 2016 Cedar Springs Renaissance Faire, June 10-12.

The fun starts Friday night, with PiYo in the park at 6 p.m., and you can meet and greet the actors performing this year. At dusk, they will show a movie in the park. This year’s movie is the 1951 version of Alice in Wonderland to go with the 2016 Cedar Springs Renaissance Faire theme “Alice in Morleyshire.” This is a family classic so bring out the entire family. The Kent Theatre will be giving out free popcorn to the first 50 people just before the movie (which starts about dark). They will have other concessions and drinks for sale too.

The fun continues on Saturday with all day entertainment from noon to 8 p.m. and a Royal Dinner from 6-8 p.m. (Visit the Cedar Springs Renaissance Faire page on Facebook for more info on the Royal Dinner.) Sunday continues the fun, with all day entertainment from noon to 6 p.m.

There will also be vendor booths set up throughout the weekend selling wooden and steel swords, armor, natural remedies, essential oils, hats, masks, books, fairy items and more.

Returning entertainers for this year include Darkmore Colony of Larpcraft, E-leesa Gypsy Enchantress, Steal Lotus Dance Troupe, The Late Mountebank & Wonder Elixir of Life Company, Bell Book and Canto, Robin the Bard and new performances by The Fae of Norsey Woods.

Hopkins said they have over 20 vendor booths selling anything from steel swords, crafted armor, natural remedies, essential oils, hats, masks, wooden swords, hand crafted items, books, fairy items, dresses, and more.

Either come as you are, or dress up and join the fun! Hope to see you there!

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The Post travels to California


The Cedar Springs Post traveled to California with the Thornton family, where they celebrated the marriage of Tommy Thornton (2004 Cedar Springs grad) to Inge Hergenrather. The couple resides in San Clemente, California, where Tommy is an Orange County Sheriff Deputy and USMC Reservist, and Inge is an events manager.

Joining in the fun were Tommy’s parents, Tom and Sara; brothers Austin (2007 CSHS grad), and Judson (2010 CSHS grad); nephew Carson; and Cedar Springs High School friends Brandon Bauer and Mike Bigney (both 2004 grads).

The couple was married in the same church as Tom and Sara—South Shores Church, Laguna Niguel, California.

Thanks so much for taking us with you, and best of luck to the happy couple!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!

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Senior neighbors take a trip to the Kent

N-Senior-NeighborsThe historic Kent Theatre in Cedar Springs was the entertainment for the Sparta Senior Neighbors on Wednesday June 1.

The Sparta center was provided transportation to and from this nostalgic theatre by Senior Neighbors and Ride Link. This energetic group of seniors, ranging from age 60 and older, received a walk down memory lane as they entered this wonderfully restored theatre from days gone by. The seniors were treated to the movie Jungle Book, as well as popcorn and a drink served to them from the Theatre’s antique equipment. The smiles couldn’t have been brighter as these seniors enjoyed yet another day out together exploring what our community has to offer.

Senior Neighbors offers any Kent County resident 60 years and older a program that includes several valuable services.  The program may include wellness speakers, exercise classes, healthy lunches, parties, raffles with prizes, educational classes geared for senior citizens, games, fun outings, various crafting interest groups, worship services, bus transportation,  health related checks from blood pressure to hearing aid and foot care,  and more. The centers are located throughout Kent County, making it convenient for anyone to attend the functions and events offered Monday through Friday of every week.

The consensus from the large number of senior citizens who take advantage of the Senior Neighbor services is that they feel a part of an extended family and are given a sense of belonging. They also feel empowered with the educational and informative items discussed from day to day. The daily entertainment brings laughter and enrichment to these seniors’ lives.

The Senior Neighbors’ mission is to promote independent living for people age 60 years and older in our community. These essential services are offered to help senior citizens remain independent into their later years. Senior Neighbors is supported in part by the Kent County Millage, the Area Agency on Aging of West Michigan, Kent County businesses and an advisory council of volunteers.

Lois Hall, a member of the Sparta Senior Neighbors center for the last seven years, said that she enjoys coming to the center to meet her friends and have company during her days. Lois said, “It’s a great place to meet people and to spend my day.” Lois commented that she never feels alone anymore.

Any senior citizen age 60 years and older is welcome at any center.  Please stop by a center near you to see what is happening and pick up a newsletter with a schedule of events and activities. You will receive a warm welcome by not only the center coordinator, but the other members of that particular center. Kent County centers are located in Sparta (ph: 887-1273), Walker (ph: 735-3240), Lowell (ph: 897-5949), Grand Rapids (ph: 459-3040) and Grandville (ph: 531-5250). Transportation is provided to the centers if needed.

“Together we can age with grace, dignity and a whole lot of fun,” added Sparta Center Coordinator Jane Ringler, who resides in Cedar Springs. Jane says that she loves going to her job at the center and it is because of the senior citizens she works for that make it such a pleasant and happy place to be.

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$200,000 grant will help restore wetlands


The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

Cedar Springs and Sparta to benefit

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently announced more than $4.3 million in grants to protect Michigan lakes and streams from pollution, and a group working on projects in Cedar Springs and Sparta received a portion of it.

Trout Unlimited received $239,449 to restore wetlands, and to protect a 50-acre property with a permanent conservation easement in the Rogue River watershed, as part of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

Specific wetland activities include restoring approximately 5 acres of wetlands in the Cedar Springs and Sparta area. Two wetlands will be restored in Cedar Springs, both on City of Cedar Springs property. One is a half acre by the fire barn, where the new library will built (between the firebarn and Cedar Creek) and two acres at North Park, just east off of Main Street (between Oak Street and Cedar Springs Mobile Estates).

Two wetlands will also be restored in the Sparta area—one acre on the corner of M37 and Main St, and 1.5 acres off of Phelps, on private property.

Once restored, these sites will play a huge role in reducing sediment in Cedar and Nash Creeks and helping to stabilize water temperature by controlling stormwater runoff.  In addition, identification and prioritization of historically lost wetlands will be done and potential wetland restoration areas in the entire watershed will be quantified for future projects.

A second portion of the project is the completion of a conservation easement, permanently protecting approximately 50 acres in the watershed. The 50-acre conservation easement is located just east of Sparta, off of Division, on private property.

This property is directly adjacent to 124 acres of permanently protected land. The area just outside of the property is experiencing development pressure. The conservation easement will eliminate all development in this area, as well as provide buffer zones to the waterways and wetland areas.

These grants will help restore impaired waters and protect high-quality waters by reducing nonpoint sources of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants. Nonpoint source pollution is runoff that picks up both natural and human contaminants as it moves across the ground and eventually deposits it into waterways.

This two year project will begin in October 2016 and will be part of the current Trout Unlimited Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. This project is a multi-year collaborative watershed restoration project. Local foundations, businesses and other donors have contributed funds towards the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

A Trout Unlimited Project Manager and Project Coordinator work to improve existing river conditions through restoration actions, work with local governments to improve municipal planning, and increase capacity to help ensure advocates for long-term protection of the Rogue.

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MS boys track team goes undefeated



The Cedar Springs Middle School boys track team had an outstanding performance this spring. Coached by Kevin Martens and Steve Banagis, the boys finished their season undefeated. The season came to a close on June 1 at the Megastar meet in Shepherd. Athletes qualified for this meet by ranking in the top 16 for each individual event and in the top eight for relay teams. The coaches accompanied 10 young men to the meet, and they competed in the large school division. While there, the boys displayed just how much they had learned from their coaches through their amazing performances, including personal bests, medals, and even new school records.

Individual medal winners for the meet included Michael Pigorsh placing fourth in the 800 meter with a time of 2:13.67; Jaydon Moleski placing third in the 1600 meter with a time of 5:00.51; and Nate Perry placing fourth in the 400 meter with a time of 55.56. Corey Bowers and Landon Totten also represented the school in the 3200 meter and the shot put, respectively. The school also had three qualifying relay teams. Landon Totten, Da’Monte Barnett, Ben VanDusen, and Ben Shaw represented the Hawks in the 800 meter relay. A close race was had in the 1600 meter relay, where Jaydon Moleski, Zak Schmid, Michael Pigorsh, and Nate Perry received a third place medal for the event with a time of 3:51.74, finishing just 1.32 seconds behind the overall event winner. While not quite fast enough to win the event, the boys did leave their mark with a new school record.  The school record for the 3200 meter relay was also broken at the Megastar.  The team of Michael Pigorsh, Zak Schmid, Brendon Carlson, and Jaydon Moleski finished with a time of 9:12.65 seconds to become not only the division champion, but the overall event champion as well.

Congratulations to not only these athletes, but the entire Cedar Springs Middle School track team and coaches on a great season.

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Baby Ducklings


Just look at these cute baby ducklings—they don’t seem to have a care in the world! Reader Tanya Giaimo saw these ducklings on Monday at the Rockford Dam, and took this photo. Thanks so much for sending it our way!

If you have wildlife photos you’d like to send, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com, along with some information.

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Report could be a wake-up call for antibiotic reform


By Mary Kuhlman, Michigan News Connection

A new report calls for banning or restricting the use of antibiotics in farm animals to curb the global spread of infections.

Cameron Harsh, senior manager for organic and animal policy with the Center for Food Safety, explains continuously dosing animals creates stronger strains of bacteria, which makes antibiotics less effective at fighting infections in people.

He says the report is a wake-up call for policymakers to reform common factory farming practices.

“Producers can crowd animals, have higher stocking densities, and they’re getting animals to grow faster on less feed,” he explains. “So, in the long run, these have been misused as a tool to raise more meat and poultry products faster and more cheaply.”

According to the report from the Britain based review on Antimicrobial Resistance, some 700,000 people die each year worldwide from antibiotic-resistant infections, and that number could rise to 10 million per year by 2050.

Industry groups say they’re using antibiotics to keep animals healthy, and maintain the practice is necessary to keep costs down.

Harsh notes making sure animals have good feed, can access the outdoors and have enough space to lie down helps boost their natural immune systems.

And he says an increasing number of people are willing to pay more for drug-free meat, dairy and eggs.

“And you’re seeing a lot of companies make strong statements about antibiotic use in their supplies, and make strong commitments to reduce use,” he adds. “But transparency is going to be an important step moving forward, so that consumers can make informed food decisions in the marketplace.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has introduced guidelines that would require farmers to get antibiotics from licensed veterinarians, instead of over the counter at the local feed store, and has asked drug makers to voluntarily remove growth promotion claims from labels.

Harsh says those moves don’t go far enough.

The report can be accessed at


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Solon Market teams with Velzy Park


ENT-Solon-Market1Event based Market begins this Saturday

It’s here! This Saturday, June 11, is opening day for Solon Market! The new Market will take place the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and will be event-based. This week’s Market features a community sale and petting zoo, chair massages and a raffle fundraiser to help build Velzy Park, the planned recreational facility behind Solon Township’s Office. Join the township in a perimeter walk along the proposed walking trail. Bring your garage sale items and join Solon’s vendors for a day at the Market. Produce featured this week includes asparagus, rhubarb, farm fresh eggs, honey and maple syrup. Other events planned include Christmas in July, Dog Daze Pet Expo in August, Sept Giveaways and Car Bash and October’s Bootacular.

Kids enjoy the petting zoo at the Solon Market.

Kids enjoy the petting zoo at the Solon Market.

For more information or to volunteer for events, Please call Shelly at 616-696-1848 or visit their facebook page—Solon Market. The Market address is 15185 Algoma Ave. in Cedar Springs. See you at Market!

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Memorial Day services 

It was a beautiful day across West Michigan Monday, May 30, and many residents gathered in cemeteries and parks for the annual Memorial Day Services.

Here in Cedar Springs, the Glen Hill American Legion Post held services at Elmwood Cemetery, where the Avenue of Flags memorialized veterans laid to rest there; at Solon Cemetery; at East Nelson Cemetery; and at Veterans Memorial Park on Oak Street. Nelson Township resident Lt/Col. Tom Noreen was the guest speaker.

Memorial Day services were also held at Algoma, Sand Lake, and Pierson.

The Cedar Springs Historical Society held their annual cemetery walk honoring veterans on Sunday, May 29.

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