When there an emergency, sometimes the only thing you can do is pick up a phone and dial 911 and ask for help. In Kewaskum, volunteers for the Kewaskum Fire Department often respond to the calls.
The volunteers are there to help if there is a medical emergency, a traffic accident or a fire. “We get the privilege, and it is a privilege, to actually show up and be there for that person when they need help the most,” said Jeremy Simonson, who is a volunteer firefighter for the Kewaskum Fire Department.
There currently are about 52 volunteers on the department’s roster. The Kewaskum Fire Department is currently looking for more volunteers to serve the community. Volunteers do a variety of jobs.
Some drive trucks and some help with medical calls. Some transport water to needed locations and others extinguish fires. Each volunteer can choose which type of job best suits them. “You don’t have to be a firefighter that runs into a burning building. You don’t have to be the EMT on a call,” volunteer firefighter Jim Steinmetz said.
No special background is required to become a volunteer; the fire department offers training for all the different jobs. With that training, the department is equipped to answer just about any call. “We are ordinary people who regularly get put into extraordinary situations,” Simonson said.
Different Walks Of Life Volunteer firefighters come from all different walks of life. There are electricians, plumbers, managers, business owners, welders, truck drivers, village employees, assembly line workers, print shop workers and teachers. “We are the ordinary Joe Shmoes out in the community.
We are everybody’s neighbor. Some of us have kids, some of don’t. Each of us has a different kind of job,” Simonson said. Steinmetz, who works as a plastics engineer in Grafton, moved to Kewaskum about two years ago.
He wanted to help out the community, so he became a volunteer firefighter. “Everybody here is more than friendly and accepting to anybody that comes on. It really is like a big family,” he said. But the best part is serving the community. “It’s a fantastic feeling being there at somebody’s worst moments and being able to help them,” Steinmetz said.
Chris Weninger joined the volunteer fire department in 1999 when he got out of high school. “I like to help people. It is a way to give back to the community,” said Weninger, who is a welder by trade.
Allen Phillips, who volunteers as an ambulance driver, has been with the department for about five years. “If I had known then what I know now, I would have joined a long time ago,” Phillips said. “When you see people run away from an event, like a fire or an accident, we go to it. We are just helping out the community because if we don’t do it, who is going to do it?”P hillips also appreciates the camaraderie that exists within the department. “They all welcome everybody, no matter how big you are, no matter how small.
They don’t judge you, because everybody has the proper training, and we are all coming together as one,” Phillips explained. Rewards Zach Garbisch, who has been with the department for 11 years, is a third generation volunteer firefighter. “I grew up in a house where I got used to the sound of a pager going off.
We lived literally within eyesight of the firehouse. When I was 5 or 6, if there was a big fire, I would go to the bay window and watch my dad and all the guys leave in the trucks,” Garbisch recalled.
Garbisch moved to Kewaskum when he was in about fifth grade, and his father joined the Kewaskum Fire Department. “I waited patiently until my 18th birthday and I had a chance to apply,” he said. “I got on the year I graduated high school, and ever since then, it has been as rewarding as my father and everybody else in my family had made it out to be,” said Garbisch, who is a certified driver operator for the department. “you get a sense of satisfaction knowing that you helped somebody out in their time of need, whether it be a fire or a car accident.”
Garbisch’s mother, Sheryl Garbsich, and his brother, Craig Garbisch Jr., also volunteer for the department. “I wanted to be there when people needed somebody there,” Sheryl Garbisch explained. Those that are helped by the volunteers feel that they cannot adequately express their appreciation.
Take Wednesday, July 11, for example. When fire struck a barn located just north of Kewaskum in the early morning hours that day, volunteer firefighters from the Kewaskum Fire Department were the first to arrive on the scene.
The volunteers worked with members of other area fire departments, as well as the Fond du Lac and Washington County sheriff’s offices to extinguish the fire. They were able to prevent the blaze from spreading.
The barn was a total loss. But the response prompted the owners of Buss Farmland and J+T Buss Farms to write a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped with the fire. “You all worked very hard and were very professional.
We are so blessed to have people like you to help keep all of us safe,” Jim and Terry Buss wrote. That response makes it all worthwhile. “It warmed my heart, gave me goosebumps. These people chad just lost their livelihood, and they came up and thanked us for being there,” Sheryl Garbisch said. “This is what we do,” she said.