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 was Paul Wirth (former Rib Mountain Fire Chief) with Steve Meilahn as the Deputy Fire Chief (former Weston Fire Chief). In addition to the Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief, 6 full time Battalion Chiefs led 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.
In June of 2014, Chief Wirth retired. Deputy Fire Chief Meilahn was appointed as the Fire Chief and Battalion Chief Matt Savage was promoted to Deputy Fire Chief.
In June of 2015, Chief Mielahn retired. Deputy Fire Chief Savage was appointed as the Fire Chief and Josh Finke (City of Wausau EMS Division Chief) was hired as the Deputy Fire Chief.
In Fall of 2015, SAFER added two administrative positions; Fire Marshal and EMS Division Chief. Captain Marty Christiansen and Battalion Chief Kelly Bechel were hired into those positions.
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.
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 2021, SAFER staffs 11 firefighter/EMTs (administration included) M-F 08:00-16:00 and 7 firefighter/EMTs (Battalion Chiefs included) all remaining hours, weekends, and holidays. As a combination department, SAFER's staffing model includes career, majority time, and part time firefighter/EMTs that staff our two stations 24 hours a day, responding to more than 3000 calls for service each year.
In 2021 we 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).
Many more changes will come in the future as SAFER district continues to provide exceptional service to the Village of Weston, Town of Rib Mountain, and surrounding contract areas!