Silver Lake Rescue Squad leaves legacy of emergency medical care

After 59 years of service to Silver Lake and nearby areas, Silver Lake Rescue Squad is no longer answering calls, but has left a legacy of service and training in emergency medical service.

Changing financial factors lead the department to cease operations as of Dec. 31, 2018.

“It’s hard to think of it coming to an end,” said Silver Lake Rescue Squad’s last Chief Dean Fryda in a late December interview with westofthei.com.

The department was formed in 1959. Prior to the creation of the squad,  “a patient was transported either by a family member or by a sheriff’s deputy in a station wagon with a cot in it,” says the history section of the squad’s website. The group of men that founded the department were looking to improve that situation. At first they provided basic first aid, with greater levels of care and advanced equipment coming with the passing of years.

While the idea was talked about for awhile, the person seen as the one who finally got the formation of the squad going was Orville Yeager, who had experience with a rescue squad elsewhere in Wisconsin, according to an article in a 10 year anniversary comprehensive special section from the Bi-State Reporter newspaper. Yeager agreed to match the money raised by the first fundraising effort, getting the department going.

There were 14 members on the original roster: Orville Yeager, John Koch, Bob Rudolph, Bob Rudolph, Dominic Rago, William Carr, Art Schultz, Ed Reddon, Willis Carle, Charles Walker, Lyle Kerkhoff, Ray Clark, Harley Jerde and Richard Harrison.

“A lot of people didn’t think we needed a rescue squad in Silver Lake,” John Koch, is quoted as saying in the Reporter section. “After all, there was one in Twin Lakes, only about six miles away. They didn’t realize there are times when six or eight minutes is the difference between life and death.”

Several of the stories in the special section talk about efforts to obtain equipment  in the early days by fundraising or begging, borrowing or scrounging the necessary funds. Later on, the squad became adept at obtaining grants, Fryda said.

The first official vehicle was a Pontiac car, that had a reputation as being difficult to get started at times, a Reporter section article says. In a couple of years, the squad stepped up to a Ford Econoline truck, adapted to ambulance use by members, who built cabinets for supplies and replaced the metal floor. In 1967, the squad obtained its first dedicated ambulance.

The last two ambulances that were in service were a long way from those early vehicles, equipped with all the latest life saving equipment, Fryda said. Included was a LUCAS device, which can administer CPR to a patient, allowing crew members to monitor and tend to other important tasks during a transport, Fryda said.

While the department’s service area was once larger, call volume has increased. For example, in 1968, the squad answered 151 calls total in Salem, Silver Lake, Paddock Lake, Randall, Wheatland, Brighton and Bristol.

By comparison, with a service area of Silver Lake and the eastern portions of Randall and Wheatland, the modern Silver Lake Rescue Squad had about 400 calls last year. Fryda said he had years of answering 200 calls.

Along the way, Silver Lake Rescue Squad was a leader in the area and even the state in several aspects. The department fielded some of the first IV Tech squads. More recently the department was a leader in the use of nitrous oxide for pain management, Fryda said.

Florence Olson, Lynn McFarlane and Dean Fryda.

Silver Lake Rescue EMTs Lynn McFarlane, Florence Olson and Fryda had one of the department’s more memorable calls of recent years when they delivered a baby in their ambulance in the midst of a blizzard in February 2011. The weather was so bad the 12-mile trip to Kenosha Medical Center in Kenosha took 45 minutes, with the healthy baby born just minutes before the ambulance turned into the hospital parking lot. Along the way the ambulance drove behind a county snow plow for part of the way. The plow truck ended up in the ditch, but the ambulance crew — after checking to make sure the plow driver was OK — drove on.

Fryda has spent some time looking through the many scrapbooks of history at the squad station. Some of the procedures described, he said chuckling, clearly were products of their time.

“Reading some of that stuff, wow, that would not fly today,” Fryda said.

Seeing Silver Lake Rescue Squad come to an end has been been rough for members, Fryda said.

“You see these people for years and years,” Fryda said of the families served by the rescue squad, especially in the core area of Silver Lake. “You know their family histories. It’s going to be tough.”

However, Fryda said he personally feels some satisfaction when he thinks about the impact the organization had on the community over its 59-year history. Many who got their start with Silver Lake Rescue are now working with other departments.

“Even though we’re gone, the people I trained are in (EMS) and will be in it for decades,” Fryda said.

A sample of the many scrapbooks of Silver Lake Rescue history.

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