We Remember – 40 Years Ago, Today

Today is the 40th anniversary of the loss of Kenosha County’s only county firefighter lost in the line of duty west of the Interstate.

February 16, 1982, Silver Lake Fire Assistant Chief Wayne Lake died of the fatal heart attack while en route to a fire in Camp Lake. He was 45 years old.

This plaque is on the building that housed the Silver Lake Fire Department. It is currently Salem Lakes Station 4.

He was driving No. 5 tanker to a 2-story storage building fire at the home of Alfred Eggert. Silver Lake was responding as mutual aid to Wilmot’s fire. The tanker was eastbound on AH. The tanker veered toward the ditch and came to rest up against a telephone pole and was only slightly damaged. It came to rest on the corner of the property where the of the current Salem Lakes Fire Chief James Lejcar grew up.  Lake slumped over into the lap of Ralph Drinkwine Jr, who was riding with him.

I spoke with his daughters, Sue Gerber and Pam Gyger, who provided the photos for this article.

Wayne Lake, Chief, in white shirt with his dalmatian. It’s likely from 1973 -1979.

Silver Lake Fire memorialized Lake on their equipment truck. One that was purchased after the station fire. Silver Lake would take that vehicle up to Wisconsin Rapids, to the Wisconsin Fire and EMS Memorial, for their parade. The Memorial started its annual service in 2005. Wilmot Fire Department dedicated a bench in the State Firefighter and EMS Memorial Park. Sue and Pam’s husbands, Kevin and David, were on the Wilmot Fire Department. Their brother Charles was on Lyons Fire Department. Silver Lake Fire bought a brick, or legacy stone, as the memorial calls them.  Sue said their families traveled up to the Memorial for the annual ceremony for several years. Kenosha County doesn’t have a county firefighter and EMS memorial.

Chuck Lake, Sue Gerber, Pam Gyger with the Silver Lake Fire equipment truck. Salem Lakes has since sold that vehicle to Town of Delavan.
The family was presented with the plaque that hangs on the fire station.

Their father’s interest in fire and rescue began with rescue. The Silver Lake Rescue Squad had begun in 1959. Their father’s first encounter with them came in 1961, when their 2 ½ year old brother Chuck fell out of the car at highways 50 and W. The car was driving on highway 50 and the door came open as he came around the curve. Their 24-year-old father was very impressed by the care and treatment his child received. He joined the Silver Lake Rescue Squad.

An approximately 30 year old Wayne Lake working at a fundraiser, with Jim Kamin and Chuck Walker (seated).

In 1964, he was involved in one of the department’s more infamous incidents. Lake was ordered by Chief Lloyd Casey Sr. to drive their 1960 pumper onto the frozen lake to pump water onto it to smooth out the ice for skating. It didn’t end well. The department had patches made with this on them and it used to be painted on one of the bay doors.

At the time of his death, he was the village maintenance chief and sanitary engineer at the sewage treatment plant.

The county has lost three other firefighters in the line of duty. March 28, 1949 Somers lost Theodore Tabbert, 59, and Herbert Friedrich, 31, who were killed in a tanker rollover and Fritz Heide, who died six days later from his injuries.

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