Officials: Bayfield County EMT died trying to save mother from fire
By Andrew Krueger on May 7, 2015 at 9:48 p.m.
Authorities in Bayfield County say an emergency medical technician who died in a fire at his home last week initially made it outside, and then went back into the house in an attempt to rescue his elderly mother.
Dennis Swenson, 62, and his 95-year-old mother, Dorothy Swenson, died in the May 1 fire at their home at 88700 Siskiwit Falls Road in the town of Bell a few miles east of Cornucopia, authorities said.
Dennis Swenson's death is being considered a line-of-duty death. A memorial service for Swenson and his mother is planned for Saturday afternoon.
"This is an incredible loss for our community," Patti Stemwedel, service director of Herbster-based South Shore EMS, said in a news release. "Dennis had been an active EMT since 1988 — that's 27 years as a volunteer EMT. He carried his pager wherever he went, always ready to help another in need. To say he will be missed is most certainly an understatement."
In a news release Thursday, Bayfield County Emergency Management reported that a neighbor had spotted the fire just after 4 a.m. May 1 and called 911.
"It appears that Swenson, a volunteer EMT, was awakened by his pager" after dispatchers requested a response to the fire, the news release reported.
The neighbor drove to the Swenson home and found Dennis Swenson on the front porch; she told Swenson that she had called 911.
"He replied that he had heard the page, grabbed a fire extinguisher and stated he was going back in for his mother," the news release reported.
Swenson, his mother and a family dog were found dead after the fire was extinguished.
"He cared deeply about people," Stemwedel told the News Tribune on Thursday, noting that Swenson was a spiritual, religious man. "He couldn't have stood by and watched someone suffer without doing something."
Dan Clark, chief deputy for the Bayfield County Sheriff's Office, said Thursday that the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but it's not believed to be suspicious.
Stemwedel said Swenson was the procurement officer for South Shore EMS — "he was so organized, so precise," she said.
Stemwedel said South Shore EMS has been receiving tremendous support from surrounding communities since the fire.
Dennis and Dorothy Swenson co-owned and operated Swenson Tourist Cottages on the Siskiwit River, according to an obituary published in the Ashland Daily Press.
Dennis Swenson was a 1971 graduate of South Shore High School and received a psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He later received a master's degree in theological studies, according to his obituary.
Dorothy Swenson was a 4-H leader for 50 years. She is survived by a daughter, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Visitation for Dennis and Dorothy Swenson is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Saturday leading up to a 2 p.m. memorial service at Herbster Community Center, 86870 Lenawee Road. The Wisconsin EMS Honor Guard and local ambulance services, fire departments and law enforcement agencies will take part.
Dennis Duane Swenson
Dec. 31, 1952 — May 1, 2015
Dennis Duane Swenson, age 62, of Cornucopia, passed away while attempting to save his mother, during a house fire, on Friday, May 1, 2015. He was born Dec. 31, 1952, in Ashland, the son of Arvid and Dorothy (Anderson) Swenson.
Dennis was a 1971 graduate of South Shore High School. He graduated with a degree in Psychology from University of Wisconsin Superior and later completed his Masters in Theological Studies.
Dennis and his mother co-owned and operated the Swenson Tourist Cottages on the Siskwit River following the passing of his father. Dennis was active in the Cornucopia community and enjoyed serving as an EMT for South Shore Ambulance for many years. He enjoyed working with 4-H, fishing and loved being outdoors. He also was a caregiver to his mother throughout the years.
He is survived by his sister, Cheryl (Brent) Surowiec of Kingfield, Maine; many nieces and nephews; cousins and other relatives.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 9 at the Herbster Community Gymnasium with Pastor Dan Zei officiating. Visitation will be held one hour prior to the service at the gym. A reception will follow at the gym.
Inurnment will be held in the Kiswaukee Cemetery, Kishwaukee, Ill. at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to South Shore Ambulance, Herbster Community Gymnasium, PO Box 0094, Herbster, WI 54844.
Dennis Swenson, EMT
Hometown: Cornucopia, WI
End of Service: May 1, 2015
Birth Date: December 31, 1952
EMS Service: South Shore Ambulance, WI
LINE OF DUTY DEATH