On March 3, state officials lauded 14 Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens for heroic acts that included rescuing residents and pets from rapidly rising floodwaters, creating a chest seal to stop bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds and carrying a lost boy out of marsh for a mile at night as freezing temperatures moved in.
Family and friends joined Chief Warden Casey Krueger and the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement for the presentation of the awards at a ceremony in Wisconsin Dells.
Warden Jon Hagen, who chairs the bureau’s Lifesaving and Valor Awards Committee, told the audience none of the award winners would call themselves heroes.
“I can say with confidence that wardens consider the events we honor as just part of the daily routine ... responses to emergencies that wardens do as part of their service,” Hagen said. “No hesitation, just action.”
Krueger said wardens are often the best-known public servants in their communities because they also live there.
“People call us for help on a wide range of issues, and our wardens respond and bring their very best,” Krueger said. “As the state law enforcement service dedicated to the outdoors and the people who enjoy them, the wardens’ service to the state, the people lucky to call Wisconsin home and all the visitors is important beyond words. And it is demonstrated through the actions by the wardens we honor.”
The awards presented were selected by the DNR Bureau of Law Enforcement’s Lifesaving and Valor Award Committee, which includes sworn officers and civilian bureau staff. The awards were selected based upon these requirements:
Criteria for a Lifesaving Award
• The employee performed an act that was intended to save a person’s life.
• It appeared at the time that the person in jeopardy would not have a chance of survival without the employee’s actions or assistance.
Criteria for a Valor Award
• Extraordinary heroism while being aware of an imminent threat to personal safety.
Criteria for a Meritorious Service Award
• The employee exceeded expectations of those typically expected of a first responder by taking courageous action despite the high risk of a serious but survivable injury.
• Alternatively, the employee performed a highly creditable act of achievement of service deserving merit.
The wardens honored at the ceremony are:
Lifesaving Awards (chronological order) and one Meritorious Award
• Wardens Kirk Konichek and Steve Pyfferoen, both of Rusk County, for their efforts on May 7, 2017, when they saved two hypothermic people from 50-degree water after their canoe flipped on the Flambeau River near Ladysmith. Konichek received the lifesaving award and Pyfferoen the meritorious service award.
• Warden Joe McMahon of St. Croix County for his efforts on July 26, 2019, when he saved a man choking at a Willow River State Park campsite in the middle of a severe storm.
• Tim Werner of Peshtigo County for his actions to help save a person who collapsed after possible ingestion of unknown controlled substances in Marinette County on Sept. 1, 2019.
• Adam Stennett of Ashland County for his actions to save a man with a makeshift chest seal after the man had been repeatedly shot in Douglas County on Sept. 2, 2019.
• Rich Maki of Sauk County for his efforts to help save two individuals from Devil’s Lake State Park on Oct. 9, 2019 minutes before one of them would have succumbed to hypothermia.
• Austin Schumacher of Rock County for his rescue-carry of a lost boy for a mile out of a Rock County marsh on Nov. 1, 2019.
• Phil Brown of Ashland County for his actions to save two individuals from a swamped rowboat in cold Ruth Lakein Bayfield County on Nov. 10, 2019.
• Shawna Stringham of Vernon County, Ed McCann of La Crosse County, Cody Adams and Aaron Koshatka, both of Crawford County, all were honored for their day and night actions rescuing multiple people and pets on Aug. 28, 2018, when flooding in Vernon and Crawford counties rapidly invaded Kickapoo Watershed communities, trapping dozens of fearful residents including children, the elderly and pets.
• Wardens Jeremy Peery of Eau Claire and Dave Allen of the Marine Enforcement Team for their actions on Sept. 11, 2019, when they helped with a night search for an armed suspect in a large swamp in Clark County.