City of Milwaukee Fire Department
On December 6, 2004, at nearly 1:30 in the morning, Engine Co. 24 was dispatched as part of a full assignment for a basement fire with children trapped at 4128 N 67th St. As Engine 24 pulled up they found heavy smoke coming from the house. A woman was in front of the house when they arrived and was desperately pleading for the firefighters to rescue her two nephews who were trapped inside. With the heavy smoke that was coming from the home, Captain Renz knew that if the boys were to have any chance of being rescued, he had to get to them quickly. A hoseline was being stretched but was not ready. Yet Captain Renz, without regard for his own safety, descended the basement stairs and began to search for the boys. Captain Renz was counting on his fellow firefighters to bring the hoseline into the basement soon after him.
Working below ground level is a very dangerous place for firefighters anytime, and when Captain Renz descended the stairs into the basement, he did not have the protection of a hoseline or the security of other firefighters by his side. It was up to him alone to find the trapped boys who were somewhere in the basement.
The visibility in the basement was zero, but fortunately, next to a bed, Captain Renz found a child lying on the floor. Scooping up the unconscious boy, Captain Renz quickly brought him upstairs and handed him off to other firefighters. With one child still missing, Captain Renz once again went back down into the smoke and fire filled basement where, between the bed and wall, he found the other missing child. Captain Renz quickly brought the unconscious boy upstairs and outside into the fresh air.
Both of the children had been put in the hands of Milwaukee Fire Department paramedics. These paramedics revived the boys, who were 3 and 8 at the time of the fire. They were transported to the hospital where they did recover from their ordeal in the basement of the family home.
According to then Acting Deputy Chief Ziegler: ”These rescues were completed within 2 minutes of Engine 24’s arrival. These children are alive today because of the quick actions of Captain Renz. I would be remiss if I did not mention that Captain Renz was able to perform heroically because he had confidence and trust in the other members of Engine Co. 24 and Ladder Co. 13 to support his actions.”