Duo touts upcoming department fundraiser, recruitment drive at Bullheads Bar & Grill on Aug. 20
By Brandi Makuski
“We’ve seen a lot of things change over the years,” said Dewey Fire Chief Leroy Pukrop, as he looked over equipment in the department’s apparatus bay.
“We’ve had some good times, we’ve had some bad times, but we’re still here.”
Pukrop, who is celebrating 40 years with the Town of Dewey Fire Dept. in August, is traveling down memory lane with his assistant fire chief, Ken Levandowski, who’s been with the department for 39 years, and assistant chief for 34.
“All the local fire departments were kind of born in the 1970s, and they were all social clubs,” said Pukrop, who became fire chief in 1981. “Every department in Portage Co. had beer at the station — we had a [beer] tapper here, so did Hull, Park Ridge…when we had a meeting everyone would socialize and have some beer. But not any more, and not for a long time.”
Pukrop said he joined the all-volunteer department in 1976 after several of his friends joined; he remembers the Logging Congress was in town, holding its annual meeting at Bukolt Park, at the time his career began.
Levandowski — whose father joined the department with him in 1976 — said he “always wanted to be a firefighter”, so “the second I turned 18, I joined.”
“And now Ken’s son, Andy, has also joined, so you’ve got three generations of a family right there,” Pukrop said.
Pukrop said the department has maintained a lot of older equipment, to include some U.S. Army surplus vehicles which has since been retrofitting into six-wheel jeep-like vehicles for use in reaching the town’s marshy areas. A fire engine from 1984 is still in use at the department, though it’s no longer a primary vehicle.
But today, Pukrop and Levandowski say they’re focused on staffing the department with some new blood.
“We’re desperately looking for people, just like everyone else,” Levandowski said. “Everyone’s looking for people — all the fire departments I see on Facebook, they’re all looking for help, we’re not the only ones.”
Though the town isn’t equipped to pay larger salaries seen in neighboring municipalities, the town also doesn’t require some of the extensive training other departments do. While other departments in the area require various levels of EMT/paramedic training, Pukrop said all that’s required to join Dewey’s department is a basic, 96-hour firefighting course.
“But we do have five guys in the department who are EMT’s,” Pukrop said. “We just want to get some new guys on the department and get them some experience.”
The 15-member firefighting department is technically all-volunteer — to include Pukrop and Levandowski — but does receive a small stipend based on a point system.
“We’ve got a lot of memories, a lot of experience, but we aren’t going to be around forever,” Levandowski said.
In an effort to bolster its numbers, Pukrop said the department will hold a recruitment drive and fundraiser at Bullheads Bar & Grill on Aug. 20. The bar will be hosting a traveling speed boat race that day, Pukrop said, and he expects to see a lot of traffic on that day.
“We’ll have water games for the kids, a paddle raffle, 50/50 and department vehicles on display,” Pukrop said. “We hope everyone comes out to see us.”
Bullheads Bar & Grill is located at 3368 Campsite Drive. The Dewey Fire Dept. will be on site from 10 AM to 6 PM.