The major fire last Saturday that destroyed several historic buildings in the eastern Iowa town of Maquoketa was the subject of discussion today in the Iowa Senate. Senator Roger Stewart, a Democrat from Preston says there were heroic efforts by dozens of volunteer firefighters who responded to the emergency.

Stewart says the fire was so intense that the Maquoketa fire chief called in other departments for help and the end result saw some 25 to 30 fire departments respond. Stewart says the firefighters battled the massive fire in sub-zero temperatures. He says he observed the firefighters working and said they’d come into the warming areas "covered with ice, absolutely unable to hardly sit down or take their gloves off, the conditions were so bad."

Preston says other area businesses opened the doors to provide warm drinks and lots of area people chipped in with help too. Preston asked everyone to think about the efforts made by the volunteer firefighters. Senator Mark Zieman, a republican from Postville says the Maquoketa fire shows the importance of volunteers and also highlights a problem with keeping fire departments staffed.

Zieman says one of the problems he’s seeing in his area is that it is hard to find volunteers to become firefighters due to the amount of time and training it takes. Zieman says the volunteers are their only line of defense and he has a bill that would give first responders and volunteer firefighters a tax credit to give them some compensation for the work that they do. Zieman urged the Senators to pass the bill to help out the volunteers.