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Pleasant Prairie Fire & Rescue Department
SERVING THE COMMUNITY SINCE 1935
A house caught fire in the Midwest highlands area of the Town of Pleasant Prairie. Before the fire could be brought under control, three homes were destroyed and a fourth was damaged. This local tragedy served as the motivation to form the Pleasant Prairie Volunteer Fire Department.
MAY 22, 1935
The Town Board received a petition signed by 502 citizens that called for the formation of a Fire Department. On the same day, an order was placed with the Peter Pirsch & Sons Fire Engine Company, of Kenosha, for a pumper truck.
JULY 1, 1935
The first organizational meeting was held in the old Town Hall, then located at the northeast corner of Old Green Bay Road and 93rd Street. Town Chairman Allen K. Turner sought the assistance of the State Fire Marshall, Peter Pirsch, and other departments throughout the state. After several additional meetings and the delivery of the new 350-gallon per minute pumper truck, the Pleasant Prairie Fire Department became operational on August 22, 1935.
68 volunteers and one (1) full-time driver,
Delbert Lee McKee was the first full-time employee,
Mickle Mickelson assisted Mr. McKee,
Mrs. McKee was the phone attendant
A single pumper equipped with 300 gallons of water, ladders, and hoses answered these first calls:
SEPTEMBER 25, 1935 was the first recorded call came in when a haystack on Cooper Road was found to be on fire;
To read an account of what it was like to be a member of the Fire Department between 1947 and 1955, please click here
RESCUE SQUAD FORMED
The citizens of Pleasant Prairie originally relied on the Kenosha Sheriff's Department for emergency medical care. When transportation was needed to a hospital a "Sheriff's" patrol car (station wagon) doubled as an ambulance. In the mid-1970s Federal standards mandated changes in the way emergency medical care was provided. Caregivers had to receive a minimum of 75 hours of training as Emergency Medical Technicians. Individuals would have to be transported in vehicles designed and equipped to provide the needed care. As a result of these changes, the Sheriff's station wagons were no longer adequate for the job and could no longer be used. Sixteen people were recruited from the fire department and throughout the community to serve as Pleasant Prairie Rescue Squad members. While the initial training was taking place, a used 1974 Chevrolet ambulance was purchased. Although the first recorded rescue call came on July 18, 1937, when a parachutist landed on the roof of a house on 22nd Avenue, it was not until May 5, 1978 that formal pre-hospital emergency care was provided by the fire department and rescue squad.
The State of Wisconsin embarked on a project to demonstrate that EMTs could defibrillate patients suffering from ventricular fibrillation. In effect, if rapid intervention did not occur, death would result before arriving at a hospital. Pleasant Prairie was one of a limited number of rescue squads, statewide, selected to participate in this project.
Positive results were quickly realized when on June 30, 1986 Joseph Kevek, 19 years old, 9101 88th Avenue, was electrocuted while working on the family farm. Firefighters and EMTs responded to the scene and found the victim in ventricular fibrillation, unconscious, and not breathing. Putting to immediate use their training, CPR and the "defibrillator", Kevek was successfully resuscitated and back to work within 10 days of the accident. A representative of Kenosha Memorial Hospital later said, "The crew strictly followed the medical protocols, performed well as under extreme emotional conditions, and the bottom line was that the patient is alive because of that crew!" Coincidentally, this became the first "defibrillator save" performed by EMTs within the State of Wisconsin.
Pleasant Prairie EMTs were trained to administer intravenous (IV) therapy "in the field". This service began on October 31, 1986 with the full-time staff and seven Paid-on-Call Members having achieved the proper level of training. Less than one month later, on Thanksgiving, a car heading north on 39th Avenue traveled across the southbound lane and struck a tree. The driver suffered compound fractures to both legs.
Upon arrival, firefighters and EMTs evaluated the patient and determined his condition to be very fragile. They contacted the emergency room physician on duty at Kenosha Memorial Hospital and were given orders to start two IVs to replenish the blood loss that the driver was experiencing. Later that night, the hospital reported that the patient was stable and would probably survive. This was because the fluids administered by the EMTs were able to keep his heart pumping long enough for him to reach the operating room.
The Fire Department and Rescue Squad wanted to push even further ahead and provide paramedic level service. The local Paramedic infrastructure went into place when the City of Kenosha Fire Department began Paramedic service. That eliminated a major obstacle for Pleasant Prairie because the State of Wisconsin required a minimum population base of 40,000 people before they would consider permitting a community to have Paramedic level of care. The state also required local medical direction, and that is when both Dr. Gary Zaid, an emergency physician at Kenosha Hospital and Medical Center, and Dr. Ronald Simonton, an emergency physician at St. Catherine's Hospital, said they would take responsibility for overseeing Pleasant Prairie's Paramedic operation. What seemed like a minor solution was actually a major commitment on both their parts; they would gamble their medical license on us.
Both the Village Board and the doctors demonstrated their faith in our Emergency Medical Technicians. Because of that joint commitment, the people or Pleasant Prairie receive the highest level of pre-hospital care allowed in the State of Wisconsin. The greatest level of personal satisfaction was achieved on October 1, 1991 when Pleasant Prairie became the smallest community (in population) to provide Paramedic level service. With that, people could then expect Pleasant Prairie Fire & Rescue to bring the "emergency room to their living room".
FIRE INSURANCE PREMIUMS
Based upon a community's ability to respond to fire emergencies, The Insurance Service Office (ISO) evaluates fire departments nationwide for the purpose of assigning a fire insurance rating. The numerical rating ranges from "1" to "10": The rating of "1" is the best and a rating of "10" means the community does not have a fire department. In 1985, Pleasant Prairie had a dual rating. The community was rated a "7" if you lived within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant and a "9" if you lived beyond that. Together, the Fire Department and Village (town) boards enacted a plan to improve those ratings. Today, those numbers have improved to an ISO rating of two (2) for both hydranted and non-hydranted areas.
This was accomplished because of improvements in several areas. ISO evaluated our ability to receive and handle alarms. The implementation of 9-1-1 as the emergency telephone number provided the public with easier access to our service.
ISO also evaluated our water supply. In particular, they were impressed with the expansion of municipal water. The creation of the infrastructure, including mains, towers, and a 5,000-gallon-per-minute fire pump hooked to a 5-million-gallon reservoir aided in the improvement of the rating.
The preperation for the ISO evaluation began more than three years before the actual event. Annual tests had to be performed on the pumpers, more than 12,500 feet of hose, all the equipment used to move water, self-contained breathing apparatus, and ladders. A mutual aid contract had to be on file, and it's effectiveness had to be tested, as well. However, in the final analysis, our greatest strength rested within the people associated with the department; the entire staff of full-time and Paid-on-Call firefighters held state certifications in firefighting. Our "in-house" training program, governed by a rigid attendance policy, met national standards in both the number of hours dedicated to training, as well as its content. In addition, officers were trained to direct emergency scenes. Simply put, our personnel can perform what is necessary during an emergency situation be it large or small.
In 1987, the department was operating an aging fleet of fire and rescue squad vehicles. So much so that walking into one of the stations seemed much like walking into a Peter Pirsch fire truck museum. Overall, the equipment looked terrific, but due to frequent breakdowns the fleet quickly became unreliable. As a result, the town board directed the department to develop a vehicle replacement plan. The most obvious addition to the fleet was a 110-foot aerial ladder fire truck that was purchased in 1988. Pleasant Prairie was home to several multi-story motels and a five-story senior-citizen residence. Additionally, the new Wisconsin Energies Industrial Park and Lakeview Corporate Park became a reality that same year.
"Why does Pleasant Prairie need a ladder that can reach 110 feet high?"
The length of the 110-foot ladder is used for both vertical and horizontal access. This was demonstrated in a spectacular fire that occurred in the summer of 1994 at Lawter International, 8701 95th Street. Although the building was only 35-feet high, the aerial ladder was used to get up and over the fire.
The department was operating four grass trucks that ranged in age from 18 to 30 years old. Two units powered by diesel engines and automatic transmissions replaced these four units. The grass trucks were equipped with hose, nozzles, backpack water extinguishers, and brooms purchased from the Wisconsin DNR at a significant savings to the community. By 1994, four fire engines (two pumpers and two tankers) had been replaced with two combination pumper-tankers. In 1994, Pleasant Prairie fire fighters responded to 419 calls for assistance at fires or other emergencies. The average "out the door" response time for fire apparatus was in one minute or less 80% of the time. Our Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics responded to 788 calls for assistance and were "out the door" in less than one minute 93% of the time. This could only be accomplished because of the sincere dedication of those people, both past and present, who have served as members of Pleasant Prairie Fire and Rescue Department.