Amherst Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, hailed 'Hometown Heroes'

By: Patrick Lynn

Two leaders in the Amherst fire community were honored on Wednesday in the State Capitol. 

Amherst Fire District Chief Victor Voss and Assistant Fire Chief Brian Swan were recognized as "Hometown Heroes" during the Wisconsin State Assembly's scheduled floor session.

Rep. Katrina Shankland nominated the two because of their work together on 2021 Wisconsin Act 115, a new state law that created an emergency response zone around the scene of roadway accidents to help keep first responders and roadside workers safe from reckless drivers. 

Under the new law, there are additional penalties for traffic violations, like reckless driving, in areas where emergency or roadside response vehicles are present and crews are at risk from traffic. 

Swan told the Metro Wire that he got the idea after a traffic collision at an emergency scene in another county. He, Voss, and other local firefighter leaders also offered testimony on the safety concerns at the State Capitol last year. 

"Throughout the process of taking Act 115 from just an idea to getting it signed into law, we heard from first responders repeatedly that they would much rather go into a burning building than respond to an accident on the roadway due to the risk of distracted drivers," Swan said. "I am very proud t have helped bring this important new law forward, and I hope that it will help protect the lives of all of our state's firefighters, paramedics, EMT's State Patrol, law enforcement, highway workers, tow truck operators, and other first responders and roadside workers."

Assemblywoman Katrina Shankland said she first met with Swan and Voss in 2018, and eventually, a draft bill came to the Assembly floor. Gov. Tony Evers signed the bill into law last December. 

"Chief Voss and Assistant Chief Swan's continued advocacy in the Legislature to initiate and pass a bill into law to protect first responders and roadside workers underscores the power of every person's voice," Shankland said in a press statement. "Their successes highlight how much we can make a difference in our community and state. Please join me in congratulating Amherst Fire Chief Voss and Assistant Chief Swan for this well-deserved recognition-they have made us so proud."

"As fire chief, I'm always proud of the hard work the men and women of the Amherst Fire District and first responders around our state do every day to keep our communities safe," Voss said. "I'm honored to receive this award, and I just hope Act 115 makes it a little safer out there for them and for everyone on Wisconsin's roads."

The Wisconsin State Assembly Hometown Heroes program serves to identify and recognize individuals from around the state who are working to make their communities a better place. 

Award winners, such as those named above, are invited to the State Capitol and given an opportunity to speak on the Assembly floor as a special guest, along with their nominating legislator.