By Tran Longmoore, www.thesalinepost.com
Saline’s newest firefighter, Blake Wingler, loves the rush of adrenaline and he loves helping people.
So, he’s known since high school he wanted to be a firefighter.
“Besides the feeling of adrenaline, I love helping people,” Wingler said, when asked why he chose firefighting for a career. “I love the feeling of adrenaline. Whenever things are going fast and crazy, you just have to rely on your training, your instincts and push through it. I like being the person who is there when someone needs help.”
Wingler, who grew up in Dexter and graduated from Dexter High School in 2014, is also a Motocross racer.
Though recently hired, it was Wingler’s second crack at landing a job with the Saline Area Fire Department. He was also racing Motocross at the time and lacked the certifications sought by the Saline department.
He left Michigan to pursue racing, a sport he shares with his father.
“When I came back I figured it was time to hit the books and get my training in to become a firefighter,” Wingler said.
Putnam Township hired Wingler as an on-call firefighter. Putnam sent Wingler to the Livingston County Fire Academy, where he received his credentials, licenses and certifications. He earned his emergency medical technician license last winter.
Possessing all the credentials he needed, Wingler jumped at the opportunity to apply when another spot opened in the Saline department.
“I have a lot of friends and family around and in Saline. I studied in the auto tech program at Saline High School and made a lot of friends. I did 4-H down the road most of my youth,” Wingler said. “I love the area. It’s always been home. I told myself that if I wasn’t going to get a job at home, there was no point in staying in Michigan.”
After high school, Wingler left Michigan for Georgia and Alabama for Motocross training. Motocross is one of his passions.
“My dad got me into it. I started riding when I was four and absolutely loved it. I started really racing when I was 17,” Wingler said.
In 2011, Wingler was third in his class at the state championship. In 2015, he won races in Milan, Stanton, Brown City and Bronson.
Wingler still races some of the local Motocross events in Michigan. He took third place at the district 14 race in Portland in April.
“But right now, this is my job. This is where I am focused. This is what I want to do,” Wingler said. “Once I am ready, I’ll start racing again, just for fun.”
34 people applied for the position. Chief Craig Hoeft interviewed four candidates and determined Wingler was right for the job.
“He’s got the right attitude for the job. He wants to learn. He’s got some experience with the Putnam fire department and some medical experience working with the elderly at a retirement home,” Hoeft said. “The last four candidates were all great, but Blake came across as a good people person, and that’s half of what this job is.”
Wingler has enjoyed working for the Saline Area Fire Department since he started July 1. He’s impressed by the way the community interacts with the fire department.
“I enjoy being a part of the community. Saline fire is super into their community. I love that. Anyone can walk up and say hello and come in and see the trucks,” Wingler said. “If they need fire protection advice, we’re here. If they need medical attention, we’re here.”
Wingler is the son of Jamie and Lisa Wingler.
Wingler replaces Lt. Kevin Cornell, who recently retired.
Firefighters Brandon Sears and Kurt Schneider were promoted to lieutenant. They join Lt. Dan Speicher, giving the department a lieutenant for every shift.