By Craig Marx, Editor
Our local law enforcement and emergency services work around the clock to help protect the citizens of Antigo and Langlade County, often times under intense pressure or unneeded scrutiny. As we honor these brave men and women in this issue, take a moment to hear from Chief of Police Eric Roller, Sheriff Mark Westen and Fire Chief Jon Petroskey on how they became active in their emergency service positions and what their roles and responsibilities mean to the community.
Fire Chief James Petroskey
Q) What motivated you personally to enter the world of firefighting?
A) My Dad, Wiley Petroskey. He was a volunteer with the Town of Antigo Fire Department and I attended some meetings and trainings with him. After seeing how a fire can devastate a family, whether it is a family home or an old barn, there were memories attached to it. After several years with the Town of Antigo, I started part-time with the City of Antigo Fire Department where I completed more training and also received my EMT Basic license.
Q) Anything you would recommend or wish people to consider if they were interested in becoming a firefighter?
A) How helpful you can be to someone in the middle of a disaster. The call that we respond to is sometimes a normal routine emergency to us but we have to remember this is possibly the worst day of someone’s life. This is their disaster and we are called to come fix it. Obviously we can’t fix it completely but we are here to stop the disaster and help this person through this stage of their life.
Q) How is being active in the community, like hosting broomball tournaments and fundraisers, help the camaraderie of your department and its interaction with citizens?
A) Being active in the community is very impactful to our department and I hope to the community as well. This goes from the broomball tournaments that John Krueger works very hard at all the way to the public education that the entire department provides to the community. I feel this connects the fire department staff to the citizens through fire inspections all the way to the LatchKey program that we do with 3rd grade elementary kids.
As for camaraderie in the department, this becomes your second family as our personnel work 24 hours shift which ends up 1/3 of the year you spend with another family. The personnel connect inside and outside the department so they grow pretty close together. I feel this is quite different than most employment.
Q) What are some of the more difficult aspects, either day to day or in the event of a large emergency, that come with firefighting?
A) The most difficult aspects in the fire and EMS events are how the emergency impacts the kids. Like I stated before, we are called to help someone on the worst day of their life. With how this impacts adults, you can only imagine how it impacts the kids.
Q) What is a rewarding encounter that particularly sticks out to you in your emergency service career?
A) The most rewarding part of being Fire Chief is the excitement and energy from someone when you offer them a job as a Firefighter/Paramedic. But as a Firefighter, the apprehension you receive when we mitigate the worst day of someone’s life. Even if their house is a total loss but they are able to get some of their personal belongings and family heirlooms so they have the ability to pass them along to their children, their worst day is now somewhat better.