February 14, 2012 | 05:21 PMMany Lake Geneva firefighters were on their way to or already at Hawk's View Golf Course for the department's annual awards dinner Saturday night.
What they didn't expect was a house fire that same night. But that doesn't mean they weren't prepared.
Because of the dinner, firefighters from the Elkhorn Fire Department were physically manning the Marshall Street fire station and that may have saved the life of a city resident.
At about 6:26 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, the Lake Geneva Fire Department was called for a structure fire at 709-711 Ann Street with a person reportedly trapped.
Lake Geneva Capt. John Peters, who had been on his way to the dinner, responded to the home and reported smoke in the front of the multifamily residence. Peters and Lake Geneva Police Department officer Brandi Nelson attempted to knock the fire down and gain entry in an effort to rescue the occupant.
Next door neighbor Richard Clapper also assisted in the rescue attempt. All were driven back by intense heat and smoke.
According to a Fire Department press release, the first arriving engine was on the scene at 6:28 p.m. and stretched a hand line and extinguished the fire. An immediate search was done to locate the occupant who was found 10 feet inside the front door. The 53-year-old man was taken to Aurora Lakeland Medical Center and later was transported via Flight For Life to St. Mary's Burn Center in Milwaukee with burns to his left side and smoke inhalation.
"The crews did a fantastic job getting to the scene and knocking the fire down quickly and effecting the rescue," Connelly said. "I can't stress enough the importance of having staffing at the station. If the crews would have had to respond from home, the outcome of this incident may have been a lot different."
Had there not been the dinner, local firefighters would have had to respond from their homes to the station and then to scene. Instead, Elkhorn firefighters were already at the station, making for a quicker response.
"A crew from the Elkhorn Fire Department was at the station and responded immediately," Connelly said. "We try to look at the worst-case scenario and plan for it. Having staffing in the station this evening contributed to the life saving effort."
Lake Geneva firefighters responded from the awards dinner and teamed with Elkhorn at the scene. The cause and origin of the fire remains under investigation.