Fire department opens doors

By Charity Keitel
Osawatomie Graphic – October 16, 2013
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – October 29, 2013

osawatomie fire 10292013

Fighting fires and saving lives is all in a day’s work for Osawatomie’s Fire Department, but prevention, safety and the desire to help the community is really what drives the force–which is why the department’s annual open house continues to inspire its members to work hard throughout the year.

“We use this as a training opportunity for ourselves,” Fire Chief DuWayne Tewes said Saturday during this year’s open house.

“And it’s also a chance to give back to the folks that support us.”

It’s not just the firefighters and their families who look forward to the annual event, he said. It’s a special time for the community as well.

“We actually have people start asking us in September, ‘When is it, when is it?’ A lot of people look forward to it,” Tewes said.

People such as Jessica Ludwick of Paola and her son Caden.

“He doesn’t usually open up like this,” Ludwick said of Caden.

“I think it’s the fire trucks.”

Or Brandy McCoole, who just moved to Osawatomie from St. Joseph, Mo. She and her kids agreed that the event was great for adults and even more so for children.

The children were given the opportunity to run and play and to interact with the trucks and equipment. Tewes said it helps familiarize the kids with the equipment, and it makes them less afraid to cooperate with firefighters during real situations.

More Than Trucks

Red, shiny and full of life-saving gadgets, fire trucks are one of the most noticeable aspects of a fire department, but they are by no means the only asset in Osawatomie’s arsenal.

The jaws of life, consisting of a spreader and cutter, aid in extractions, fire gear protects the firefighters from burns and smoke inhalation, and helmets, cameras and sonar are useful in all kinds of situations.

And in Osawatomie’s department, there is the additional water rescue crew and its myriad suits and tools.

“We are the only dive team in the county,” Capt. Brian Mersman said.

“We specialize in the dive–that is our one specialty.”

He pointed out objects on the dive table.

“We have an underwater camera that we just acquired within the last year. We’ve got a com system for our divers so that when our diver’s in the water he can talk to the land guy that’s tethered off,” he said.

Another object on the dive table was an ice rescue suit.

“It’s not a dive suit,” he said. “It’s for on top of the water–for rescue. When you jump in the water, you can’t even tell you’re in the water. It’s pretty buoyant so you float in it, and it’s completely contained.”

Always Ready

Whether it be for dive or swift water rescues, the department’s water rescue crew tries to stay in tip-top shape, mentally and physically, for any danger that might catch the community unaware, he added.

“We have a four-man dive crew, and we’re getting ready to certify three more for our dive team,” Mersman said.

“We go through PSD, which is Public Safety Diver, training, and we get certified through it.”

And the best part of working water rescue is the cooperative efforts between the other fire departments and police departments such as Johnson County or Overland Park Police Department, he said.

“We have a close working relationship with them. It’s real nice that the agencies can work together.”

The Osawatomie Rural Fire Department, which includes Fontana, is made up of men and women who volunteer their time to help despite the fact they have other fulltime jobs.

Every year, at the end of national Fire Prevention Week, the volunteers try to reach out to residents of the community to positively reinforce safety and fire prevention as a means to save as many lives as possible before danger ever hits.

“We all volunteer our time and efforts to help people–to fight fires. We’ve also got people who are EMTs on the department, too, so we have the first response there, too,” firefighter Ashley Ream said.

Tax Dollars at Work

By attending the event, children of all ages were able to appreciate the gleam of the fire department’s tools and gaining invaluable tips that could save them or a loved one.

“We’ve been doing this for 11 years now, and one of the things we like is that it gives us a chance to show people what we do–or perhaps a better way to put it, what they’ve paid for,” Tewes said.

“All of it’s free,” Ream said.

“I think usually we have something like 200 people come through during the day. The kids really enjoy it because there’s a lot of stuff for them to do.”

“Every year, we have a great turnout,” Tewes added, saying that the bonus was that the kids retain a lot of what the firefighters have taught them throughout the week.

“It’s a great thing,” he said.


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