The end of an era
Jeff Morsfield, longtime boiler operator, retired Dec. 15 after more than 21 years at Minot State University. One of the original "boiler firemen," Morsfield's departure takes a little piece of history with him and marks the end of an era in facilities management at MSU.
"Jeff's experience with the coal boiler for 17 years made him an invaluable employee in the plant," said Roger Kluck, assistant vice president for facilities management. "With him gone, there is no one left who has the expertise and knowledge he provided. He will be missed."
In 1982 Minot State University invested in a new coal boiler to heat campus buildings. The new boiler replaced old brick boilers, which used a combination oil or coal for heating -- a less efficient and more costly method. Coal was trucked in daily and deposited in a bunker that could store up to 90 tons.
"We'd use approximately 32 tons of coal a day, depending on the temperature," Morsfield said. "There were a few days with temperatures below zero where we'd use 35 tons of coal a day. So instead of five truckloads a week, we'd get seven."
The coal boiler required constant vigilance, so the firemen - four permanent and one relief - worked 24 hours per day, seven days a week, all year long. Shifts included rotating seven days of working from midnight to 8 a.m., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or 4 p.m. to midnight, with days off between shifts, and one weekend a month. Each shift required the attention of a fireman raking coal, dumping ashes, changing fires and monitoring boiler pressure, three times a day.
"It was a dirty, smelly mess," Morsfield said. "The work was very labor intensive and there were always repairs to be made. We kept busy."
In 2005, after 23 years, the coal boiler was retired. Over time Morsfield's colleagues followed suit.
"Everybody retired over the last five to six years," he said, referring to the original crew. "It wasn't until three years ago that I stopped being the 'junior man.'"
Since then, Morsfield has been in charge of monitoring three smaller boilers that operate on an auto flame system. The work is easier, but he remained on call 24/7. So after 17 years of duty, the last fireman hung up his hat.
"I've always considered the boilers to be my children, but I won't miss the work," he said. "It's time to take a rest."
Morsfield enjoys cooking and woodworking and plans to travel with his wife.