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'Firefighter of the Year' rescued couple, saved house during snow storm

Firefighter of the Year Award
Posted at 6:07 PM, Apr 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-07 18:49:54-04

MISHICOT — Over a year later, John Tulachka remembers the night of Feb. 25, 2022 clearly.

"It was a Friday, February morning,” Tulachka said. “We had snow the night before about six inches or so. We were out plowing snow. And just before seven o'clock, we got a page for a house fire."

When the Tulachka—who is village’s public works director as well as a volunteer firefighter—saw that page, he made a quick decision.

"I was at a point in my snow plow route where I was between the house fire and the fire station and my instinct told me that I should probably go to the house fire with my snow plow,” Taluchka said.

When he got to the scene of the house fire, he plowed the driveway and around the fire hydrant.

But he didn't stop there.

"I came to the scene, did all that, and noticed that none of the occupants were evacuated from the house,” Taluchka said.

He ran into the home in just a T-shirt and jeans and helped a woman inside find her husband before evacuating the couple. The rest of the fire crew arrived shortly after.

"Luckily enough, everybody got out safe and minimal damage to their house,” Tulachka said. “And now, as of, I think last week, they had moved back in."

Mishicot Fire Chief Michael Koeppel said he was there just in time

"He went back in the house, up the stairs where the bedroom was and actually closed the door to contain the fire to the room, which basically I think saved the whole house from burning down,” Koeppel said.

It was his brave actions that night that earned John the Wisconsin State Firefighter’s Association 2022 "Firefighter of the Year" award.

"We submitted it, and there's a lot of applicants, and that we were, that John was selected, was amazing,” Koeppel said.

The Wisconsin State Firefighter’s Association is made up of 762 fire departments and almost 10,000 firefighters.

The village of Mishicot, with a population of about 1,400, has an all-volunteer crew of 35 fire fighters.

"It was a huge shock to me because I was not expecting it at all,” Tulachka said.

John has been with the Mishicot Fire Department for nine years and the Tisch Mills Fire Department for 20. He said he was inspired to join the firefighters by his two uncles and older brother and is hoping to stay fire-fighting for years to come.

"Absolutely. Until I can't do it anymore,” Tulachka said.