FRANKLIN - Assistant chief Ronald Mayer will leave behind a 35-year legacy of serving Franklin and saving lives.
Mayer officially retired from the Franklin Fire Department on April 24 after a long career spanning from when he graduated from high school in 1982 to last month.
"No one's put more blood and sweat into the department over the years than Ron has," said Fire Chief Adam Remington.
Mayer was one of the "original 12" firefighters to serve in the department's paramedic ambulance on a 24-hour basis. He also served as a captain from 1990 to 2000, and then in 2000 he was promoted to battalion chief.
It was during his time as chief that he was recognized in the Wisconsin Fire and Police Hall of Fame for saving someone's life during a fire at Whitnall View Motel 15 years ago.
Mayer was the first to arrive on the scene the evening of Feb. 18, 2002, when he saw heavy smoke billowing out of one of the rooms in the one-story building. A crowd was beginning to gather in front of the room, and Mayer called for additional fire units.
On the scene, Mayer saw a man crawling out of the room, who happened to be the motel owner. The owner was, apparently, trying to get into the room because another man was still inside. However, confronted by the heat and smoke, he couldn’t make his way inside.
With the units still minutes away from the scene, Mayer knew he had to act.
Mayer crawled along the floor to the far side of the room fraught with smoke and searing heat. There, he found a 53-year-old man lying unconscious on the floor. Mayer dragged the man out of the building to safety.
Still, the man was barely breathing, and Mayer stayed by his side while other firefighters arrived. Mayer directed his battalion, but he did not leave the man's side until paramedics took over his care.
Ultimately, the man suffered from second- and third-degree burns over 28 percent of his body and smoke inhalation, and likely would have perished were it not for Mayer's quick response.
"He most likely saved some well-meaning bystanders from injury or death by preventing them from entering the burning room as well," said the Wisconsin Fire and Police Hall of Fame website, where Mayer's story is documented.
While Mayer's dedication to serving the people of Franklin is clear through this and other stories, Mayer was also devoted to the department and its people.
"He's been a department member for 35 years," said fire chief Adam Remington. "His contributions are really too numerous to count."
However, Remington still mentioned one of Mayer's most recent contributions: developing the department's health and wellness program.
The FFD partnered with Innovative Health and Fitness, which sends a personal trainer to work on injury prevention, core strength and other things that can help the firefighters on the job. It's a preventative program that keeps Franklin's firefighters heathier.
"It ultimately benefits the taxpayer if our guys are healthy and strong and able to do their jobs better," Remington said.
Mayer was also continually willing to help out his fellow firefighters, according to Remington.
One example was that on one cold winter's night Remington got a call from his wife, panicking because their dog had gotten out of the house. Mayer was Remington's boss at the time, and Remington said that Mayer was quick to volunteer to help him find the dog, and they did almost right away.
If they hadn't found the dog, it likely would have been in serious danger from the cold or from traffic on the roads.
"He has a lot of compassion for animals," Remington said. "He's rescued deer and dogs from the ice. ... Ron's really passionate about that."
Of course, Mayer was also extremely passionate about the people he has worked with, and the people of Franklin.
"He's an all-around good guy," said Remington. "And he's always put the department first."
Editor's note: A reporter tried to contact Mayer for comments, but he did not respond to requests through the department to be interviewed. Remington noted that Mayer generally never liked to call attention to himself.