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Firefighters

There are four main fire departments within the Slinger School District boundaries: Slinger, St. Lawrence, Allenton, and Richfield.  Each has its own history and each has its own identity today.  The fire fighters have a strong presence in the area of the Slinger School District.  When looking at community norms and values, it made sense to take a closer look at the fire departments/fire fighters in the Slinger Area. 

Some wise advice was given by Allenton Fire Department Chief, John Breuer, when he said "I strongly recommend students visit each department to get a sense of the uniqueness of the individuals of each group of professionals." Despite not being able to make it to all four due to scheduling conflicts on either student or fire department ends, students were able to collect some data, and hope to make more site visits in future years to build on current data.

Students found out that each fire department has a strong respect for their history and each had a strong sense of solidarity, camaraderie, and service.  We studied these groups in the following ways:

*Site visits, interviews, survey, and secondary analysis of what was already written both on their own websites, but also in files at the Washington County Historical Society.  This site is not a complete.

What we currently are including in this section are:

*a web link to each fire department website in the Slinger School District if available. 

*a link to studies conducted by students during the 2013-2014 school year  (CLICK ON THE HYPERLINK TO SEE)

Venerable Fire Museum, Inc.   (Keith Franz)
An interview was conducted with Keith and Mary Franz of the Venerable Fire Museum, Inc. in spring 2014 and information has been preserved concerning the Cedar Lake Fire Company and its start in 1961. In addition, information is preserved regarding Keith's help in creating stronger standardization and communication between Washington County Fire Departments to make mutual aid for efficient, and his strong desire to preserve fire department history through his museum, a fire department network, and Fire Bell Clubs.  (Keith Franz photo on right submitted by Nate Grimm).    Keith's views on organization and preservation serve as a role model for history teachers and students alike.  Grimm made a return trip to Venerable Fire Museum in October 2014 with students to hear stories about the history of fire fighting and apparatus from Keith and Mary Franz and Auggie Erdmann.

Slinger Fire Department History Wing
The picture to the right, is of student Paige Quinn, asking questions to Troy Risse, on a site visit to the Slinger Fire Department (Fall 2013).  Not only did Paige learn quite a bit of how the Slinger Fire Department is organized, but she was able to tour the building and learn more about the History wing.  The History Hallway was quite impressive as a sample of local history preservation.   Paige's visit has helped the Social Studies Department at Slinger develop a closer connection with the History Committee at the Fire Department and has set up possible collaboration in the future. Big thank you to Troy Risse for his leadership and modeling for our students who are in the developmental stages of understanding community organizations and Slinger area history. 

Thank you also to Allenton Fire Department member, Ron Naab, who took time twice out of his busy schedule to talk to students about the group dynamics in fire fighting.  Naab was visited by Slinger senior, Amber Hofer (class of 2014), and also visited the sociology classrooms to help students understand firefighters and EMTs better in the area. 

In addition to Naab, Risse, and Franz, special thanks to Ed Wolf (Slinger), John Breuer and Paul Wolf (Allenton),  Ken Reiser (Slinger/Allenton), Rick Hanke and Brad Schaefer (Slinger), Terry Kohl and Coreen Rogers (Richfield), Gary Karnitz and Mike Schmitt (St. Lawrence), Corey Foerster (Slinger), Austin LaCharte (Allenton Explorer), Jane Bayer, Sue Risse, and Tracy Schaefer (Slinger Fire Department spouses) who all shed a bit of light on a specific aspect of the fire departments in the area for student research. 


Links to current local fire department websites in Slinger School District:

St. Lawrence (no link)


(As was mentioned in interviews, mutual aid may come from other fire departments not listed above)

While experiences are the better teacher, this site will be used to help educate Slinger students about fire fighting in the Slinger Area as well as help students learn about the process of collecting research if site visits don't align with student or fire department schedules. 

More to come. 




Photos above:  Allenton FD 2013, Allenton FD 1971, Slinger FD 2013, Keith Franz at Venerable Fire Museum 2013, Troy Risse showing Paige Quinn around History Hallway at SFD 2013)


*Troy Risse audio excerpt (SFD building) 
*Troy Risse audio excerpt (SFD committees)
*Troy Risse audio excerpt (SFD History committee)


Mary Franz with Slinger HS students at Venerable Fire Museum, Oct 2014


Former Milwaukee Fire Chief, Auggie Erdmann, discusses with SHS students how fire calls were answered in MKE when he was chief.  (Auggie's grandson, Ryan, far left)



The challenges to get long term volunteer commitments from younger members and the time commitment strain on all volunteers were two challenges mentioned in several fire fighter surveys in the fall 2013 survey.  (Note: There are many organizations/professions that seem to have the same issue in 2013).  Here is one survey response from a veteran Allenton Fire Fighter in fall of 2013.  It addresses the changing times in volunteer fire departments.

 Why do I volunteer?  Family tradition, community involvement & obligation.  In the early years, part of why I volunteered was for the sense of excitement when the fire house siren call to us and the ride in the open jump seat of the engine head toward a placed marked by smoke in the sky and not knowing what lies ahead. At its peak in the 1930's, the Allenton Volunteer Department had in excess of 130 members. This was due in a large part to the fact that if you were not a member you were not entitled to services. As a husband died, wives  would continue membership. Some did into the 21st century. That sense of obligation was passed on from my father to me and at 83 my father still maintains his (no longer active) membership. Volunteers in our departments face a crisis. People no longer have the time to volunteer. The average age of members increases every year. The number of calls increases each year but not at a rate that justifies any kind of paid staffing. The complexion of our communities has changed to the point where they don't support jobs that allow for a ready source of people who can be active volunteers. The training requirements have pushed away people who in today's world just don't have the time available to make for an efficient and active fire department. Caps on municipal budgets also greatly limit any possible "paid" staffing. Why? More and more  [volunteer] as of late it is because no one else will.    (November 2013)