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Kurt Prise (left with plaque) and Richard Linnenberg (right with plaque) were honored for their combined 64 years of firefighting duty Tuesday. Also pictured from left: LaGrange station chief Pat Lamer, fire chief Bob Gnewikow and deputy chief Doug Arch

Richard Linenberg and Kurt Prise know all about adrenaline rush.

It’s what sustained them when they suddenly got out of bed in the middle of the night to fight fires.

The two long-time Oakdale Area Fire Department firefighters are ready to leave the adrenaline rush to the next generation. After a combined 64 years of service, they officially retired Tuesday and were honored by their fellow firefighters with a plaque and pizza party.

Fires can occur at any time, and Prise said he never had a problem clearing the cobwebs when the alarm sounded overnight.

“I guess it’s just the adrenaline,” said Prise, whose 35 years of firefighting service includes 20 years with Oakdale. “When the pager goes off, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Linenberg, who served 29 years with the Oakdale department, vividly remembers his first fire call — to his uncle Fritz Linenberg’s residence. Nobody was hurt, but the residence was a total loss.

“I was new to the team, so all I could do was help and keep my eyes open,” he said. “It made me realize that what you have one day might not be there the next.”

Linenberg said it didn’t take long for him to embrace fire safety.

“I respect fire,” he said. “In my own home I respect safety — smoke detectors, making sure things are turned off and unplugged.”

Prise grew up around firefighters. His father, Duane Prise, was an assistant fire chief in Tomah and taught him the ethics of fire safety and “looking out for other people.”

“I’ve been around firefighting my entire life,” Prise said.

He served with his father in the Tomah department before moving to Marshfield and serving the fire department there for five years. When he returned to the area 20 years ago, he joined the Oakdale department.

Linenberg and Prise have witnessed numerous changes in firefighting, nearly all for the better.

“You’ve got cameras that look right into the wall and tell you where the fire is,” Linenberg said.

Prise said one thing that hasn’t changed is the teamwork and camaraderie among firefighters.

“It’s like a brotherhood,” Prise said. “They all look out for each other — on the job and off the job.”

Linenberg agrees.

“We all have one thing in common — we want to put out that fire somehow,” he said. “If there’s a cry for help, we’ll be there.”

Oakdale Fire Chief Bob Gnewikow appreciates the service of his two retiring volunteers. He praised Prise’s service as an officer in the department and described Linenberg as a dependable member ready to perform any task.

“As a chief, you always hate to see that kind of experience leaving the department,” Gnewikow said.

Prise and Linenberg will stay connected with their fellow firefighters. Prise’s son-in-law, Eric Newbury, is a member of the department.

“He’ll keep me up to date on what’s going on,” Prise said.

Linenberg said his fellow firefighters have made it clear he’s always welcome at the fire station.

“It’s an honor, and it’s hard to retire, but the door is always open for me,” Linenberg said.


Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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