Someone You Should Know: Rick Schultz - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Someone You Should Know: Rick Schultz

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by Pam Warnke

WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Few people can say they love their job enough to stay almost 3 decades.

Wausau firefighter Rick Schultz is the rare exception.

In October, he retired from the department after almost 27 years.

It was the last time Rick Schultz carried a sign he handpainted to the forefront of Thomas Street and Grand Avenue.

For almost 3 decades he's been behind the message, the meaning and the making of these signs that have become so familiar.

"I hope that it has helped over the years," says Schultz.

Helping is what got Schultz into firefighting.

After graduating from UW-Whitewater, he put in an application.

He was one of five selected from several hundred candidates, and at 25, the beginning was quite a ride.

"We actually had 5 large fires that first week that I was there," says Schultz.

Three bars and two homes burned that week...

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh! is my whole career going to be like this? Every week five big fires?' And I haven't had anything like it since."

But that all changed the week we sat down for this interview.

It was Tuesday, September 16th.

As we talked about Schultz's memorable first week on the job, little did either of us know he was in the midst of a week that would top it.

3 fires unfolded the week of this interview... including this one on South First Avenue that claimed the lives of three children. Schultz worked on one of the victims all the way to the hospital.

At his retirement party some weeks later, he told me the story -- an outcome any firefighter prays to prevent.

And that's why Schultz has been so careful with his signs over the years.

If you travel that area, it's likely you've seen them.

Carefully planned and painted, Rick says the messages just "came to him."

From fire detection, to fire prevention.. Rick has always aimed to get out some message about the dangers of fire and how you play a part in staying safe.

He says looking back at his 26 years, ambulance calls have increased and the number of fires have decreased.

"Maybe my painting of these signs over the years has done some good--that I've always hoped for--fire education. Through these signs maybe it just makes people think a little extra.. to try and be fire safety conscious," says Schultz.

And as these firefighters celebrate the career of a comrade, they say goodbye the best way they know how.

As for the signs, there are other firefighters in line to take over that duty.

Online Reporter: Pam Warnke

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