Schoenfeldt honored for lengthy tenure on Saukville Fire Department
When you ask Dick Schoenfeldt what has changed during the 45 years he has served with the Saukville Fire Department, the answer is pretty simple.
“Just about everything,” Schoenfeldt said.
Schoenfeldt was one of 19 Village of Saukville employees honored during a recent awards dinner, although his length of service was by far the longest recognized during the event.
Schoenfeldt said it was largely tradition that first attracted him to the fire department.
“I have been with the department so long it is second nature to me. I guess I first got involved because my father was in the fire department and I wanted to serve my community,” he said.
“When I started, we only had three trucks, including a 1938 truck that was recently donated to the Saukville Historical Society.”
There were no ambulances and little specialized equipment for medical emergencies.
“We carried first-aid kits, but if there was something serious we would have to call Port Washington or Cedarburg to send an ambulance. Today we have EMTs and two ambulances, and can get help on the scene in a matter of four minutes or less,” Schoenfeldt said.
In his early days with the department, there was no sophisticated paging system to let local firefighters know their services were needed.
“We had to listen for the fire sirens, which was difficult to do in the middle of the night when the winds were howling,” Schoenfeldt said.
Firefighter training is another area that has seen marked advances since he started with the department.
“It used to be if you could pull a hose from the truck, you could be a firefighter. Today you have to be able to pass physical and agility tests, and then complete training at the firefighter academy,” Schoenfeldt said.
Firefighting gear and practices have also changed greatly during his time with the department.
“It is all for the better. A practice would sometimes mean getting a bucket of slop from Freeman Chemical, throwing it in a fire and trying to put it out. We would never do anything like that now,” Schoenfeldt said.
As the administrative lieutenant, Schoenfeldt said he handles a lot of the department’s paperwork and record keeping duties.
Still, he manages to make it to his share of fire scenes.
“I usually go out with the last truck. I don’t pull hose any more because of my back. I leave that to the younger guys,” Schoenfeldt said.
He has only served under four fire chiefs, including current chief Gilly Schultz, because the department heads have had a tendency to hold their posts for decades at a time. Schultz, who has been with the department for 36 years, is second only to Schoenfeldt in the number of years served with the department.
Much of Schoenfeldt’s time as a firefighter overlapped with his 28-year career with the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department.
“I was allowed to keep serving in the fire department as long as I didn’t let it interfere with my job in law-enforcement. That meant if there was a fire call when I was on duty, I couldn’t respond,” Schoenfeldt said.
His dual role as firefighter and law-enforcement officer made him especially sensitive to the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks.
Schoenfeldt has taken on the role of coordinating the annual community observance of the attacks, paying tribute to first-responders and citizens killed in the tragedy.
“It is something we should never forget, yet I see it being treated like a lot of other national holidays where people forget what it is all about,” he said.
Other fire department members recognized during the awards program were James Schlegel, 30 years; Terry Devillers, 25 years; Ron Colby, 20 years; Tom Traugott, Eric Paulus, Tom Moeller, Keith Haasch and Kris Erlandson, 10 years each; and Elizabeth Paape, Steven Fischer and Sara deBruijn, 5 years each.
Police department employees recognized included Barry Effinger, 30 years; Betty Bogle, 15 years; and Patrick Kosmosky, Robert Meyer and Matthew Caswell, 5 years each.
Ray deBruijn was recognized for 15 years with the department of public works and Dale Kropidlowski was acknowledged for 10 years with the water and wastewater utility.
Image Information: THE SAUKVILLE FIRE DEPARTMENT has a lot more equipment at its disposal than it did when Dick Schoenfeldt started as a firefighter 45 years ago. Photo by Sam Arendt