Wienke named Firefighter of the Year

Published 10:39 am Monday, October 26, 2015

The Exchange Club of Vicksburg recently named Capt. William Wienke Firefighter of the Year during Fire Safety Month.

“It really caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting it,” Wienke said. “I appreciate it.”

He doesn’t see himself as a hero and he is just doing his job.

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Wienke works on shift A and serves as senior captain of Central Fire Station and captain over the ladder truck. A lot of his responsibilities include gathering resources, scheduling the staff of firefighters and planning transfers with the ambulance and hospital staff.

“Basically our job is to keep up with where everybody’s at and if we run out of recourses then we’ll start pulling people from this truck or that truck, or maybe even shutting a fire truck down to make up extra ambulances,” Wienke said.

Even though his job entails administrative work, he stills goes out on calls.

He spends about two months of the year on the ambulance and the rest of his time on the fire truck.

There is an adrenaline rush that brings an increased heart rate when the time comes for a call, he said, and he has seen all kinds of things in his time on the job.

“You’re wondering ‘what am I fixing to see,’” Wienke said. “You see a lot of stuff. Some of it’s funny and some of it you wish you really hadn’t seen.”

He said 95 percent of the 911 calls received are EMS related. Structure fires are not as common because people are more prepared and aware these days, he said, but a lot depends on the season with call numbers for fires rising in the winter because of heater use.

Once he joined the department he also decided to go through paramedic school, which he said was one of the most difficult things he has done. Wienke called the training at University Medical Center grueling, adding “It was the most stressful year of my life.” The school had high standards and going to work while doing clinicals and going to school three days a week wore on him.

Because he has spent time on the ambulance he feels like he can relate and be fair to those who work there, which makes him able to work with them and their schedules.

“My biggest thing and one of the things I tell my guys, and I’ve told them for years, ‘I’m not going to ask you to do anything that I’ve never done before or am not willing to do.’ Whether it be on the fire scene or an ambulance,” Wienke said.

He went through the state fire academy’s six-week program to become a firefighter, and routinely works to keep up certain certifications every couple years through training.

He started his career as a firefighter 13 years ago in January after he had worked at Vicksburg Chemical Company for eight years. He had done some construction work, but decided he did not want to continue in that field because he didn’t want to leave his family to travel.

Practically a Vicksburg native, he moved here at age 10, and he and his family continue to live in the area. Wienke was unable to receive his award at the Monday club meeting because he had already scheduled an out of town trip for his seventh wedding anniversary.