Deputy Chief William Voboril is being inducted into the Hall of Fame for his lifetime achievement in the fire service. In 1996, after 35 years of dedicated service to the Milwaukee Fire Department, Deputy Chief William Voboril retired, but his work will continue to pave the way for hundreds, if not thousands, of better educated, better equipped, and safer firefighters.
William Voboril started as a firefighter in 1961. During the ensuing years, he developed and spearheaded many projects, including the current FOCUS (Firefighters Out Creating Urban Safety) program, which has greatly reduced fire deaths in targeted areas. While assigned to the Bureau of Instruction and Training, Voboril taught nearly 600 of Milwaukee’s firefighter recruits. This figure represents over half of the department. He developed new procedures for Milwaukee’s high rise operations, augmented the “Back to Basics” operations, and led the effort to change hose size from 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inch (this act alone nearly doubled the efficiency of Milwaukee’s engine companies). When the push was on to create a hazardous materials team, Voboril was on the steering committee and became its first training officer. Likewise, when the Incident Command System was being organized in Milwaukee, he was there. In 1982, the American Legion selected him as the State of Wisconsin Firefighter of the Year. Deputy Chief Voboril also was instrumental in building the Survive Alive House and in establishing the Foundation for the Milwaukee Fire Education Center, which ensures the continuation of the Survive Alive House, located at 2059 South 20th Street in Milwaukee. He has lectured all around the State of Wisconsin and beyond, spreading his experienced words of wisdom wherever they were needed.
Deputy Chief Voboril’s career is much greater than this partial list of accomplishments. The result is that every time al call comes in to the Milwaukee Fire Department, or many other fire departments, part of their professional response can be credited directly to the work of Deputy Chief William Voboril.
Just after 7am, December 19, 1999, the Appleton Fire Department was dispatched to a house fire on the city’s southwest side. While on the way, dispatchers told them that several calls were coming in reporting that flames were coming out of the home’s second story windows. Reports also came in that someone may still be inside the burning home. Engine 323 was the first to arrive. The engine crew consisted of Lieutenant Larry O’Rourke, Driver/Engineer Al Stuart, Firefighter Linda Kornely, and Firefighter Roman Zareczny. The crew pulled a 1-3/4 inch hoseline into the house and took it directly up the stairway to the second floor. When they reached the second floor, they were greeted by the quickly growing fire and thick smoke that had been reported to them. As they crawled forward, they knocked down much of this fire and continued on through the thick smoke. They crawled forward through the heated living room, towards the kitchen, where they located Joyce Coutts, lying motionless on the floor. At this time, Firefighter Kornely, aided by two members of the truck company, removed her from the burning home. To allow her removal, Lieutenant O’Rourke and Firefighter Zareczny had to continue fighting the fire. Once outside she was rushed to St. Elizabeth Hospital, where after a five day stay, she was released. Joyce Coutts is now doing fine and has stopped by the fire station to thank the firefighters for all of their effort.