On January 1, 2014 the South Area Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) District started operations in the Village of Weston and Town of Rib Mountain, Wisconsin with the merger of the Weston and Rib Mountain Fire Departments. Operating out of two stations, SAFER is a combination department that offers full fire and emergency medical services at the paramedic level. Additionally, we offer confined space rescue, high and low angle rope rescue, water rescue, ice rescue, and interfacility transfer services at the critical care paramedic level.
At it's inception, SAFER's first Fire Chief is Paul Wirth (former Rib Mountain Fire Chief) with Steve Meilahn being appointed as the Deputy Fire Chief (former Weston Fire Chief). In addition to the Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief, 6 full time Battalion Chiefs lead the 3 shifts of part time firefighter/EMTs at the two stations, staffing 8 total firefighter/EMTs M-F (with administrative staff) and 6 firefighter/EMTs all other hours.
2014 - 2015
In June of 2014, Fire Chief Paul Wirth retires. Deputy Fire Chief Steve Meilahn is promoted to Fire Chief and Battalion Chief Matt Savage is promoted to Deputy Fire Chief.
2015 - 2016
In June of 2015, Fire Chief Steve Mielahn retires. Deputy Fire Chief Matt Savage is promoted to Fire Chief and Josh Finke (City of Wausau EMS Division Chief) is hired as the Deputy Fire Chief.
In Fall of 2015, SAFER adds two administrative positions; Fire Marshal and EMS Division Chief. Captain Marty Christiansen is promoted to Fire Marshal and Battalion Chief Kelly Bechel is promoted to EMS Division Chief. Administrative staff now consists of 4 personnel; Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, EMS Division Chief, and Fire Marshal
When the district was created, a fleet of apparatus were inherited from the Village of Weston and the Town of Rib Mountain. In 2014, the first District apparatus purchase was made as a PL Custom ambulance was put into service. Then in 2016, the district purchased the first fire apparatus, Rescue 21, a CustomFire rescue pumper on a Spartan chassis.
2016 - 2021
With the increase in call volume and interfacility transfers, daily staffing in 2017 increased from 6 to 7, with a Battalion Chief and 3 firefighter/EMTs staffing station 2 in Weston and a Battalion Chief and 2 firefighter/EMT's staffing station 1 in Rib Mountain. Additional staffing changes including adding career Engineer/Paramedic positions; 1 in 2018, 1 in 2019, and 2 in 2021 to help fill the compliment of staff positions with the part time firefighter/EMTs.
In 2018, our first part time administrative assistant is hired. Initially this position conducts agenda creation and minutes for meetings. By late 2018 the position turns into a full administrative assistant, working to assist the Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief, working 20+ hours a week.
2021 - 2022
In 2021, staffing is 11 firefighter/EMTs (administration included) M-F 08:00-16:00 and 7 firefighter/EMTs (Battalion Chiefs included) all remaining hours, weekends, and holidays. Station staffing consists of a Battalion Chief and 2 FF/EMTs at station 1 and a Battalion Chief and 3 FF/EMTs at station 2. As a combination department, SAFER's staffing model includes career, majority time (full time with limited benefits), and part time firefighter/EMTs that staff our two stations 24 hours a day, responding to more than 3900 calls for service in 2021.
In 2021 we also hired our first full time Captain as we transition our management model from 6 Battalion Chiefs (1 at each station each day, or 2 per shift) to 3 Battalion Chiefs and 3 Captains (BC staffing station 2 and Captain staffing station 1 each day).
Winter of 2021 we take possession of Med 107 - a Braun ambulance on a 2021 Ford Ford Chassis. We also take possession of a new UTV for wildland fires at station 2. A 2021 Intimidator GC1K with a Ultra high pressure fire suppression system from EJ Metals.
2022 - 2023
In January of 2022, SAFER begins a rebranding project as we transition away from "South Area Fire District" and embrace "South Area Fire and Emergency Response" or SAFER District. A new logo is created by Battalion Chief Stephen Genrich, vetted, and put into service. On the left side of this page is our old patch/logo, with our new patch/logo being placed on the right side of the page.
Fire Chief Matt Savage resigns his position with the district in early 2022 as well as a Battalion Chief Andy Lohman on Green Shift. Deputy Fire Chief Josh Finke is appointed to the position of Interim Fire Chief and Battalion Chief Eric Lang is appointed to the position of Interim Deputy Fire Chief as the SAFER commission conducts a state wide search for the next SAFER Fire Chief. Also, a search is conducted as the Green shift Battalion Chief position is replaced with our second full time Captain. In March, Blue shift staffing is increased to 8 FF/EMTs with a Captain and 2 FF/EMTs at station 1 and an Battalion Chief, Engineer and 3 FF/EMTs at station 2.
In April of 2022 Deputy Chief Josh Finke is promoted to Fire Chief and Battalion Chief Eric Lang is promoted to Deputy Fire Chief in May of 2022.
In May of 2022 SAFER takes ownership of a new Hovercraft, purchased through the 2021 approved capital budget process. The Hovercraft is a neoteric brand, 4 person, hovercraft. Two Battalion Chief's are sent to Indiana to pick up the hovercraft and attend two days of intensive training. Once it arrives in the District, training begins for all personnel. The Hovercraft will be used for water and ice rescues on the Wisconsin River, Rib River, Eau Claire River, Lake Wausau, and for mutual-aid responses as requested.
On June 1, 2022, the station 2 Battalion Chief position is filled with our 3rd full time Captain. The Captain is placed at station 1 and the station 1 Battalion Chief is moved to station 2. SAFER's career managment model transition is now complete with 3 Battalion Chief's staffing station 2 in the Village of Weston and 3 Captains staffing station 1 in the Town of Rib Mountain.
Staffing in June 2022 is: Captain, Engineer, FF/EMT at station 1 on Red shift; Battalion Chief, Engineer, 2 FF/EMTs at station 2 on Red shift; Captain, 2 FF/EMTs at station 1 on Green shift; Battalion Chief, Engineer, 2 FF/EMTs at station 2 on Green shift; Captain, 2 FF/EMTs at station 1 on Blue shift; Battalion Chief, Engineer, 3 FF/EMTs at station 2 on Blue shift.