TODAY'S TMJ4 Exclusive
Oconomowoc firefighter recalls battling dangerous blaze
Keller Russell reports Video by tmj4.comvideo
OCONOMOWOC- He nearly died trying to help save people from a fire that destroyed part of downtown Oconomowoc. Now he's talking about that dangerous day for the first time.
"All units on the fire route, we have a mayday."
It's a call for help firefighters never want to hear. It signals one of their own is down. In this case, it's Lt. Mike Laventure, a 38-year veteran.
"It's probably one of the hotter fires I've been in my 38 years of doing this and it was floor to ceiling. The heat and smoke were incredible."
He doesn't remember making it out of the second floor of the building as it burned in downtown Oconomowoc.
He was unconscious.
A special team had to rescue him after his oxygen ran out.
Lt. Laventure had been working with his partner to pull a woman trapped inside to safety.
They were using a strap to help them, when it snapped it sent them in opposite directions. The two got separated. Laventure fell, and his oxygen was on its last leg. When the alarm on his facemask began to vibrate, he knew he was in trouble.
"I could either try to get out and burn up what air I had left or stay in place and wait for R.I.T to come in," he said.
His exit was blocked. So they waited.
"I actually pulled my mask up a little bit I slid my hood up over my mouth and nose…and it was shortly after that I don't recall anything. It was probably my last ditch effort."
As the seconds ticked away, the Lieutenant's mind raced.
"Family, grandkids, life in general," he said of his thoughts in those final conscious moments.
After members of the Waukesha RIT team pulled him to safety, Laventure was rushed to the hyperbaric unit at Columbia St. Mary's and was in the hospital for several days.
He's currently recovering at home but hopes to be back to work in a month or so.