Gregory Renz

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.”

Chadwick Holdorf & Bruce Williams

Green Lake County Sheriff’s Department

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.

Leslie Boldt

Wisconsin State Patrol

On July 19, 2004, Trooper Leslie Boldt was on patrol in Brown County, Wisconsin, in the area of Green Bay.  Trooper Boldt heard Brown County dispatch looking for a vehicle that a suicidal woman was driving on Wisconsin Highway 29.  The vehicle was traveling around 90 MPH and was being followed by the woman’s husband who had called 911.  Trooper Boldt located the woman’s’ vehicle traveling south on Interstate 43, going at a high rate of speed, changing lanes, and passing other vehicles.  Trooper Boldt was able to catch up the vehicle and pursued it with his lights and sirens activated on his squad to speeds of over 100 MPH. The woman continued driving until she got to the midway point of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay where she pulled over to the side of the bridge. The woman quickly exited her vehicle and walked around the front of it and over to the guardrail of the bridge.

 Trooper Boldt exited his squad and ran after the female fearing she may jump off of the bridge.  Trooper Boldt yelled out, “Ma’am,” as the female jumped over the wall of the bridge towards the Fox River some 200 feet below.  Trooper Boldt moved forward and was able to grab the woman’s arm as she jumped and he held on tightly as she went over the wall.  With her momentum pulling towards the water below, Trooper Boldt temporarily lost his footing and was pulled partially over the wall by the woman, almost pulling both he and the woman to their deaths.  Fortunately, the woman’s downward momentum was slowed by a steel bridge support just below the bridge wall.  Trooper Boldt was able to forcibly pull the woman back against the bridge wall as she struggled to break free of his grasp.  Within about 16 seconds, Sergeant Bill Morgan and Deputy Kevin Kinnard of the Brown County Sheriff’s Department arrived and were able to assist Trooper Boldt in hauling the woman back across the bridge wall onto the roadway and away from certain death.

The 36-year-old woman was transported to a local hospital for treatment.  Trooper Boldt sustained minor injuries but was back at work the next day.

Trooper Boldt, despite his statement that his actions were “just part of the job,” demonstrated great courage and determination as he placed his own life in jeopardy to save the life of this distraught woman.  Trooper Boldt was also quick to acknowledge the efforts of his fellow law enforcement officers, stating that he “wouldn’t have been able to pull the woman back on the bridge without the help of Sergeant Morgan and Deputy Kinnard.”

David Gee

Chippewa County Sheriff’s Department

On June 29, 1979, two boys, 12 and 14 years old, were out for an afternoon swim at Duncan Creek below the Glen Lock Dam in Chippewa Falls.  Duncan Creek was rising more than six inches each hour because of the movement of floodwater, which hit Bloomer earlier that morning.

The 12-year-old boy had walked along the ledge of the dam by the rocks on the Irving Park side of the creek and then swam about 10 feet to the second ledge of the dam, which was covered by a rock overhang.  Once out on the ledge, the boy was afraid to swim back to where he started because of the churning water caused by the increasing volume of floodwater.  The 14-year-old swam out to his friend’s location to assist him, but once out there, neither boy was able to swim back to a safe location.  Rescue personnel were summoned by bystanders to rescue the boys.  At about 2pm, several rescue attempts to reach the boys were tried but failed.  

Reserve Sheriff’s deputy David Gee and a Chippewa County Deputy cautiously made their way along the ledge of the dam and proceeded to swim to the second ledge.  Reserve Deputy Gee, wearing just a life vest and with a simple manila rope tied around his waist, was able to get ahold of the 12-year-old around his waist.  The two then ended up in the turbulent water and were pulled under by the undertow that had been created by the rushing floodwaters.  Finally, other rescue personnel were able to pull them back downstream and to shore using the rope.

Attempt after attempt was made to rescue the 14-year-old.  During one of these rescue attempts, the youth plunged into the water.  Initially, rescue workers feared the youth was lost, however the current carried the youth back to the rocks and he was able to grab onto the ledge of the dam.

Reserve Deputy Gee again with a rope tied around him, made his way along the dam’s ledge into the cold water.  The 14-year-old boy was able to grab onto the rope and Reserve Deputy Gee was able to grab the youth.  The other rescue workers again pulled both to safety.  Reports indicate that the water was already up to the youth’s neck, and within another hour, the boys most likely would have drowned.  Reserve Deputy Fee, for his efforts, was left for several weeks with burn marks around his waist where the rope that had been tied to him had burned into his skin.

The effort of the entire group of ambulance personnel and other emergency service workers was instrumental in saving these two youths from certain drowning.  However, Reserve Deputy Gee displayed exemplary actions of bravery that afternoon that led to the successful rescue of these two boys.

Robert Burtard

Manitowoc Fire Department

On May 6, 1979, shortly before midnight, a call for a passerby started the Manitowoc Fire Department out to a fire on Chicago Street.  Lieutenant Robert Burtard was the officer in charge of Engine 1.  Engine 1 was located less than a mile from the scene of the fire.

Arriving on the scene, Lt. Burtard found a two-story apartment house with fire burning in the rear.  The enclosed stairway was impassable and the fire was quickly moving toward the front of the apartment.  In the front, 69-year-old Mayme Rodney was screaming for help while struggling to keep her head out of the window as heavy black smoke was pouring out around her.  The fire had already entered her room and the temperature was rising quickly, bringing with it a real possibility of flashover.  Ms. Rodney’s life was in peril and quick action was needed in order to try and save her.  

The crew of Engine 1 raised a ladder to Ms. Rodney’s window, and Lt. Burtard decided that time for her was critical that he could not afford to get his SCBA from the engine.  Lt. Burtard climbed the ladder and as he tried to get ahold of her, she dropped to the floor.  Now, Lt. Burtard, without his mask, was forced to lean deep into the black, acrid smoke that was pouring out of the window and try to get ahold of her.  Finally, Lt. Burtard was able to grasp the woman and pull her up onto the ladder.  With the help of Firefighter Gerald Keehan, Lt. Burtard brought Ms. Rodney down the ladder to the ground below, where they all collapsed.

Ms. Rodney was brought by ambulance to Holy Family Memorial Medical Center where she was treated for smoke inhalation and 2nd degree burns which covered 15% of her body.  Ms. Rodney survived her injuries.  Lt. Burtard also suffered from smoke inhalation and was taken to the hospital.  Lt. Burtard did recover, and continued to work until his retirement in 1994, after an exemplary 32-year career.

Lt. Burtard knew that he could suffer serious injury and long-term damage to his health.  It was a case where a firefighter put his life on the line to save a civilian.  According to Charles Herzig, who was working at this fire for a private ambulance service, later began working for the Manitowoc Fire Department, eventually becoming chief: “It took great courage, outstanding physical ability, and utter determination to save this lady.”  And in the vernacular of the fire service he says, “I have never seen a gutsier move.”

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