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.”
October 19, 2003, a husband and wife were arguing when the husband struck the wife. He then told her to leave their apartment and to take their children with. Statements the man made indicated that he was afraid of going to jail and that he was not going to let police officers take him there. It was also known that the man had weapons and would likely use these to keep himself from being taken into custody.
Several law enforcement officers had answered the call and were setting up a perimeter to provide an area of protection for themselves and to keep any civilians out of harms way. Green Lake County Sheriff’s deputies, Bruce Williams and Chadwick Holdorf, were helping set up this perimeter by blocking streets with their patrol cars. Deputy Williams, however, was not able to do this and keep himself in a safe area as there was a direct line of sight between the gunman’s apartment and himself. Although he was in a dangerous position, he felt that this was the place where he could most effectively guard the area that he was tasked with protecting.
Suddenly, gunfire came from the second story balcony of the gunman’s apartment. Many of the residents of the 12-unit apartment fled the building themselves when they heard the gunfire. The remaining residents were called and told to evacuate. SWAT team members were tasked with escorting them out of the building. The wife of the gunman was able to leave and was putting their children into their car to go to a safer place, when a bullet from the enraged man’s SAR-1 assault rifle struck Deputy Williams.
With the sound of gunfire and a report that Deputy Williams, his friend and coworker, had been shot, Deputy Holdorf took his rifle and strategically moved on foot to a ditch near Deputy Williams’ patrol car. He found Deputy Williams lying on his back near the truck of his car with a very severe gunshot wound. Deputy Holdorf ordered citizens to take cover and then advanced to Deputy William’s side to start CPR. While administering rescue breaths, the suspect began to fire at Deputy Holdorf. Deputy Holdorf returned fire and got inside Deputy Williams’ patrol car. While under fire from the gunman, Deputy Holdorf used his tactical sling to hold onto Deputy Williams as he moved the car, with a flat tire, to a location where with the help of other officers, was able to get Deputy Williams completely into the car. He then drove the squad a couple of miles away to a place where he could meet the ambulance and his friend Bruce could receive the medical attention that he desperately needed. Although Deputy Holdorf put forth a heroic effort to protect his colleague, Deputy Bruce Williams died of his wounds.
The ensuing standoff lasted about 12 hours, ending only after officers from several area departments made entry into the apartment and found the gunman had taken his own life.
Deputy Bruce Williams was known as an officer who could be counted on in any situation. On the day that Deputy Williams was killed, he was in the process of protecting many families as well as the wife and daughter of the gunman, and the lives of his fellow officers. Deputy Williams was married and had three daughters, ages 2, 5, and 7.
It has been written about Deputy Chadwick Holdorf that: “There are certain individuals whose work raises the standard for professionalism and whose character is truly inspirational. Officer Holdorf is one of these individuals.” And this was clearly evident in the actions he took on this tragic Sunday afternoon in an attempt to save the life of Deputy Williams.