Skip to main content

People who make a difference – Gene Prellwitz

Volunteer firefighter, community member, committee member – Buchanan Volunteer Fire Department, When Seconds Count Fire & Rescue LLC, Central Volunteer Fire Department, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Honor Guard

share arrow printer bookmark flag

March 23, 2023

ZJh5BTmAUIEKAUKAUNA – There’s much more to Gene Prellwitz than fighting fires.

“I like to volunteer the knowledge I’ve gained from my years in the industry to others,” Prellwitz said. “There’s more to me than putting out fires.”

The 53-year-old, a 1987 graduate of Ripon High School currently residing in Kaukauna, said EMT/firefighting work was in his blood from an early age.

“My dad grew up with the fire department and was an EMT,” he said. “My brother was also an EMT, and my mother was a dispatcher for 33 years. Even back in the late 80s, I was able to take EMT classes my senior year at Ripon – that gave me a head start before going off to college.”

From there, Prellwitz said he got an associate’s degree in fire science.

“I started at Milwaukee Area Technical College and then finished up at Fox Valley Technical College,” he said. “You can even get a bachelor’s degree in the field now.”

Though Prellwitz said he retired from his state job last April, he still works off and on at a local security company in Green Bay.

“It’s more or less me helping out a friend when he needs it,” he said. “I work during the day mostly.”

Prellwitz also owns and operates When Seconds Count Fire & Rescue LLC.

“It’s a teaching company I originally started in 2011,” he said. “I teach industrial rescue.” 

Volunteer fireman
Prellwitz said he’s also a member of the Buchanan Volunteer Fire Department and heads south to Alabama to help another department.

“I travel to Alabama a couple of times per year to help the Central Volunteer Fire Department,” he said. “I work on their fire trucks and help with teaching techniques. In some respects, firefighting is a bit behind there compared to what we do up here.”

Over the years, Prellwitz said he’s been able to show them things they’ve never seen.

“They are not as aggressive in fighting fires compared to Northeast Wisconsin,” he said. “When I was down there last spring, within about 10 minutes of me getting there, I was out helping on a fire. Volunteer fire departments are always looking for help.”

Prellwitz said his local volunteer fire department locally also donates used gear to Alabama.

“As long as it’s in good condition and can still do the job, we’ll donate what we don’t need to the department in Alabama,” he said. “I’ll bring it when I head down. It fills my cup to help a fire department in need.”

Gene Prellwitz, a 1987 Ripon High School graduate currently residing in Kaukauna, has more than 35 years of experience in fire, rescue and medical services. Submitted Photo

Prellwitz said he looks at it as passing on the knowledge he’s gained from his years of experience.

“I’m going to Alabama soon because I’ve got a wedding nearby, and then I’ll stay for a week and teach the rescue squad people some stuff,” he said.

Prellwitz said he thoroughly enjoys being a member of the Buchanan Volunteer Fire Department.

“We do everything the same (as paid firefighters),” he said. “I enjoy the volunteer aspect of it and helping people, even in a tragic situation. When you’re a volunteer, sometimes it doesn’t feel like a job. I was in the department years ago but took a leave of absence due to some family issues. Within eight days of retiring (from my state job), the chief called and asked me back.”

Prellwitz said, “God willing,” he plans to continue with EMS and his volunteer work for the “foreseeable future.”

“I plan to renew my license for another 15 years,” he said. “If I can put in another 15 years, that would give me 50 total years in EMS.”

Prellwitz said he’s able to help his community when they need him thanks to his understanding family.

“This happened about 10-15 years ago,” he said. “We were doing a Christmas celebration, and I left my mother at the grocery store because I had to respond to a structure fire. My neighbor ended up taking her home.”
Other volunteer opportunities
Prellwitz said he’s also a local emergency planning committee member in Oconto County.

“We meet quarterly and go over (hazardous) spills and other things going on in the county,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for several years now.”

Prellwitz also serves on the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Honor Guard – an organization that attends funerals to honor those in the firefighting world who have passed away.

“I do quite a bit of that now,” he said. “We dress in full uniform and give support. I also help with fundraisers and recently attended a funeral for a fallen fire chief.”
Responding to Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
If you’re old enough to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, where you were and what you were doing when four airliners were hijacked, including two that slammed into the Twin Towers in New York City, is likely tattooed in your memories.
Prellwitz was closer to the epicenter than most people can only imagine.

“I traveled to New York City to help – both physically and emotionally,” he said. “I arrived in New York City Sept. 27 and stayed at Ground Zero for about two-and-a-half weeks. At the time of the attacks, I was a member of the Kaukauna Fire Department.”

According to, a total of 2,996 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers aboard the four airplanes. 

At the World Trade Center (WTC) alone, 2,763 people died.

Among those who perished at the WTC, 23 were New York City police officers and 343 were firefighters and paramedics – something Prellwitz said hits home to everyone who works in fire rescue/protection.

“They were just doing their jobs – trying to evacuate the buildings and save workers trapped on higher floors,” he said.

Prellwitz said he will never forget the impact the tragedy had on him.

“There was a group of us from Wisconsin and a group from Canada who were there together, because they rotated teams in and out,” he said. “We were there to help support the firefighters in doing anything they needed – being there for somebody to talk to. I also spent time working at the morgue.”

Prellwitz said he hasn’t been back to Ground Zero since, “but I’d like to go back someday.”

“I’m just not quite ready for that yet,” he said.

To find out more about When Seconds Count Fire & Rescue LLC, visit Facebook.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending