Bio: Zank, William “Bill”  To Retire after 33 Years (2001)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Zank, Peterson

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/10/2001

William “Bill” Zank To Retire After 33 Years (2001)

By Martha Viduski

Thirty-three years and about 1,000 calls later, Bill Zank, Neillsville Fire Department‘s 1st Assistant, is ready to retire as a firefighter. “It’s a young guy’s job,” and that according to Zank, is the reason he is retiring Nov. 5th.

Zank joined the Neillsville Fire Department back in August 1967, when he was 28 years old.

In those days, when the fire whistle went off, firemen would show up in whatever they were wearing, hop on the back of the truck, and head off to put out the fire.

Today, things are different. The firefighters are better trained, have approximately $3500 worth of clothing and equipment on their backs, and even have “standard operating procedures” to fight specific types of fires.

One thing that has not changed is the fact that trust makes up a big part of the job. You must be able to trust the other firefighters he said and of course, trust your gear and equipment.

Trust is something Zank has never worried about “We’ve always had a great group of guys, they know their jobs, he emphasized.

“These guys take their jobs very seriously,” Zank said. "We’ve even had a guy answer a fire call wearing his wife’s blouse because he was in such a hurry.”

Not only are the guys great but, according to Zank, Chief Duane Peterson is a great training. “I can’t give him enough credit. Pete is well-known around the county for his 50-question written tests. He makes sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to do and when to do it.”

After crawling in a fire, having your hair stand up on the back of your neck, your whole world shrinking down to a two-foot square, hearing the fire crackle and pop, feeling totally lost in some room – to find out later it was a closet – you walk away after the work is done, everyone is safe and know you did a good job… that’s why Zank was a firefighter.

According to Chief Peterson, “We are all going to miss Bill. He has had a way of taking the young guys and mixing them with the older ones and making everyone comfortable.”

Zank is proud of the department and of the community support. Even the “mutual aid” agreement between departments throughout the county has been a great accomplishment over the years. Everyone is willing to help.

The way Zank explains it…Neillsville is fortunate to have such a fine department and the department is just as fortunate to have a community that offers such great support.

Retiring is a lot different than he thought it was going to be. He figured he’d just pick a day and that would be that. But he’s finding out… just don’t just quit being a firefighter. Trying to ease out of the position, leaves him feeling like “a kid skipping school,” he said.

Zank now knows that when Nov. 6th rolls around… he won’t be answering those middle-of-the-night calls, but his thoughts will surely be with his comrades as they rush off to battle a fire or to help at an accident.




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