MOUNDRIDGE — Over the past 11 years, the Moundridge community has raised thousands of dollars to assist the Moundridge Fire Department in purchasing costly items through their annual chili feed.

This year's chili feed raised enough money to buy water rescue gear for the department. The special equipment is used to rescue people who have fallen through ice or in similar water emergencies.

Before the fire department had their own gear, their only option was to call other area fire departments to assist in a water emergency.

"We never really thought about having them before we had an incident last year when a 10-year-old boy fell through the ice and his mom and dad went in after him. We saved the father — but the boy and his mother didn't make it," said Rhett Neufeld, acting captain of the Moundridge Fire Department. "We did everything we could with the gear we had. It was pretty hopeless — we felt hopeless. We decided to buy gear in case this ever happens again, that way we'd be more equipped."

With the proceeds from the annual chili feed, the department was able to purchase four ice water rescue suits, which cost $400 to $800 alone, and much more.

"We bought ropes for taglines and a boat. We also bought a trailer for all of it to go in for anytime we have a situation like that — we never hope we do — but its all in that boat and trailer and we're ready for it," Neufeld explained. "Over the past couple of years, the chili feed has probably raised over $2,000 to $3,000 for us."

Neufeld also noted that members of the fire department have been expanding their knowledge on water safety rescue courses and take that information back to their team.

Along with the water rescue gear, Neufeld said they have also bought items for their vehicles and rescue equipment from the proceeds of the chili feed.

Now that the department is fully equipped and ready for a water rescue emergency, Neufeld said they are excited to share their gear with other fire departments and emergency personnel if they need it.

"If anyone needs it, we're more than welcome to come out and do what they need to do. We're not just having it for us, if anyone needs it, they just call us," he explained.

Contact Brooke Haas by email at bhaas@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter @ MacSentinel.