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Dave Roepke, Published February 01 2011

Fargo firefighters earn ‘Stork Award’ for special delivery

It wasn’t as frightening as a raging house fire, but Capt. Kevin Muffenbier got an intense surprise when he and two fellow firefighters responded to a call for help last year the day before Thanksgiving.

A departmental communication system was down at the time, so Muffenbier didn’t know what to expect when they arrived at Heather and Jesse Heck’s house in the Osgood neighborhood of south Fargo. It wasn’t initially sent out as an emergency call.

A few short minutes later, Muffenbier was holding the couple’s newborn baby.

“It was just great to hear the screaming,” Muffenbier said of Lilli Heck.

Lilli and her parents got a chance on Monday to thank the firefighters and paramedics who assisted with the rush delivery. The emergency personnel were honored at Fargo’s downtown fire station.

“Haven’t seen you in a while,” Muffenbier said as he got his first look at the baby since her birth.

First-time mother Heather Heck – two days before she was due – had already been to the hospital earlier in the wee hours of Nov. 24, suspecting she was going into labor. But by 6:30 a.m., she was sent home.

After taking a bath, she realized her water had broken. Jesse Heck asked her if she thought she could make it out to the car, and she said she didn’t think she could.

With Heather on the bed howling in labor pain, the soon-to-be father (sooner than he knew) called 911. The dispatcher asked him if he saw a head poking out yet, and he was happy to report he didn’t.

Then he did see it.

“I said, ‘You better hurry up,’ ” Jesse Heck said.

Heather estimates it was no more than 20 minutes from when she noticed that her water had broken to the birth.

“It felt like seconds later, you were there,” she told the trio of firefighters that included Darin Nester and Tyler Pearson.

Rebecca Olson and Nathaniel Dutt, F-M Ambulance paramedics responding to the call, were also given awards at Monday’s ceremony. The firefighters were given the department’s “Stork Award,” an honor reserved for those forced into duty as makeshift obstetricians.

Jesse Schmidt, Fire Department public information officer, said impromptu deliveries aren’t entirely rare for firefighters. He did one five years ago.

“It happens more often than you think,” he said.

Muffenbier said firefighters get training on how to handle unexpected births, luckily for the Hecks.

“We couldn’t have done it without them at all,” Heather Heck said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535