After Devastating Fire, Town of La Pointe Volunteer Fire, Rescue, EMTs Spring Back into Action
Fire Destroyed the Town of La Pointe Fire Hall Back in March of 2019, Now Volunteers Are Settling into a New Facility
LA POINTE, Wis. – They’re the people we call when emergencies happen at the worst times in our life — Fire officials, EMTs, and other emergency personnel.
It was in early March of 2019 when these volunteer heroes responded to their headquarters for help.
Now more than two years later, there’s hope on the horizon, and morale is back and better than ever on Madeline Island.
“We were all just kind of standing around with our mouths open. It was terrible,” said Cynthia Dalzell, ambulance director for the Town of La Pointe.
It was around 3:00 a.m. on March 6th, 2019, when the call for help rang loud and clear.
“We lost everything. We had nothing. I kept walking back and saying, we’ll I’ll go get, no I don’t have that anymore,” said Dalzell.
Devastation beyond belief quickly tore apart the only fire hall on Wisconsin’s Madeline Island.
“If we would have had a big fire, it would have been hard because we were responding out of three buildings,” said Rick Reichkitzer, fire chief of La Pointe Fire & Rescue.
With the building ablaze, and little to no hope left on the horizon, volunteer firefighters, EMTs, and local officials quickly turned on emergency response mode.
“To me, it was extremely overwhelming,” said Lori Potswald, town administrator for Town of La Pointe.
Thankfully, the Town of La Pointe sprang into action, setting up a makeshift fire hall out of two nearby buildings.
It wasn’t the most convenient accommodation, but a lifeline was revitalized for the time being.
“We have a busy season. July and August are our busy seasons because we’re a resort area,” said Dalzell.
She and her team of 12 volunteers work closely with La Pointe Fire and Rescue.
“We have a very long transport time. Some people would consider us a wilderness location,” said Dalzell.
With the location extremely isolated from surrounding communities, these frontline heroes knew the path forward would be challenging.
“Most EMTs are within 10 minutes of a hospital, and we have a ferry ride and then another 35 minutes to a hospital,” said Dalzell.
Now nearly 800 days later, a new facility had become a reality.
“It’s just nice to be home again,” said Dalzell.
The Town of La Pointe received support from all across the globe.
“I got calls from Puerto Rico, people wanting to ship me things just to get us running again,” said Dalzell.
Amid a devastating loss and a global pandemic, it was a reminder there is still plenty of good all around us.
“We’ve been able to upgrade some of our old equipment, and it just raises the bar. Having a building like this raises the bar for the whole service,” said Dalzell.
“Two of the trucks sitting over here are donated. We got them for zero money,” said Reichkitzer.
Through the loss, the department is now moving on to bigger, and brighter days ahead as they get back to doing what they so passionately care about in their community.
“We’re sitting well. We’re sitting way better than we were actually,” said Reichkitzer.
“It’s a very emotional thing. None of us do this full time, this is not our job, and we do this as volunteers,” said Dalzell.
The sentiment proving to be a reality – it truly takes a village to prevail.
“I’m pleased for our volunteers and our staff who get to use the building,” said Potswald.
The new facility has been built with full fire suppression and state-of-the-art technology.
“We shouldn’t have to worry about being displaced by fire again, that’s for sure,” said Reichkitzer.
This department that typically responds to nearly 100 calls a year on the island, can rest easy knowing the devastation is in the distance, and better days are yet to come.
“This wasn’t going to be just a make-do building, we were going to do it right and make a fantastic facility that people should be proud of, and I think that we hit that,” said Potswald.
The total cost of the building itself, without equipment, came to about 3.4 million dollars.
Officials say most of the cost was covered by insurance and the support of dozens of communities across the region.
The cause of the fire that destroyed Madeline Island’s only fire station and ambulance service has been ruled ‘undetermined’ by the Fire Marshall.