Bridgeport Fire Department presents service awards, accepts generous donation

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Former Chief John Gillitzer (center) received a special tribute from the Rural Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Fire Department during its annual meeting last week for dedicating over 50 years of his life to the department. Assembly Representative Lee Nerison (right) was present to give Gillitzer a state award for his service. Also pictured is John’s son and the current chief, Russ Gillitzer. (Submitted photos)

The Rural Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Womens Auxiliary awarded a donation in the amount of $10,000 to the Bridgeport Fire Department during its Feb. 24 annual meeting. Pictured with the check are Norma Gillitzer and Alisha Smrcina, representing the Womens Auxiliary, and Fire Chief Russ Gillitzer.

Rich Picha (right) was recognized for 15 years of service to the fire department by Chief Russ Gillitzer.

Alisha Smrcina has been a member of the Rural Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Fire Department for five years. She was also honored with a plaque for her service.

By Correne Martin

The Rural Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Fire Department held its annual awards banquet on Feb. 24, recognizing one firefighter for half a century’s worth of service to the department and receiving a large donation from the womens auxiliary.

Former Chief John Gillitzer was honored for giving 50 years of service to the department. He was presented with a state plaque signed by Assembly Representative Lee Nerison and Senator Jennifer Shilling. Nerison was present at the meeting to hand Gillitzer the plaque. A special cake was also served in his honor.

Gillitzer has been with the department from its humble beginnings. In 1964, he was among 10 men from the towns of Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien to join the city of Prairie du Chien Fire Department. Together, the three entities had a total of 35 firefighters. The townships eventually branched off into their own department, breaking ground for their new fire station in 1977 and officially going on their own in early 1978. Gillitzer, who will turn 82 this May, was named Crawford County Firefighter of the Year in 2009.

Between John and his two sons, Russ and Joe, the Gillitzers have dedicated 120 years total to the Rural Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Fire Department.

Other service awards presented during the annual meeting went to Rich Picha, for giving 15 years of service to the department, and to Alisha Smrcina, for five years of commitment. Smrcina is also the president of the womens auxiliary.

In addition to the individual service recognitions last week, the Rural Bridgeport and Prairie du Chien Womens Auxiliary gifted a $10,000 donation to the fire department to be used as seen fit. The auxiliary has long been a strong, supportive arm of the department.

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