Today, we’re continuing our Hero Spotlight series, where we highlight incredible individuals making a difference in their communities as first responders. We’re lucky to have John Baker as our featured hero this week.
Can you introduce yourself? Where do you work, and what do you do there?
I’m 37 years old and have been in Ashland for nine and a half years. After nearly ten years, I was recently promoted to Lieutenant.
I have been in the fire service for eighteen and a half years. I’m originally from Wisconsin Rapids, where I started with the Town of Grand Rapids Vol. Fire Department, but I started here in Ashland in 2013 as a Firefighter/Paramedic. I then got promoted to Driver and was most recently promoted to lieutenant.
I also work part-time at the local tech college as an instructor and at the DNR as a seasonal Wildland firefighter.
What inspired you to take up working in this field?
I've known I wanted to do this since middle school. A family member has medical conditions that cause me to call an ambulance from time to time. I had interactions with the fire department semi-often, which had a tremendous impact on me.
What's your family like?
I have a half-sister who's a nurse in the Green Bay area. We have no history in the family of public service. However, there's always that medic-nurse rivalry in the family.
What has been the most memorable moment on the job for you?
The most memorable moment on the job was the day after Christmas, 2017. I was working a trade that morning for a colleague. We were training on ice rescue — training on this topic — when the call came in. We got a call from a group of stranded fishermen on Chequamegon bay.
We initially thought the captain was doing this as a part of the training. When he explained that it wasn’t part of our training, we realized this was the real deal.
It was a group of ten fishermen out on the ice. It had warmed up and rained the night before, and the winds had broken up the ice and started to push the ice pack out to Lake Superior. A group of fishermen got caught in the ice flow, being pushed out into Lake Superior. Initially, we were only told about five but were later informed that there was a total of ten men.
We rescued all ten people off the ice, only to find out after the last rescue that the steering cable had failed on the Windsled. If we had gone out again, we would have had a catastrophic failure. To the department’s knowledge, it is one of the largest ice rescues in the history of the department.
Why is ice rescue a key part of your job?
When we first start getting the ice formations in the early winter, people get a little anxious to go fishing. Chequamegon Bay is connected to Lake Superior, so the bay is still as cold as the main lake.
The early ice is concerning, and then late ice, when the warmer temperatures start to creep up into the season, you get concerned about the people who want to go out one last time and haven't realized the ice has changed dramatically.
The lake underneath the ice starts to eat away at the ice a bit. After the ice is locked in and settled for the season, it isn't as much of a concern.
How do you spend your time when you're not working?
I’m also the president of our local union and am very active in the organization. I believe in advocating for and protecting our members' interests. Also, a member of the statewide Honor Guard.
Outside of that, I love to travel! I'm also a huge hockey fan. My college team is Wisconsin, but my professional team is the Wild.
I’ve been to 9/32 NHL arenas. However, as they age, the stadiums are getting replaced, so it’s hard to keep track!
Anew Advisors Supports First Responders
Thanks to John for sharing his incredible story! Anew Advisors is dedicated to supporting first responders in our local Milwaukee community and beyond. Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see more local Hero Spotlights!
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