MILLERVILLE, Minn. -- With a volunteer fire department in a town the size of Millerville, responding to emergencies often means firefighters are going to help someone they know.

When called out on Saturday morning, they encountered men they knew well. Men they had served alongside for many years.

Tragically, two brothers, Steve and Curt Boesl, died this past weekend from reportedly being overcome by toxic silo fumes. Curt’s son, Alex, had been working with his father on their farm north of Millerville and was also overcome by fumes. As of Monday, Dec. 23, the 11-year-old was in critical condition at Children’s Hospital in the Twin Cities. Millerville is about 20 miles northwest of Alexandria.

Steve Boesl had rushed to the aid of his brother and nephew, with instincts honed from his years as a firefighter. He had served 20 years with the department and was currently on a leave of absence, said Troy Becker, Millerville’s incoming fire chief. Curt Boesl, the assistant chief for nine years, had given more than 20 years to the department, Becker said. Another brother, Jeff, also spent 20-plus years with the Millerville Fire Department before retiring.

“It’s a big loss for our department,” Becker said, elaborating on the hole it leaves. “They were a huge part of our fire family. We trained together. We laughed together and now, we are shedding tears together."

Community comes first

Hardworking, community-minded, family oriented and dedicated were just a few of the words used by Becker to describe the Boesl brothers. He said Steve was a trustee on the Millerville Township Board and Curt was a trustee for Our Lady of Seven Dolors Church.

They both had five children and worked on the family farm with their dad and three other brothers.

Becker said because Curt lived close by, he was often the first one at the fire hall when a call came in. He said Curt would be getting everything ready and lined up to head to whatever call came in.

Curt and Steve participated in as many calls as they could, Becker said, and they were both very knowledgeable when it came to firefighting.

When a firefighter’s pager goes off, Becker said adrenaline kicks in. However, when responding to an incident where you know the address and more than likely you know the people involved, the heart immediately sinks.

“The heart is racing, but then when you know the family and you know how serious it is, you get a gut feeling that it’s not going to be good,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard to control your emotions, especially at the scene.”

But on Saturday, when responding to the Boesl farm, Becker said the crew stay focused and gave the victims the best care possible, as they always do.

“We took precautions, worked together and safety was of utmost importance,” he said. “We know in the farming community how dangerous it (silo fumes) can be.”

Silo fumes, according to Becker, are made up of carbon nitrous oxide and can seep into a person’s body immediately. Even if a person holds their breath, he said the fumes can go right in through the nose and get into the body.

He said silo gas incidents are actually not that uncommon and he remembers responding to several calls over the years.

After Saturday’s call at the Boesl farm, some firefighters ended up at Alomere Health in Alexandria, Becker said, and a couple stayed overnight for observation.

Hopeful for healing

When firefighters respond to serious calls, Becker said there is always a debriefing, whether it is immediately after, the next day or both. He said firefighters talk about what happened and work through the scenario.

When a case is especially serious, the fire association has resources for firefighters to help them through and to try and help them heal so that they can move forward.

Additionally, the department is automatically put on mutual aid. This means that area departments respond automatically for the next few days if a call comes in. “That’s the kind of group we have,” Becker said. “They are all there for us.”

As much as the department welcomes and appreciates the help, Becker said the Millerville firefighters will still respond because they know that is what both Curt and Steve would do.

“We have received huge support from fire departments statewide,” said Becker. “It’s almost been overwhelming. But what we need right now is to pray. Pray for Alex that he makes it and can live as normal of a life as possible. We just need to pray.”