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April 2014

17

Fire chief celebrates 50 years with Hartland department

Wilde has served with fire dept. since 1962

Village of Hartland - On Oct. 1, 1962, a then-21-year-old Allen "Augie" Wilde was convinced by friends to attend a meeting of the Hartland Fire Department.

Wilde had no plans to join the department, which at that time was led by his father, Chief Allen D. Wilde, and which had been started in 1893 by a group of citizens that included his grandfather, Frank Wilde. But plans change: Augie signed up, and this year marks Wilde's 50th year as a Hartland firefighter and his 34th year as the department chief.

After Wilde joined the department, he rose in the ranks, first becoming a lieutenant and assistant chief before being named acting chief in November 1978 and full chief in February 1979. Over the years, Wilde has balanced his work for the department with his small business installing septic systems, excavating and hauling; and with the needs of his family, which includes wife Sharon and sons Bill and Jim.

Over the past half-century, Wilde has seen a lot of changes in both the Hartland department and firefighting in general.

In Wilde's early days as a firefighter, the firetrucks didn't have cabs, so firefighters traveled to fires by hanging onto the sides of the trucks. Firefighters wore only coats and boots, not the complete turnout gear required today. In Hartland, instead of the individual equipment lockers for each firefighter, gear was hung on pegs mounted to the wall.

In 1964, two years after Wilde joined, the department moved from its previous location at 128 Cottonwood Ave. into a newly constructed station on Lawn Street. The fire station was expanded in 1980, and the Survive Alive house built in 1993.

One of the biggest changes during Wilde's years with the department was the decision in 1978 by village officials to start paying volunteer firefighters. Until then, firefighters in the village had never been paid for their work.

The Hartland department has never lost a firefighter in the line of service, nor have any firefighters suffered major injuries, Wilde said. During Wilde's years of service, only one village resident has ever died in a fire, which occurred 20 years ago in a duplex on Normandy Circle.

The Survive Alive house is one of Wilde's accomplishments of which he is the most proud. In the early 1990s, after hearing that the Milwaukee Fire Department operated a fire education program out of a basement, Wilde decided to start a similar program in Hartland.

"I said 'Let's build a house.' I went around and got donations from businesses, and we built it ourselves," he said. Since then, hundreds of schoolchildren have gone through the house and the Survive Alive program, which teaches kids what to do if they are involved in a fire.

Wilde also takes pride in his equipment. The fire chief has always been frugal, and often puts off scheduled equipment purchases if he feels the equipment he has will still work. "I don't ask for something unless I need it. I'm kind of tight," Wilde said.

Lt. Mark Adams, who has 26 years with the department, praised Wilde's dedication. "He does a lot of work, and gets paid minimal for it. Words can't describe him; he's a great guy," Adams said.

Not only is Wilde a good firefighter, he's also a good person, said Lee Godgluck, who grew up a couple of blocks from Wilde and his family. "As a person, he's always there to help you out," Godgluck said.

Safety Officer Pat Walker, who joined the department in 1978, lauded Wilde for his decades of service to the community. "The thing that I admire the most about him is his dedication. I feel like I've been doing this forever, and he's got 16 years on me," Walker said.

"Augie is there on almost every call," Walker said. "It's really been his life."

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