Living the cooperative way: Laramie River Station employees serve their community inside and outside of work

William Deglman, safety coordinator at Laramie River Station, serves as the assistant chief of the Wheatland, Wyoming, Fire Department.

During the early morning hours of March 24, five Basin Electric employees were called to a structure fire in their community. The employees, who work at Laramie River Station in Wheatland, Wyoming, all serve as volunteer firefighters for the town’s fire department. Working together, they were able to safely extinguish the fire that morning.

While it may seem unique that the five volunteer firefighters who responded to that incident are also all coworkers, William Deglman, safety coordinator at Laramie River Station and assistant chief of the Wheatland Fire Department, says it’s normal because that kind of concern for community is common there.

“It’s a testament to the values and heritage of the people here,” says Deglman. “Small town folks are proud of their communities and of helping others. It’s one of those values that may be foreign to some, but it’s second nature to these people.”

Deglman has served as a volunteer firefighter for the Wheatland Fire Department for over 23 years. He says public service has always driven him.

“My family has a strong foundation of service, especially in the armed forces. I was also motivated by a quote from (Shawnee Chief) Tecumseh, ‘Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.’ To do that, I joined the Army out of high school and then got into law enforcement, ultimately working in Wheatland. While working as a police officer, I got to see the Wheatland Volunteer Fire Department in action and I knew I had to be part of that fraternity,” he says.

The skillsets Deglman uses in his role as safety coordinator at Laramie River Station are also useful in his role as assistant fire chief for the Wheatland Fire Department.

“What I’ve learned in the last eight years here with Basin Electric is there’s little difference in the risk my
firefighters take versus the things the men and women of Laramie River Station do at the plant on a daily basis,” he says. “There’s a lot of risk here – heights, pressures, chemicals, and heavy equipment. Every minute that passes without an incident is a testament to the safety efforts of those working here.”

What it comes down to is managing risk, Deglman says. “In emergency services, you’re willfully putting yourself in high-risk, high-stress situations. Not every day, of course, but more often than most think,” he says. “Most of the time they are calculated risks that can be mitigated through development of procedures, policies, or implementing proper tactics in conjunction with the right PPE (personal protective equipment like hard hats and safety glasses) and other equipment,” he says.

Deglman says there are many similarities between his roles of safety coordinator and assistant fire chief, but the greatest similarity is the connection between teammates and the bond shared while working alongside each other.

“There’s a level of comfort and understanding for how someone works or thinks. You’ll obviously gel with people of similar backgrounds and form unwritten bonds; however, there’s also a heightened level of responsibility as well. As an incident commander, you’re responsible for the overall success of the mission, as well as the safety of your personnel. It’s a very difficult dynamic to put people in harm’s way. I’ve lost teammates in the military and in law enforcement, and that possibility enters into every decision. It’s a responsibility that bonds people in a way I’m finding hard to describe. I’m proud to be associated with these giants,” says Deglman.

The dedication of Deglman and all Basin Electric employees who serve their communities by providing emergency services is honorable and appreciated. From keeping the electricity flowing to keeping their community safe, these employees are shining examples of what it means to live the cooperative way. Concern for community is one of the seven cooperative principles, and service is at the root of what being a cooperative is all about.

Deglman says he’s had the “honor and privilege to work and serve with many employees and retirees from Laramie River Station.”

Newly hired Laramie River Station Laborer Kendal Olson cuts a ventilation hole during a residential structure fire in Wheatland, Wyoming on March 24. Olson works from an aerial apparatus that was purchased using a Charitable Giving donation from Basin Electric and Missouri Basin Power Project in 2018.

Laramie Peak Fire Zone: Ronda Walker, plant operator; Kelby Walker, mechanical engineer; Tim Walker, control room operator

Hartville Fire Department: Ross Walker, mechanic/ welder

Guernsey Fire Department: Anthony Mansfield, instrument technician

Palmer Canyon Fire Department: Kurtis Wilson, mechanic/welder; Pat McGuire, assistant plant operator; Robert Niemczyk, control room operator; Amy Windmeier, supervisor maintenance planner/scheduler; Edward Min, scrubber supervisor

Wheatland Fire Department: Barry Sishc, electrician; Andrew Klatt, auxiliary operator; Kevin Brown, maintenance planner/scheduler; Eric Ockinga, mechanic/ welder; Eric Holtzclaw, control room operator; Kendal Olson, laborer

Honorary past members: Edward Min, scrubber supervisor; Dave Windmeier, shift supervisor

This article can also be found in the Spring 2022 issue of Basin Today.