“It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m so blessed that I can help my community in this way,” says Weiss, who by day works as an account executive at Spark Advertising in Neenah. Nights and weekends, he fights fires as a member of the Town of Neenah Volunteer Fire Department.
“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a fireman. My father-in-law was involved and when he started talking about what he did, I decided to check it out and was hooked,” says Weiss, who needed to complete a training course at Fox Valley Technical College before he could respond to his first fire.
The 40 members of the Town of Neenah volunteer fire department wear pagers and respond whenever a call comes in that help is needed. Available volunteers then head to the station. Since he works during the days in downtown Neenah, Weiss more often covers nights and weekends.
“It’s a good mix of guys. Some do shift work so they’re more available during the days. There is always someone ready to respond,” he says, adding that he’s met a lot of great people through his work with the fire department.
Besides responding to fires, Weiss and his fellow volunteers also must attend a monthly meeting where department business is discussed and a monthly training session is held. “Some people may think the time requirement is daunting, but once you take a closer look, it’s not so bad,” he says. His pager goes off about 10 times a month.
Ed King, fire chief for the town and Weiss’ neighbor, says having volunteers ready to answer the call is essential to keeping residents safe. He says the town also answers mutual aid calls from other departments and will help as needed.
As a member of the department, Weiss recently participated in a large training exercise with the towns of Grand Chute and Menasha, when a building near Fritse Park was burned down. “It was a great experience being in an active fire like that,” he says. “It was eye-opening.”
Continued training both at controlled burns like the one near Fritse Park or in the classroom at FVTC are part of being a firefighter.
Since he never knows when his pager might go off, Weiss keeps his firefighting gear – hat, clothes, pants, boots and gloves – in the trunk of his car. The rules require him to put on all of his gear in less than two minutes. As he begins to demonstrate this, quickly pulling the gear over his street clothes, the odor of smoke fills the room. “I once responded to something right after work and still had on my work clothing underneath the gear, and boy did my clothes smell afterwards,” he says with a laugh.
A native of the Fox Cities, Weiss attended Marquette University and worked at an advertising agency in Milwaukee for several years before moving back to the area. At Spark, he works with clients such as Menasha Packaging, Menasha Corp. and Plexus.
“I’m involved in some other community service organizations, such as Rotary, and this is just different. You are out there making a difference with your own hands,” Weiss says. “It’s a great ability to serve the community in a lifesaving way.”