Serving our Community

for over 30 years

July 1983 became the start of the Brice Prairie First Responders. Ron and Linda Kane posted a sign-up sheet for interested citizens at their Prairie Market. Ron was trained as a first responder with the Holmen Area Fire Department, and began promoting the idea on the Prairie with Steve Hammes.

In the beginning there were 24 members, capable of handling all types of calls using the Brice Prairie First Responder Unit. Ten of those members were woman, which is not uncommon in areas where first responder units are not affiliated with fire departments.

The territory for the First Responders include all of Brice Prairie, and is bordered by the railroad tracks on the east. Those tracks are a prime concern for Prairie First Responders. According to the organization’s Vice President, Diane Langve, “If there’s a train on the tracks, Tri-State Ambulance can’t get through.”

Town & Country Courier -July 17, 1984

TODAY, almost 40 years later, the Brice Prairie First Responders are still going strong. Brice Prairie continues to grow, and the First Responders have continued to keep up with the newest technologies and continued training to serve their community. In addition to Brice Prairie proper, the Brice Prairie First Responders cover a large portion of Lake Onalaska, and the Great River State Bike Trail.

All members have completed at least the WI Medical First Responder- Advanced Skills Course, some have continued their education to include EMT certification, 1 member is a Paramedic, and we have 1 Registered Nurse.  Two members are Certified Ice Rescue Specialists and we have three certified trainers in the White Bear Rescue Training Center Practical Ice Rescue course, and all active members are Ice Rescue Technicians.  Many members also have water rescue training, and a few have participated in woods rescue training with Tri-State Ambulance and the West Salem First Responders. Six members are certified Wisconsin Firefighters, and a few have completed a spill response program put on by the Coast Guard, WI, IA, & MN DNRs, EPA, and Industry. Members have attended training with the La Crosse Fire Department and Amtrak, covering safety and techniques for responding to emergencies involving, or adjacent to railways. Members are also received trained in hazards associated with vehicle collisions, low angle rope rescue, and more.

The BPFR participated in Operation Heartland Defense held in West Salem (August 2004), partnered with the Campbell Fire Department to train for water rescue (summer 2004), and ice rescue (winter 2004-05). Many members have also completed EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operators Course), and the USCGA “America’s Boating Course©”. The BPFR unit participated in the La Crosse Airport Drill (June 2006), and attended Ice Rescue Specialist Training with the La Crescent and Campbell Fire Departments (Jan. 08).  The unit also participated in the 2009 La Crosse Airport Drill. The department also does drills and training with other MABAS departments. The department also provides wateercraft and crew to assist during Airfest, and RiverFest.

In addition to responding to the needs of Brice Prairie residents and visitors in the Town of Onalaska, the unit has provided numerous other agencies with mutual aid when requested, including the Onalaska Police & Fire Departments in the search and recovery for a young man in the Black River (May 2006), Winona County Sheriff’s Department in the recovery of the family below Lock & Dam 7 (May 2007), Campbell Fire Dept during a gas spill on a Black River Harbor (June 2007), and again with Winona County in the search for a missing duck hunter (Oct. 2007).

In Dec of 2010, Brice Prairie EMS and Rescue joined WI MABAS Division 134, to better prepare response to emergencies that overwhelm local capabilities. MABAS allows pre-planned access to additional resources locally, as well as from throughout Wisconsin.