Dave McWilliams, 52, was urged to join the Platteville Fire Department by Clayton Stark. Nearly 30 years of dedicated volunteer service later, McWilliams was named the department's firefighter of the year. The announcement came during the department's annual awards banquet on Saturday evening at Pioneer Lanes in Platteville.
More than 30 years ago, Stark told McWilliams to fill out an application to join the department. McWilliams thought it was a good idea, so he submitted his application. The department was fully staffed at the time, so McWilliams had to wait a couple of years for an opening. He has been serving the community ever since.
Members of the Platteville Fire Department voted for this year's recipient. The top three vote-getters were notified that they were finalists. The announcement of the winner was then made on Saturday. "It was very close this year," said Dave Izzard, fire chief.
Izzard informed the crowd of McWilliams' dedication to the department after he was announced the winner. Izzard noted McWilliams is at the top of the roll calls when it comes to responding to fires and is usually the first on the scene. "He is always there for his fellow firefighters," said Izzard. "He knows what to do and he does an amazing job, not just this past year, but throughout his whole career."
"I've known this firefighter for quite some time and I've respected him since I first met him," Izzard told the audience.
McWilliams joined the department in July 1982. He ranks 37th on the list of time served by all members in the history of the Platteville Fire Department, which numbers more than 300. "He has been very active in all aspects of the department," said Izzard, noting McWilliams was a member of the state champion water fight team. He has served as captain in the department and was a strong member on the Jaws team for a number of years. He is a past board member and continues to assist the board with activities.
"This is a real plus to have this award and to be on the wall at the fire house with all the other people who have gotten it," said McWilliams.
As for why he has served in the department for nearly 30 years, McWilliams said it is about people. He enjoys the interaction with his peers and also, when a fire occurs, he has the opportunity to be a part of helping someone.
McWilliams is a plumber by trade and he often is the one who shuts off the water, electrical and gas at the scene of the fire.
The fire that sticks out to McWilliams over the years was the Rountree fire that occurred in the late 1980s. McWilliams and the crew were on the scene for 20 consecutive hours. "That was a hard one to put out," he said.
McWilliams has no plans of retiring from the department. He is going to keep active until he physically can no longer do it and he still has the will to climb out of bed when it is 20 degrees below zero outside.