Archive for August, 2015

Remembering our Heroes

Chemical smell reported at Northwest High School

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
Wichita Eagle – August 31, 2015

Wichita fire crews responded to a call Monday morning about a chemical smell at Northwest High School that was burning people’s eyes, a Sedgwick County emergency dispatcher said.

The call came from a security officer at Northwest High, near 13th and Tyler, at about 11:35 a.m., the dispatcher said.

Susan Arensman, spokeswoman for the Wichita school district, said crews were investigating the smell and checking air quality. Officials suspected some mace may have been discharged, she said.

Two fires reported Saturday

By Susan Thacker
Great Bend Tribune – August 31, 2015

The Great Bend Fire Department responded to two fire calls last Saturday, Chief Mike Napolitano reported.
At 4:36 p.m., units responded to 722 Odell St. for a possible structure fire. They found a fire pit on fire that was too close to plastic combustibles.
“The owner was applying water; however, the fire had already damaged fence and melted a large plastic storage container,” Napolitano said. “The fire also ignited the grass on fire and flames traveled to the house and scorched the siding.” Damage was estimated at $500.
At 5:47 p.m. units responded to 237 SE 30 Road to check on heavy black smoke coming from the area. They found a large pile of trees and trash on fire behind a newly constructed house. This was an unauthorized burning of material, and the fire was extinguished by the builder.

Off-duty registered nurse part of team that pulls woman from vehicle

By Ashley Booker
Hutchinson News – August 31, 2015

Monday, Aug. 3, felt like a normal day off for Lanny Crupper.

He was heading toward his sister’s home on Halstead Street in Hutchinson when he saw a vehicle nose down in a ditch across the street.

At that moment, this registered nurse’s training as a previous Reno County District 8 volunteer firefighter and EMT instructor at Hutchinson Community College kicked in. He knew he had to help.

Crupper, 63, of Hutchinson was either the first or second person there to find Melva Cummings, 79, of Hutchinson trapped inside her car after hitting a driveway culvert at 3503 N. Halstead Street.

“That culvert, it’s kind of down in the ditch. The way she hit it was like running directly into a concrete wall,” Crupper said.

His adrenaline kicked in as he went to help her. After he got to her, the Hutchinson Police Department, Fire Department and EMS came.

Cummings was pinned in her car for 45 minutes, and after methods weren’t working to get her out, he, Officer Grant Ingram and either Capt. Darren Schrock, Brian Rife or Joshua Weber with HFD pulled at the heavy crushed door with their hands and pried it open.

Officer Matthew Rucker was on scene nearby to help as the other men pried open the “pretty rough-looking” car door.

Although their strength was enough to open the door, Crupper says the Jaws of Life would have been next to get her out. It took 45 minutes before she was freed from the vehicle.

“You just do what you have to do,” Crupper said. He doesn’t remember it taking 45 minutes, but “time kind of stands still in a time like that. It’s hard to gauge.”

Crupper says them prying open the door probably looked more amazing than it really was.

Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen said each person of the three-person fire crew had their own responsibility. One was inside the car, another outside of it and one was helping bring Cummings out.

When asking the crew about the accident later, they responded by saying, “none of us really did anything extraordinary.”

Although Ingram, Schrock, Rife and Weber were just doing their job, which is equally heroic, it’s not every day an off-duty registered nurse is there to help.

Crupper had been identified as an off-duty paramedic at the time, and admits he didn’t want to correct anyone because there were more important things at hand.

Even though it’s been years since Crupper has used his EMT and volunteer firefighter training, he said it came back to him as if he were using it just yesterday.

“I think when you train to do stuff like that it’s always in the back or your mind — you never forget it and it’s always there,” Crupper said.

Crupper graduated from nursing school at HCC after he instructed EMT classes there. Although he isn’t employed now after breaking his hip a week-and-a-half after Cummings’ accident, he had been a traveling registered nurse at the time.

He suspects he will be looking for work soon after he’s able to be mobile again. He is also a co-owner of Crupper’s Corner, Inc., in Hutchinson.

Rucker said Cummings is lucky that Crupper was nearby. It’s “very convenient timing if you’re going to wreck a vehicle that badly,” he said.

“It really scares you after it’s all over and it all sinks in what could have happened,” Crupper said. “It’s sure good to hear that she’s doing better.”

Crupper said he was happy to help and what he did “really wasn’t that big a deal.”

Although this good deed wasn’t a big deal to him, his wife Peggy says he does this kind of thing as often as he can.

“It’s not the first time he’s stopped and helped somebody,” she said, mentioning he’s helped people after they struck a deer and he once helped a woman after she fell asleep behind the wheel.

“He’s one of those kinds of guys,” she said.

City, police and fire unions reach contract agreements

By Becky Kiser
Hays Post – August 31, 2015

The City of Hays and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 48 have reached a tentative agreement for the years 2016 through 2018. The current agreement is set to expire at the end of 2015.

City representatives during the meet and confer process included Toby Dougherty, City Manager; Paul Briseno, former Assistant City Manager; Don Scheibler, Chief of Police; Carolyn McCollum-Scantlin, Director of Communications; and Erin Giebler, Director of Human Resources. Jeff Ridgway and Wade Park represented the FOP.

One change, according to City Manager Toby Dougherty, is reducing short term disability payments from 100 percent to 70 percent and it’s being done with all city employees.

“The practice has been…short-term disability actually pays 70 percent; the city has made up the 30 percent difference. We have found that provides a disincentive for some employees to come back to work,” Dougherty explained, “and the reason short-term disability pays 70 percent is to provide an incentive to come back to work.”

The three-year agreement with the FOP also includes a $2,050 pay raise in 2016, which is being extended to all Hays city employees.

“This will bring the bottom of the (FOP) range up by $1,500, giving the current personnel a good raise. It will also bring the bottom end of ranges up a lot higher, making us more competitive with the (job) market,” Dougherty said.

The $2,050 pay adjustment will be counterbalanced with projected increased sales tax revenues.

City commissioners Thursday night also approved an agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Local 2119.

The current IAFF Memorandum of Agreement is set to terminate at the end of 2015. City representatives during the meet and confer process included Dougherty; Briseno; Gary Brown, Fire Chief; Ryan Hagans, Deputy Fire Chief; and Giebler. Brandon Woods, Tim Detrixhe, Greg May and Justin Choitz represented the IAFF.

“It’s essentially the same as the police department, but the fire department does not have language in its contract calling for 100% short-term disability payments,” Dougherty told commissioners.

Semi Catches Fire

KSAL – August 31, 2015

Photo by Saline County Sheriff Office

Photo by Saline County Sheriff Office

RFD 3 responded to a semi truck that caught fire on eastbound I-70 at the Brookville exit Sunday afternoon.
Robin Reeve, 63, of La Salle, Colorado felt a shake in his vehicle while driving and checked his mirrors. The right side front tires of the trailer he was hauling were loose, and by the time he was able to stop the vehicle, the back tires and right side door to the trailer were on fire.
Reeve attempted to put it out with his fire extinguisher, but the flames were too strong.
He was carrying 50,000 lbs. of scrap aluminum.

Kansas teen dies in motorcycle accident

Hays Post – August 31, 2015

Law enforcement authorities in Saline County are investigating an accident that took the life of a Kansas teen just after 11p.m. on Friday.

The Saline County Sheriff reported a Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle driven by Dakota Harr, 19, Ellsworth, was traveling with a group of motorcyclists near Airport Road and Water Well south of Salina.

Harr left the group at a high rate of speed, failed to stop at the intersection, struck the lid of a water pump station, lost control of the motorcycle and landed about 600 feet from the road in a cornfield, according to the sheriff.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Norton Volunteer Fire Department history

Information Researched and Compiled by Guest Writer: Mitch Jones, Norton Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief (1974-2015)
Norton Telegram – August 25, 2015
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – August 31, 2015

Norton started as a small prairie town in the early 1870’s. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, two railroads were being built: one south of Norton and the other through the town. With the completion of the railroad and heavy rail traffic, it started numerous prairie fires which added to the need for a fire department. Norton being surrounded by grassland made it vulnerable to conflagrations and uncontrollable prairie fires, along with all other causes. On January 2, 1886, Norton was devastated by a huge fire with left nearly nothing standing. With progressive action, Norton rebuilt itself.

In May of 1888, the town ordered 1,000 feet of fire hose and two hose carts, along with a hook and ladder outfit at a cost of $1,400. A water works system was also being established at this time, complete with mains, hydrants, and a tower, along with a boiler and engine. This action of establishing the water works system and fire department came under the direction of Mayor Dr. Richard Emerson White during his term in 1888.

Late in June of 1888, the fire equipment arrived and on a Saturday night, all able-bodied men were called to gather for a rally. The boys gave one of the hose carts a turn around the block and then organized brigades. Jim W. Vinning was elected Fire Chief and then they divided into three groups, each selecting a Captain and Lieutenant.

Therefore, the first organized fire department consisted of Chief Jim W. Vinning and Officers were: Captain W.D. Fuller and Lieutenant R.A. Lockard of Hook and Ladder. Hose Cart #1 was Captain H.J. Milz and Lieutenant J.C. Renoe. Hose Cart #2 was Captain J.W. Conway and Lieutenant H.T. Thompson, along with many volunteers.

During the rally, they decided to have a practice every two weeks, and with hopes the water works system would be a success, they felt they would be ready to go. The water works were completed the first of July, mains were laid and fire plugs were in place. The standpipe stood 70 feet in the air and the boiler was in place awaiting the engine. A couple of days later it arrived and was set and ready for operation.

Everything was ready to go and none too soon, for in mid-July on a Saturday evening around seven o’clock, the fire department got to make their first call to duty. A fire broke out in one of the B & M Railroad box cars standing west of the depot. As news reports had it, flames and smoke engulfed the car. The alarm sounded and the promptness of the fire companies deserved grand commendation. There was fear that the hose wouldn’t reach the fire, but by connecting Hose Cart #1’s 500 feet to Hose Cart #2’s 500 feet, and hooking up to the fire plug at the Opera House, it made it. Needless to say, the boys felt proud.

This is how the Norton Volunteer Fire Department originated. Today, the department is still an all-volunteer department. The Norton Volunteer Fire Department has progressed well over the years with all the changes in operations and equipment and hopefully will continue to meet all the new challenges of the future.

House catches fire in southeast Topeka

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – August 31, 2015

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An early-morning blaze on Monday sent firefighters to a house in southeast Topeka, where crews extinguished the fire in short order.

No injuries were reported in the incident, which was reported at 1:30 a.m. at a house at 2940 S.E. Illinois.

Initial reports indicated flames were showing on the outside of the house, which authorities said was believed to be unoccupied.

The scene was cleared at 3:49 a.m.

Additional details, including an estimate on the dollar amount of damage and cause of the blaze, weren’t immediately available.

The Top Ten Things You Need To Know About The 2015 Kansas Technical Rescue Conference

1. The 2015 Kansas Technical Rescue Conference is scheduled for October 6-9 at the Great Plains Joint Training Center and Crisis City, in Salina, Kansas.
2. This year’s conference provides an outstanding opportunity to learn and refresh your skills, as well as meet and share information with responders from all over the country.
3. Registration, lodging and lunch each day is PROVIDED AT NO COST to any Kansas responder.
4. Conference information and registration form can be found at under the Events tab.
5. The seven 16 hour Hands-On training tracks scheduled at Crisis City are taught by some of the finest instructors in the country and are filling up fast!
6. The 2015 William C. Brubaker Memorial Award will be presented at this year’s conference. Deadline for submitting a nomination is September 23rd.
7. Equipment vendors will be on hand to show and demonstrate the latest technical rescue equipment, as well as assist with several of the hands-on training tracks.
8. Kansas State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen will host a round table discussion for all agency chiefs and program managers on October 7th at Crisis City, featuring US&R program managers from Louisiana and Alabama.
9. Registration, lodging and lunch each day is PROVIDED AT NO COST to any Kansas responder.
10. This year’s conference is scheduled for October 6-9 at the Great Plains Joint Training Center and Crisis City, in Salina, Kansas. Conference information and registration form can be found at under the Events tab.


One dead in crash at 43rd, Hydraulic

By Matt Riedl
Wichita Eagle – August 31, 2015

Photo by Fernando Salazar

Photo by Fernando Salazar

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A man died Friday afternoon after his pickup collided with another pickup on South Hydraulic, police said.

Police officers responded to the area of 43rd and Hydraulic shortly after 3 p.m. after numerous motorists traveling on Hydraulic called in the crash, said police Sgt. Kevin Kochenderfer.

It was “a very chaotic scene,” Kochenderfer said, as multiple motorists were attempting to render aid to the victim, who was pinned in the truck.

Fire crews were called to the scene and they were able to unpin the man. He later died of his injuries at the scene.

Police are currently interviewing multiple witnesses to try to determine whether the victim’s truck was attempting to pull a U-turn or was turning out from a side street.

The crash happened in the southbound lanes of Hydraulic. Two people were in the other pickup, but no other injuries were reported, Kochenderfer said.

Police are attempting to make next-of-kin notifications and have not identified the deceased man, except to say that he is an adult.

Kochenderfer said traffic on Hydraulic between the I-135/I-235 interchange and 47th Street will be “extremely congested or blocked” for the Friday evening commute hours.

“This is a busy time of the day – some of the schools are getting out, and this is an extremely busy road, especially between MacArthur and 47th Street here,” he said.

Police are expected to be on scene for the next few hours.

About 15 minutes after the fatal crash, a Wichita fire truck was involved in an unrelated crash about two miles to the north, according to Sedgwick County emergency dispatchers. Only minor injuries were reported, and the victims refused emergency medical services.

Asst. Chief Unruh retires Aug. 28

By Cheyenne Derksen
McPherson Sentinel – August 30, 2015

Assistant Fire Chief Rick Unruh has worked every job in the fire department. Well, almost every job.
“I haven’t been a secretary yet,” Unruh laughed. He’s almost nostalgic on the line as he considers his time spent with the department during a phone interview. “I started in 1981 as a volunteer and in 1990, I was the first man hired to start the five-man shift. From there I kept going to classes and moving up.”
Unruh has worked for 34 years in the McPherson Fire Department, starting as a paid call volunteer, then a shift fireman, acting officer — called a lieutenant today — captain and finally the assistant chief. Unruh retires from fire service today.
When children come home from their kindergarten field trips to the fire station, each one dreams of firefighting in their futures. But that initial flame in Unruh’s imagination never burned out.
“Little kids always think they want to be a fireman and play with the fire trucks, but that feeling just never went away for me,” Unruh said. “I had a good friend that talked me into volunteering like him in the 80’s. Nobody else has equipment like this for saving lives and it just grabs you.”
Once the fireman fever snagged Unruh, it held on with a vengeance. He continuously bettered his performance in the field by taking more classes and certifications to finish out his job description. Unruh’s time as assistant fire chief has been spent in code enforcement, inspecting fire alarm systems in new buildings, plans reviews of new projects and, of course, fighting fires.
Unruh looks at each call as something that might take one of his most precious possessions — his team.
“Firemen treat each other like brothers. I’m going to miss the guys and the camaraderie,” Unruh said. “The whole point is to see everyone comes back to the station at the end of a call.”
In the 90 seconds each fireman takes to suit up, gather gear and exit the station, each carries the subconscious concern for the firefighter at their sides.
“When you go into a burning building, the firefighter next to you has your life in his hands and you have his,” Unruh said. “Emergency services see a lot of bad things, but you have to train yourself to know that you’re there to help. If I’m on the radio and the team hears the scared sound in my voice, they’ll get scared too, so I had to learn how to conceal that to help them succeed.”
After retiring from the fire service, Unruh will continue doing similar tasks on Monday, but as a safety and environmental employee with Viega in McPherson.
“Being a fireman is the greatest job in the world,” Unruh said. “You see people at the worst times in their lives, when they’ve just lost everything, and your job is to protect them and keep that stuff they’ve worked their whole lives for safe.”
Working with these individuals encouraged Unruh to reach greater heights in his career, but he did acknowledge that it’s time for a change toward family.
“I’ll totally miss being out in the public like I am now — 75 percent of my time is spent out doing inspections or talking to people about their new buildings,” Unruh said. “When my wife and I go grocery shopping, I never get to help shop because there’s always someone there who has a question and we get to talking so my wife just does the shopping and picks me up when it’s time to leave. Being in emergency services means I’ve seen a lot of things I hope no one else has to see, so my wife is glad I’m ready to move on to the next stage of life.”
Unruh has two sons and two daughter in law, with three grandchildren, so he hopes for more time to spend with his family.
As he spends time with relatives, Unruh thinks back to other families affected by fires in their homes. He explained that only half the job at a house fire is putting out the flames; the other half is comforting those who lost their home.
“I put myself in their position and think about what I would expect someone to do to help me if I didn’t have a place to live,” Unruh said. “So when I go on scene, I wait until the fire’s out and I have to go in and find the cause or origin, but I’m also leading the investigation and talking to the family. It becomes a personal thing because we want to take that stress level and make them feel more comfortable.”
Unruh is a people person, so this public figure will not be leaving his friends and family in McPherson any time soon, but for now, the fire department is bidding farewell to a passionate member of the emergency services.

Fire sends person to hospital

Leavenworth Times – August 31, 2015

One person was taken to the hospital as a the result of a kitchen fire late Thursday night in Leavenworth, a Fire Department spokesman said.
The fire was reported at 11:48 p.m. at 307 N. 20th St.
Fire Capt. Mark DeMaranville said the home’s two occupants already had made it out of the residence when firefighters arrived.
DeMaranville said firefighters extinguished a small fire on the stove. He said the fire had caused damage to the area around the stove.
“There was a lot of smoke,” DeMaranville said.
One of the occupants was transported to the hospital by Leavenworth County EMS for possible smoke inhalation.

Body recovered from Arkansas River

By Anne Meyer
KWCH – August 31, 2015

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Wichita Police are still at the scene where a body was found in the Arkansas River Friday evening.

Officers were called the scene around 7:30 p.m. after someone who was kayaking the river saw the body and called 911.

The body police found is a man in his 30’s and homeless, but investigators are still trying to positively identify the man.

Wichita fire fighters helped recover the man from the water.

Investigators are working to figure out how this happened. Right now, they are unsure how long the person had been in the water or how they got there.

Lt. Dale Morrison says they are having officers search the area and trying to contact people who live in the area to see if anyone saw anything or knows any information.

Police say they do not believe there was any foul play involved.

Investigators don’t know a cause of death yet, but they should get more details once an autopsy is complete.

Falling Down — No one injured in building collapse

By Michael Stavola
Pittsburg Morning Sun – August 31, 2015

A Pittsburg firefighter looks on at a building that partially collapsed on the 300 block of North Locust Street around 10 p.m. on Thursday night. MICHAEL STAVOLA/THE MORNING SUN

A Pittsburg firefighter looks on at a building that partially collapsed on the 300 block of North Locust Street around 10 p.m. on Thursday night. MICHAEL STAVOLA/THE MORNING SUN

Hundreds of bricks covered the street after the facade of the second-floor collapsed at an old building on the 300 block of North Locust Street around 10 p.m. Thursday.
“At first, we were dispatched for a possible structure fire,” Pittsburg Fire Chief Mike Simmons said. “An officer said he saw smoke, but the smoke ended up being dust … from a partial wall that had collapsed.”
The building is believed to have been unoccupied. Police and firefighters barricaded the end of each block, and a police officer watched overnight to protect any wanderers.
Debris continued to fall off the building periodically as fire fighters shoveled scattered bricks back into a pile. A car door and boarded window frame lin the building ooked as though it could fall at any second. And cracks to the top corners of the building were illuminated by lights from first responders.
The owner, Randy Vilela, said he used the building to store car parts. Vilela said he was in the building in the last few days, but did not notice anything out of the ordinary.
Vilela said he also owns the building just south of the structure which collapsed and another behind it. He was not sure if the building was covered by insurance.
The building is over a century old, and Vilela said he purchased the building about 20 years ago.
City Manager Daron Hall showed up about 30 minutes after first responders. Hall said it is the owner’s responsibility to clean up the bricks.
“We need to get it cleaned up in the morning,” Hall said. “But before we do that, we need to knock off as much of the lose stuff as we can and then we will get our building guys in there and see what we have for the rest of the building.”
On Friday morning, after a backhoe knocked down chunks of dangling wall, a worker meticulously pulled off brick like some two-story version of Jenga. The worker was lifted to the second story on a platform.
Meanwhile, Dexter Neisler, city inspectior, examined the outside of the building. Neisler said it would be a few days before he could inspect the inside of the building. Then, he will help determine whether or not the building should be demolished, which would be at the owner’s expense.
“None of these are reinforced bricks,” Neisler said. “You can see the water has gotten down in there, probably over the winter and expanded over the years.”

New business helps promote fire safety

By Kerri Bates
Emporia Gazette – August 31, 2015

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Co-owners Jamey Pettigrew and Tom Andrews began their business, Hornet Fire Protection, on Aug. 1. With 43 combined years in local fire service, the two felt that Emporia had a need for a locally-owned fire extinguisher company. The pair provides fire extinguisher services that include sales, maintenance and inspection to local businesses.
Prior to founding Hornet Fire Protection, the two performed business inspections enforcing fire codes for the local fire department. Through those experiences, they discovered that many business owners are unaware of either fire regulations or how to fulfill them.
“A lot of businesses don’t know what they need. What we’ve both ran into time and time again over the years is that a fire extinguisher company might sell them more than they need,” said Andrews, former fire marshal of Emporia. “We’re not interested in doing that. We know exactly what they need and where they should be placed.”
The pair strives to provide the community with their expertise at an affordable price. With less overhead costs, Andrews believes that their fire extinguisher services are the best around.
“A lot of businesses’ funds are limited — they’re on a budget. Fire extinguishers are something they have to have and they have to maintain, but the business owner may not want to spend a lot of money on that,” said Andrews.
Although the focus of Hornet Fire Protection is local businesses, they will also service fire extinguishers for individuals.
“People will get them, but then they’ll stick them under the cabinet or in the garage or something. Years go by and there’s no maintenance done on the fire extinguishers. So then when they do need it, if they’re able to find it when they need it, then there’s no guarantee that it’s going to work … so we will encourage people to bring in their personal fire extinguishers and let us service them.”
In addition to their extinguisher services, Hornet Fire Protection offers fire extinguisher demonstrations on controlled fires for businesses so that employees know where their fire extinguisher is and how to use it.
“Most people have never even used a fire extinguisher and don’t even know the first thing except that it’s sitting somewhere in the office,” said Pettigrew.
The fire extinguisher demonstrations are free to non-profit organizations, and a small fee for other businesses.
For more information on Hornet Fire Protection, visit

Firefighters rescue residents who had gone to roof after apartment building blaze

By Tim Hrenchir
Topeka Capital Journal – August 30, 2015

Topeka firefighters said they helped two people reach the ground after they fled to the roof during a fire late Friday in an apartment building at 614 S.W. 9th.

The blaze was contained to a basement apartment, where it partially consumed a mattress, said investigator Rusty Vollintine of the Topeka Fire Department.

One person was taken from the scene to a Topeka hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening, said Fire Marshal Mike Martin. That person’s identity and further information about his or her condition weren’t available Saturday.

The blaze took place just east of Topeka High School, 800 S.W. 10th. It did estimated damages totaling $20,000 to the building and $1,000 to its contents, Vollintine said.

The cause remained undetermined, though the fire department continued to investigate, he said.

Vollintine said firefighters were called shortly after 10 p.m. to a report of a possible structure fire with people trapped at the multiple-unit apartment building, and arrived to find light smoke coming from the structure.

Firefighters found two occupants on the roof and used ground ladders to help them to ground level, while all other occupants escaped on their own, Vollintine said.

Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control, according to Vollintine.

He said five fire companies, two battalion chiefs, a safety officer and an investigator responded to the scene, where they were assisted by the Topeka Police Department, American Medical Response, Westar Energy, Kansas Gas Service and the Shawnee County Crisis Intervention Team.

Shawnee County appraisal records at show the property has an appraised value of $76,400 and has been owned since February 2014 by the Overbrook-based Grassy Field Foundation.

Bonner Springs man drowns at Perry Lake in Kansas

By Shain Bergan
KSHB – August 31, 2015

jefferson co fire 8302015

A Bonner Springs man drowned at Perry Lake in Kansas on Saturday night, according to the Jefferson County sheriff.

Police and emergency crews were called at 5:25 p.m. to the Party Cove area of Perry Lake in reference to a man who jumped into the water, but never emerged. Dive teams recovered the body of Jeremy Welch, 30, at 8:55 p.m., said Sheriff Jeffrey Herrig.

Herrig said Welch was with several friends at the time. They tethered their boats together, and Welch jumped off of the back of one of the boats and into the water. His friends sought help when he never came back up, according to the sheriff.

Herrig said the area is often referred to as “black water” because of the lack of visibility just a few feet beneath the surface. Swimmers sometimes jump into the water, get disoriented and swim down instead of up, he said.

The sheriff said he did not know if alcohol was a factor, saying autopsy results will determine that.

The victim’s family was notified.

Battle of the Badges

By Nicolas Wahl
Newton Kansan – August 31, 2015

Photo by Nicolas Wahl. Deputy Chief Scott Metzler of Newton Fire/EMS gives blood Friday morning at the Battle of the Badges blood drive.

Photo by Nicolas Wahl. Deputy Chief Scott Metzler of Newton Fire/EMS gives blood Friday morning at the Battle of the Badges blood drive.

Newton’s finest and first responders strode in alongside folks from the community this week to rekindle the flames of a friendly rivalry that has been burning for nearly a decade.

The Ninth Annual Newton Battle of the Badges blood drive teamed with Newton Police and Fire/EMS as personnel from the agencies teamed with the American Red Cross in a competition to increase blood donations Aug. 27, 28 at the First Church of the Nazarene.

“We enjoy a healthy rivalry with our brothers and sisters in law enforcement,” said Scott Metzler, deputy chief at Newton Fire/EMS. “But really the people who win are the people who need the blood.”

Geneva Land of the Red Cross said this year’s Battle brought in more than 170 pints or blood in just over nine hours.

“One pint has the potential to supply three hospital patients in need,” she said. “Enough blood was donated to serve more than 500 patients.”

The departments spread the word via social media and word of mouth to gather public support for their side. Up for grabs were another year of bragging rights and a trophy as donors got the opportunity to cast their vote for either those who serve and protect or those who race to rescue at a moments notice.

“It’s important to be able to help people out,” said Newton Police Chief Eric Murphy,” That’s the biggest thing. It doesn’t matter who wins. … We’d like the police to win, but it’s the giving of the blood that matters.”

Both police and fire/EMS workers share the first-hand knowledge of what donations mean.

“This is a useful thing for everyone in our community, and because we do interact with people who receive blood products on a regular basis it does hit close to home,” Metzler said.

Land said the need was especially great this time around.

“We’ve seen a decrease in blood donations,” Land said. “Right now we are on an urgent need O-positive, O-negative, B-negative and A-Negative (blood). Us baby boomers are getting older. We’re becoming ineligible to give. Lifestyles are changing. More people are working full time.”

Land said the Red Cross tries to collect about 500 pints of blood every day in the South Central Kansas, Northwestern Oklahoma region. Every two seconds someone in the U.S. is in need of blood.

“We’re looking for the younger generation to step up to the plate,” Land said. “It’s our community. It’s our responsibility.”

Land said giving whole blood takes between 20 and 30 minutes. Some donors are eligible to donate via double red cell donation, which takes up to an hour, but has the potential to produce more lifesaving blood. Murphy, Metzler and many other police and fire/EMS workers opted for the hour of giving this year.

The final votes for the competition will not be released until 7:15 a.m. Sept. 18 at the Chamber Breakfast in the Meridian Center, but at least one potential voter was rooting for the underdog.

Fire/EMS has taken home the trophy each of the last few years. Robert Christin, wanted to cast a vote for his mother, Melody Christin, who donated Friday afternoon. His ballot?

“The Police,” he said with a big smile.

3 taken to hospital after Hutch crash

By Adam Stewart
Hutchinson News – August 31, 2015

Photos by Jacob Byk. Click on photos to view full size image.

Photos by Jacob Byk. Click on photos to view full size image.

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Three people were taken to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center after a two-vehicle crash Saturday at the intersection of Third Avenue and Poplar Street in Hutchinson.

Hutchinson Police Department reported that Betty Preston, 85, of South Hutchinson was driving eastbound on Third Avenue and failed to yield at a Poplar Street stop sign, causing a vehicle driven southbound by Tena Nading, 52, of Hutchinson to strike Preston’s vehicle on the left side. The crash was reported at 12:36 p.m.

Nading and passenger Heather Jordan of Hutchinson, 28, of Hutchinson were taken to Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, as was Preston’s passenger, William Preston, 85, of South Hutchinson.

Betty was driving a Chevrolet passenger car. Nading was driving a Dodge sport utility vehicle.

Betty was given a ticket for disobeying the stop sign, according to the Hutchinson Police Department bulletin.

Police reported that everyone in the crash was wearing a seat belt.

Fire destroys shop building southeast of Salina

By Erin Mathews
Salina Journal – August 31, 2015

The cause of a fire that destroyed a small shop building southeast of Salina on Saturday night remains under investigation, said Rural Fire District No. 1 Chief Rod Ade.

Ade said the steel frame building was “totally involved” when District No. 1 firefighters arrived at the scene in the 4000 block of South Simpson Road between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m.

He said Sunday afternoon that he did not have the name of the homeowner who came outside and discovered the fire in his shop. He said the shop contained a lawnmower and numerous hand tools. On Sunday, Ade said he did not yet have an estimate of the damage done.

Semi’s burning tires light several grass fires, create hazard on I-70

By Erin Mathews
Salina Journal – August 31, 2015

Rural firefighters and law enforcement responded to a number of small grass fires Sunday afternoon along Interstate Highway 70 west of Salina that were started by a semitrailer with burning tires and caused smoke thick enough to create a traffic hazard.

Rural Fire District No. 3 Chief Scott Abker said firefighters were first called at 2:55 p.m., and as they arrived, they saw a thick, black smoke column rising from the area.

Abker said law enforcement were requested to provide traffic control as eastbound traffic was reduced to one lane between Reese and Brookville roads, while firefighters attacked the burning tires on the semitrailer, five grass fires in the median and three grass fires on the south side of the eastbound lane.

Abker said the fires created thick smoke for about three-quarters of a mile that impeded visibility. He said Saline County sheriff’s deputies and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers dealt with the traffic slowdown and prevented any accidents from occurring.

“Anytime you have traffic bottled into one lane and slowed down you are very likely to have an incident, but the guys in law enforcement did a great job of keeping the traffic moving,” Abker said.

Abker said he did not have the driver’s name Sunday afternoon, and he thought the fire had been started by some type of mechanical failure. He said the fire did not spread to the cab of the truck, and the driver had it unhitched from the burning trailer when firefighters arrived.

Abker said the truck was hauling a load of what appeared to be aluminum metal shavings, some of which spilled onto the road when the fire burned through the trailer. He said the driver had attempted unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames using an onboard extinguisher and bottles of water.

Abker said firefighters left the scene at about 4:20 p.m., although they were called back to extinguish hot spots in the trailer.

He said the trailer remained on the side of the road when firefighters left, and he said he thought it was likely a second semi would have to be brought out to haul away the load of metal shavings. He said the trailer had buckled in the middled and it was going to complicate the cleanup.

Ronald “Ron” Leon Michel


Ronald “Ron” Leon Michel, 67, died Aug. 20, 2015, at Hospice House, Hutchinson. He was born May 11, 1948, in Hays, to Leon G. and Onita Mary (Stanton) Michel.

Ron graduated from Belpre-Trousdale High School in 1966 and attended the University of Kansas as a lineman. He was employed for Cobb Cable TV in Great Bend and later became manager of Fredonia Cable TV in Fredonia. Several years later, Ron, along with business partner, Jerry McClure, purchased Murphy Electric in Fredonia, where they built a successful business. After Murphy Electric, he owned and operated Michel Electric. He then became a master electrician for KSIR. During his time in Fredonia, he served as a volunteer on the Fredonia Fire Department. Ron was an avid golfer. He also enjoyed fishing, camping, hunting, gardening and cooking.

On Feb. 14, 1992, Ron married Mary Elizabeth Gibson in Hutchinson. She survives. Other survivors include: son, Christopher Michel of Wichita; daughters, Katherine Michel of the Wichita area, Kirsten Weishaar and husband Brian of Lawrence; stepdaughters, Debra Watters of Boise, Idaho, Tricia Thompson and husband Larry of Lawrence, Tanya Rempel and husband Gregg of Wichita; grandchildren, William Ferguson, Rhiana Ferguson-Beck, Brooke Thompson, Cody Thompson, Jordan Rempel, Jacob Rempel, Kamryn Weishaar; great-grandchildren, Jayden Beck and Billy Ferguson; mother, Onita Michel-McBride of Haysville; brother, Ed Michel and wife Gloria of Derby; sisters, Jan Middlemist and husband Mark of Holton, Jeri Meier and husband Dennis of Muskogee, Okla.; and sister-in-law, Sharon Michel of Liberal. Ron was preceded in death by his father and brother, Tom Michel.

Funeral service will be 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, at Elliott Chapel, Hutchinson, with the Reverend Dr. Kim Biery officiating. Burial will follow at 4:30 p.m. in Farmington Cemetery, Macksville, with Father Warren Stecklein officiating. Family will greet friends from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday at Elliott Chapel. Memorials may be made to Hospice of Reno County, in care of Elliott Mortuary, 1219 N. Main, Hutchinson, KS 67501.

One killed, one hurt in crash near Jetmore

By Reggie Wilson
KWCH – August 28, 2015

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One person has died, another is in a Wichita hospital after a crash in Western Kansas late Thursday.

The crash, involving a semi and a car, happened at around 10:00 p.m. on Highway 156 between Jetmore and Hanston.

The driver of the truck was flown to a Wichita hospital for treatment. That person’s condition is not known.

Parts of the highway were closed in that area overnight, but reopened Friday morning.

No word yet on what caused the crash.

Regional rescue team training Saturday

Hays Daily News – August 28, 2015

Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, the Northwest Kansas Regional Rescue Team will be conducting a search-and-rescue training exercise at the Hess Services plant, 230th Avenue and Feedlot Road. The exercise will simulate the coordinated search of a wide area and the rescue of trapped persons after a tornado strike.

The Northwest Kansas Regional Rescue Team is operated by the Hays Fire Department and is cooperatively staffed by specially trained firefighters from the Ellis County Rural, Ellis, Victoria and Hays fire departments. The team serves the 18 counties in the northwest region of the state providing building collapse, confined space, trench cave-in and high-elevation rescue services.

In addition to the Hays Fire Department, the Ellis County Rural Fire Department, Ellis County EMS and Ellis County Emergency Management will be participating in this exercise to simulate a full emergency response.

The members of the regional rescue team would like to thank Hess Services for its cooperation and assistance in conducting the exercise.

Truck fire at Fifth Ave. and Main

By Dalton Carver
Winfield Courier – August 28, 2015

Photo by Dalton Carver

Photo by Dalton Carver

A truck caught fire on Fifth and Main while waiting for a train to pass Thursday afternoon. There were no injuries, according to Lt. Chad Gordon of the Winfield Police Department.
The train forced the fire department and WPD to find other ways around the railroad tracks and blocked traffic all the way to Ninth Avenue.
The cause of the fire is undetermined at the time of this release.

Newton Fire/EMS accepting applications

The Newton Fire/EMS Department is accepting applications for the positions of Firefighter/EMT and Firefighter/Paramedic.

Successful applicants will demonstrate a strong moral and ethical foundation, the ability to work as a member of a closely knit team, above-average communication skill, and exceptional problem-solving ability.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a member of Newton Fire/EMS, you may view the job description, salary range, and application requirements, as well as complete an application here.

One person dead after officer involved crash in KCK

By Kathy Quinn
FOX 4 News – August 28, 2015

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One person is dead after an accident Thursday night that involved an officer in KCK.

Police say the accident happened near 7th and New Jersey around 10:30 p.m

According to police, the officer was headed as backup to a call of an impaired driver. As the officer was traveling down 7th Street he crashed into the passenger side of a Honda Civic that was turning left into an apartment complex. The Honda Civic was not the vehicle involved in the original call the officer was headed to.

A man sitting in the passenger side of the Honda died from his injuries, police say. The female driver was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

Because the accident involves a KCK officer, the Highway Patrol is conducting the investigation. The Highway Patrol says there was an open bottle of liquor in the Honda and the driver admitted to being intoxicated.

Fuel spills into pond after 6th & Gage wreck; HazMat team responds

By Nick Viviani
WIBW – August 27, 2015

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A midday wreck involving a car and a flatbed truck sent one person to the hospital and brought in HazMat teams to clean up spilled fuel, according to the Topeka Police Dept.

The crash happened just after noon on Thursday at the intersection of 6th Street and Gage Blvd., police said. One person was taken to the hospital with unknown injuries. Police did not say which vehicle that person was in.

The Topeka Fire Dept.’s HazMat crew responded after dozens of gallons of gasoline poured into a storm sewer and a nearby pond, police said.

Crews are still on the scene as of 1:30 p.m., collecting and securingthe contaminated material.

Rental car damaged by shoe fire

By Jared Broyles
KSNT – August 27, 2015

It’s a strange story out of Manhattan: a car damaged by flaming shoes. It happened in the 500 block of Osage Street.

A report for criminal damage to property and arson was filed Monday morning around 8:20 AM. The incident reportedly happened shortly before that. A 38-year-old man told police that his rental vehicle was damaged after someone lit a pair of shoes nearby. It isn’t clear why the kicks were torched to begin with. However, the SUV belonging to Enterprise Leasing was damaged in the incident.

The total damage is estimated at $1,600, and RCPD officers continue to investigate.

Garland Gene Williams


Garland Gene Williams passed away July 10, 2015, due to complications of lung cancer.

Cremation has taken place and no service is planned at this time.

Garland was born in Wichita to Glen and Katie (Will) Williams. He married Jacqueline Bishop in 1961. They had two children, Garland Glenn Williams and Kathy Williams and later divorced.

He operated Strakka Repair in the 60’s and was a great mechanic his whole life. He had the skill to fix anything with a motor that needed to be fixed. He worked as a fireman for the McPherson Fire Department. Garland took great pride in being a fireman and was an assistant fire chief. When he left the department, he worked for the local refinery as a mechanic for a time.

He loved to laugh and spent many hours playing practical jokes on family and friends. He was an avid fisherman spending as much time as he could reeling them in. Not only could he catch fish, but cook them as well.

He was a good cook that enjoyed spending time around the dinner table with family. Garland loved gardening and had a knack for getting things to grow.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Glen and Katie Williams; two brothers, Garwood “Woody” Williams and Bob Williams; and one sister, Velma Moses.

He is Survived by two children, Glenn (Dena) Williams, McPherson, and Kathy Williams, (Robert Stadick), Underwood, North Dakota; four grandchildren, Ashley Williams, McPherson, Isiah Williams, McPherson, Melissa Kent, Wichita, Crystal Beckwith, McPherson; nine great-grandchildren; two sisters, Leona Graves and Donnette Dalrymple; and many nieces and nephews.

Car crashes into southeast Wichita home killing one

KSN – August 27, 2015

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Traffic will be completely shut down on Lincoln from Elpyco to Pinecrest for several hours Thursday morning.

Lt. James Espinosa with the Wichita Police Department says early in the morning a vehicle struck a home near the 800 block of South Bleckley, causing a fire and killing one person inside the vehicle.

The person inside the home was not harmed.

Lt. Espinosa says police are searching the area for one person who fled the scene of the accident on foot.

At this time it is not known if the vehicle intentionally struck the home or if it was an accident.

KSN has a crew at the scene. We will bring you updates as soon as they become available.

NABC in Manhattan offers training for first responders

By Katya Leick
KSNT – August 27, 2015

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If your family is in danger, you expect their rescuers to know what to do. First responders need to know to deal with all kinds of trouble, even hazardous materials.

The Manhattan Fire Department is one of the first crews to get to almost any emergency and we expect them to know how to deal with any situation, which is why their firefighters participate in monthly training.

“It’s good for if we ever have an event, be whatever kind of HAZMAT event it is, it’s good training for us to always refresh,” says Battalion Chief Mark Whitehair with Manhattan Fire Department.

HAZMAT training involves dealing with groups of people who need to be decontaminated.

“It’s extremely important,” says Gary Sevenans a participant and fire truck driver. “The last thing we want to do is get our other crew members contaminated by these substances or we get our family members contaminated by these kind of substances,”

Which is why the Kansas State University’s National Agricultural Biosecurity center, or NABC, is holding animal disease response training. It prepares them for things like bird flu.

Ken Burton with the NABC says it will “give that base of knowledge so they can communicate the information that they need to the other agencies that they are working with and also get a good feel for why they are doing what they are doing in the response.”

They provide training to ensure that state and local first responders are prepared for whatever comes their way.

“The planning and the education before something like that happens is priceless,” say Burton, because you can’t put a price on protecting your family. The NABC courses are available now for agencies to sign up and schedule.

Teen driver hospitalized after collision with KHP vehicle

Hays Post – August 27, 2015

Photos by Kansas Highway Patrol

Photos by Kansas Highway Patrol

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A teen driver was injured in an accident just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday in Johnson County.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reported a 1998 Chevy passenger vehicle driven by Blaine M. Shapley, 18, Smithville, MO.,
was southbound on Interstate 35 just south of Interstate 435.

The driver failed to maintain a single lane to the right and struck the rear of a 2014 Kansas Highway Patrol Chevy Tahoe.

The Tahoe with emergency lights activated was legally parked on the right shoulder. The KC Metro trooper was outside the vehicle assisting a 2005 Peterbilt semi driven by Michael J. Gibson, 73, Oskaloosa, that had been involved in a non-injury collision.

Shapley was transported to Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

The trooper and Gibson were not injured. Shapley was properly restrained at the time of the accident, according to the KHP.

First responders help elderly woman

By Michael Stavola
Pittsburg Morning Sun – August 27, 2015

Pittsburg police Officer Pamela McCubbin tightening the lug nuts on woman's car involved in an accident on Broadway Street Wednesday. Photo by Michael Stavola.

Pittsburg police Officer Pamela McCubbin tightening the lug nuts on woman’s car involved in an accident on Broadway Street Wednesday. Photo by Michael Stavola.

A police officer and two firefighters helped an elderly woman get back on the road after an accident on Broadway Street around noon on Wednesday.

Mary Pouch was driving northbound on Broadway Street, and apparently did not see the vehicle heading south as she attempted to turn onto Washington Street and was struck by another vehicle. Pouch and the driver of the other vehicle were not injured. Pouch said it was a burden to her day, but was happy the first responders helped fix a flat tire, which resulted from the accident.

“Thank God for them,” Pouch said, adding she was not able to change the tire herself.

Officer Pamela McCubbin and firefighters Justin Ziesenis and Joe Wilcox, all of Pittsburg, helped change the tire.

“We like to help the community whenever we can,” Wilcox said.

Pouch said she had not been in an accident for years.

“But it’s an accident and accidents happen,” McCubbin said to Pouch.

Pouch’s spare tire was a little low, so McCubbin followed Pouch to Casey’s General Store and put air in the tire.

Next Dodge City fire chief appointed

Hutchinson News – August 27, 2015

Longtime Dodge City Fire Department member Robert Heinz will take over as the city’s fire chief in December, City Manager Cherise Tieben announced Wednesday.

Heinz joined the department as a firefighter in March 1985. Over the years, he was promoted to fire engineer and fire captain before being promoted to deputy fire chief in 2011.

“Robert’s 30 years of experience with the department, as well as his serving in the deputy position for four years, has prepared him to take over the leadership of the department,” Tieben said in the announcement.

Heinz said he doesn’t anticipate any significant changes in how the department operates.

Heinz will complete a University of Kansas certified public manager program before taking over as fire chief on Dec. 21, when current Fire Chief Kevin Norton plans to retire.

It is the second announcement of a change in leadership in the city’s emergency departments in a week. On Friday, the city announced the appointment of Drew Francis as the next police chief.

Crews battle apartment fire near downtown Wichita

KWCH – August 26, 2015

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Wichita firefighters battled an apartment fire Tuesday afternoon in the 300 block of N. Emporia.

Dispatch said fire and smoke were spotted at the apartment building at about 3:15 p.m.

911 dispatchers say crews found fire on the third floor of the apartment building. Wichita Deputy Fire Chief Tammy Snow said the fire occurred in the kitchen of a third-floor apartment.

Investigators say the fire started after a burner on a stove was accidentally left on. The flames spread to a microwave and cabinets above the stove.

Investigators say the sprinkler system in the apartment kept the fire in check, but created water damage. Investigators estimate about $10,000 structural damage and about $25,000 in damage to contents in the building.

The power to the building was shut off due to extensive water damage used to extinguish the fire. Residents who were evacuated

The building was evacuated from the third floor after the fire alarm began. There were no reports of injuries. The residents that were evacuated have been allowed to return to their apartments.

Friesen is newest Hays city firefighter

Hays Post – August 25, 2015

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Allison Friesen was recently appointed to the position of Firefighter with the City of Hays Fire Department, according to HFD Gary Brown. Firefighter Friesen is certified as an Emergency Medical Technician and holds a BS degree in General Studies from Fort Hays State University.

Prior to being assigned to regular duty, she completed an eight-week course of instruction to qualify as a basic firefighter and fire truck driver operator.

Friesen now starts an on-the-job training program for national certification as both a basic and advanced firefighter, including hazardous materials operations, and fire truck driver operator.

She will also complete advanced training to serve as an airport firefighter meeting FAA standards, and for technical rescue work including vehicle crash, machinery entanglement, building collapse, confined space, water and ice and trench cave-in rescue as well as rescue from heights.

Remembering Ryan

By Jessie Wagoner
Emporia Gazette – August 25, 2015


Ryan Lane loved to go fishing. Saturday afternoon, he went fishing with his friends Garrett and Logun Fager. When they finished, the boys hopped on a Polaris Ranger ATV and headed home, but Ryan didn’t make it.

According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, the ATV, driven by 11-year-old Garrett Fager, lost control and rolled over. The accident occurred at Road 360 and Road X, three miles north of the city of Miller. Ryan was transported to the hospital but died as a result of his injuries.

“It was an accident,” Tracy Lane, Ryan’s mother, said. “He spent the day doing what he wanted to do, fishing with his friends. That morning he did what he wanted to do with his dad, hauling dirt and spreading it on the field with his dad.”

Ryan was much-loved by his family — parents Tracy and Dallas Lane and his twin sister Callie. Ryan and Callie were preparing to celebrate their 10th birthday together in two weeks. Tracy Lane says the siblings were nearly inseparably.

“She doesn’t understand it,” Tracy Lane said. “They do everything together. They eat lunch together, ride together on the bus, come home and play together. He was her world.”

While Ryan loved his family the most, playing baseball was a close second. He began playing T-ball and just recently finished the baseball season.

Tracy says the family has experienced an outpouring of support from the community — people have called, texted, stopped by their home and sent messages via Facebook. It reminds her of what an impact Ryan made on the world and the people he knew.

“It’s amazing that at 9 years old, almost 10, that he made that much of an impact on people,” Tracy Lane said. “It is surreal but actually it is kind of comforting knowing what a good boy and good man he was growing up to be.”

Following the accident, some of Ryan’s organs were able to be donated to other pediatric patients in need. Tracy says that the arteries and valves from his heart were able to be donated as well as his eyes.

“He had the most beautiful, big blue eyes,” Tracy Lane said. “His eyes and his corneas will help someone else see the world in the way he did.”

Ryan attended Osage City Elementary School. Troy Hutton, superintendent of schools, says that counseling services are being offered at both the elementary and middle schools to help students and teachers as they grieve.

“We are a member of Greenbush Learning Center Crisis and School Safety Consortium,” Hutton said. “We made contact with them for assistance. We have extra counseling in the building. It is a difficult day, but they are holding up and we are getting through the day.”

Funeral services for Ryan are at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the First Presbyterian Church, 202 S. Sixth St. in Osage City. A memorial fund in Ryan’s honor has been established. Donations can be sent to the the VanArsdale Funeral Home, 107 N. Sixth St., Osage City, KS 66523.

City records fourth house fire in 2015

By Chris Strunk
Ark Valley News – July 30, 2015
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – August 25, 2015

It’s been a bad year for house fires in Valley Center, and some of the most dangerous months are still ahead.

On July 23, firefighters responded to a residence at 555 N. Emporia to extinguish a blaze that started on a stove in the kitchen. The fire spread to cabinets above the stove and then reached the attic.

Fire Capt. Rob Tormey called the damage extensive.

It was the second kitchen-related fire and fourth house fire, including a fatality, in Valley Center this year.

Usually, fire officials said, the city will see one or two such fires in a year.

There was one structure fire in 2012, two in 2013 and two in 2014.

It’s unusual to have four, Tormey said.

On January 9, a 69-year-old woman was killed in a house fire at 400 N. Hickory. The cause of the fire is undetermined. It was the first fire fatality in Valley Center in many years, fire officials said.

On April 6, a family escaped harm when their home at 600 Redbud in the Ridgefield neighborhood caught fire. Fire officials said the late afternoon fire was caused by an unattended pot on the stove in the kitchen.

On July 12, a family of four was displaced when their mobile home was destroyed by fire. The blaze was caused by a smoldering cigarette butt.

“It’s only July,” Tormey said.

Fire-related incidents frequently occur in the winter months, when residents turn on their heaters for the first time.

At the July 23 fire, Valley Center Police Officer Eric Leeker said he was driving on Fifth Street about 6:45 p.m. and noticed smoke billowing from the roof of the residence. Leeker met the homeowner, Helen Claycomb, in front of the home.

Claycomb told Leeker that no one was inside the house. Leeker opened the front door of the residence in an attempt to put the fire out, but was unsuccessful because of the heat and smoke.

Firefighters arrived and put the fire out. Crews cleared the scene about 10 p.m.

In 2012, the cause of a Christmas Day fire was undetermined. In 2013, two home fires–one on East Third and another on North West–started in chimneys. In 2014, fireworks were suspected in a July 5 garage fire at Fourth and Park and a power line sparked a garage fire on North Park.

Training for Grain

By Veronica Coons
Great Bend Tribune – August 25, 2015

Steve Shearrer, a Great Bend Co-op Pawnee Rock elevator employee, volunteered to be the first "victim" for grain engulfment training at the Ellinwood Fire Department last Thursday afternoon, Aug. 20. Joe MacAnulla, a Great Bend elevator employee, assembled the cofferdam that surrounds Shearrer, and instructor Kevin Stansfield demonstrated the use of a hand auger used to remove grain from around the victim. Photos by Veronica Coons

Steve Shearrer, a Great Bend Co-op Pawnee Rock elevator employee, volunteered to be the first “victim” for grain engulfment training at the Ellinwood Fire Department last Thursday afternoon, Aug. 20. Joe MacAnulla, a Great Bend elevator employee, assembled the cofferdam that surrounds Shearrer, and instructor Kevin Stansfield demonstrated the use of a hand auger used to remove grain from around the victim. Photos by Veronica Coons

Attendees at grain engulfment rescue training Thursday learn techniques for cutting open a grain bin to release grain, a necessity when a body is completely engulfed in grain.

Attendees at grain engulfment rescue training Thursday learn techniques for cutting open a grain bin to release grain, a necessity when a body is completely engulfed in grain.

Area grain elevator workers learn to assemble a cofferdam, which they would use to rescue a mock victim at the grain engulfment rescue training that was held in Ellinwood last Thursday.

Area grain elevator workers learn to assemble a cofferdam, which they would use to rescue a mock victim at the grain engulfment rescue training that was held in Ellinwood last Thursday.

In 15 seconds, a person who weighs 165 pounds can be engulfed up to their waist inside a grain bin under some conditions.
That’s the point of no-return without the help of others.
Thursday, representatives from the Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute, conducted grain engulfment rescue training using the University of Kansas Grain Engulfment trailer at the Ellinwood Fire Department. They spent the day training area emergency responders and grain elevator employees how to save a life when the unthinkable happens.
With over 300 pounds of pressure surrounding a partially submerged victim, simply throwing the person a rope and pulling isn’t an option. In fact, severe injury can occur. The only safe way out is to use a coffer-dam and remove the grain from the person. During the morning, responders and grain elevator employees from a Great Bend and Pawnee County Co-ops and Gavilon Grain of Silica attended a four hour classroom training session of elevator operations, OSHA regulations and safety procedures. The afternoon featured live, hands-on training in lifesaving techniques that need to become automatic in just this sort of a split-second emergency.
“We train our employees in these techniques, but when we had a chance to get training from outside, we jumped on it,” said Great Bend Coop’s Dennis Neeland. “We hope it conveys to our employees that we care about their well being.”
Into the grain
Steve Shearrer, an employee at the Great Bend Coop Pawnee Rock elevator, volunteered to be the first ‘victim’ of the afternoon. Donning the safety harness all co-op workers are required to wear on the occasional trips into the grain elevators, he was lowered into the miniature grain bin on the trailer. Then, instructor Kevin Stansfield with the Great Bend Fire Department flipped a switch which opened the gate on the bin, simulating the rapid suction that traps the victim.
Once Shearrer was submersed between waist and chest deep, he closed the gate. In a real life event, the vast majority of people who become completely submersed in grain are not recovered alive.
Next, Joe MacAnulla was lowered into the bin where he assembled a cofferdam piece by piece around the victim. As he moved around, the grain, like sand, packed tighter around Shearer.
“There is a danger the victim could become claustrophobic inside the cofferdam,” Stansfield explained, “but we don’t want it to be too big because it will take longer to extract the victim.”
Four quarter-round sections are pounded together behind and to the sides of Shearer, with the front panel being slid into place last. Then, removal of the grain could begin, relieving that pressure little by little.
First, MacAnulla was instructed to hand Shearer an ice scoop so he could begin to dig himself out. This would be the most time-consuming removal method.
“You can use anything really to scoop the grain out from around the victim,” Stansfield said. “It takes longer, but the coffer dam buys you time.”
Next, a grain porter was used. The long rectangular tool with a trap door on the bottom was continuously shoved into the grain and pulled out again, with each thrust filling the interior with more grain. When it was almost full, it was awkwardly removed from inside the dam, and the grain pouted out. Slowly, the level of grain was brought down to Shearrer’s waist.
Finally, Stansfield asked for the porter to be exchanged for a hand auger. Powered with a battery powered hand drill, the auger proved to be the fastest method yet. Grain was quickly drawn up and out of the interior, until the batter wore down. The rescue was paused while workers retrieved a freshly charged battery. It wouldn’t be long at that point that Shearer was able to feel his feet again and begin making tiny step motions.
MacAnulla worked sections of the dam further down, relieving more pressure from Shearrer’s lower extremities. A step hooked onto slots at the top of each section allowed him to put his body weight to work. He continued to remove the grain, and soon it was below Shearer’s waist, then his knees.
Shearer was able to use his hands to move the grain around him towards the auger, but if he had been unresponsive, Stansfield said the rescuers could use a long-handled hoe to move the grain.
Stepping became easier, and eventually Shearrer was free of the grain and was pulled out by the rope attached to his harness. MacAnulla slowly disassembled the dam and pulled out last.
Grim work
Chris Komarek, Ellinwood’s fire chief, said he has been called to assist with extractions from grain bins twice in his 35-year career. Today, commercial elevators have many safety procedures in place and are subject to OSHA regulations. But more and more independent farmers are storing their own grain, and they aren’t subject to the same rules and regulations, he said. While some of the attendees at Monday’s demonstration were busy learning how to save a partially submerged subject, others learned what to do in the event a worker becomes completely submerged.
More often then not, the procedure becomes a recovery, not a rescue. Instructors demonstrated how to cut openings into the side of a grain bin, leaving a tab in order to regulate the release of grain.
“It needs to be big enough to get grain out, but also small enough a body to retrieve a body,” said Brian Welsch, and instructor from the Kansas City, Kans. Fire Department.
Komarek said while the instances when grain engulfment occur are infrequent, its important all his men know how to respond, and where they can access needed equipment with short notice. Often, that’s through cooperation with area co-ops, he said.
The University of Kansas makes the trailer available for training firefighters and grain workers free of charge, thanks to donations by local co-ops. But the waiting list is long, with six to nine month waits common, Neeland said.

Cause of downtown fire undetermined

By Michael Maresh
Garden City Telegram – August 25, 2015

Nicholas Juache, owner of Lantera Juaritos speaks with a Kansas State Fire Marshal. Photo by James M. Dobson.

Nicholas Juache, owner of Lantera Juaritos speaks with a Kansas State Fire Marshal. Photo by James M. Dobson.

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The cause of the fire that tore through two downtown Garden City businesses Sunday night has been ruled as undetermined by the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton said Sunday night that it appeared that the fire was caused by an electrical isssue at Paleteria Juaritos, an ice cream shop at 214 S. Main St.

However, a press release issued Monday night by the Garden City Fire Department stated that the fire marshal’s office conducted an investigation Monday morning and determined that the fire started in a storage building at the rear of the ice cream shop and that the cause was undetermined.

According to the Garden City Fire Department, the fire started at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Firefighters responded and found a warehouse used to store tires at 212 S. Main St. engulfed in flames, with the fire extending into the rear of the ice cream shop.

The fire was brought under control by 11 p.m. Sunday, but firefighters remained at the location until 2:33 a.m. Monday.

When asked for a damage estimate from the fire, Shelton did not provide one and said the investigation was being performed by the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Nicholas Juache, owner of the ice cream shop, said he went to Dillons to pick up food and left his father at the business. He said he saw the smoke from the store. His father told him that the lights at the ice cream store went out moments before the fire started.

Juache also owns the Tireshop Juaritos & Alignment, a garage at 208 S. Main St. next to the warehouse.

Shelton said he and his wife, Patrice, own the warehouse, and Juache said he was renting the place from them to store his tires.

Juache said he would like for the warehouse to be rebuilt so he can have a place to store his tires.

“We have to bring that building back,” he said. “We are going to have to find a storage place somewhere.”

Juache, who opened his garage in 1999, has no plans to move his store anywhere else.

“I don’t want to go anywhere else when the building is still here,” Juache said.

He added that he wants to keep doing this job for the same customers he has served since 1999.

It could have been worse, he conceded to his customers on Monday.

“If this one (the tire shop) caught on fire, we are done,” he said.

Juache said he could not put a ballpark figure on the loss amount at this time, and fire investigators told him he would have to look at his inventory to determine the amount.

“It was a lot,” he said.

Juache said the plan is to rebuild the ice cream shop.

“We are going to have to. We want to bring it back,” he said.

Police, firefighters donate blood

By Michael Strand
Salina Journal – August 25, 2015

Salina Fire Chief Calvin Kelsey, above and Salina Police Chief Brad Nelson, right. Photo by Michael Strand.

Salina Fire Chief Calvin Kelsey, above and Salina Police Chief Brad Nelson, right. Photo by Michael Strand.

The quips back and forth between Salina police and firefighters on the first day of the annual “Battle of the Badges” blood drive were good-natured, but there was a grain of truth.

Interim Salina Fire Chief Calvin Kelsey and Police Chief Brad Nelson were among the first donors Monday afternoon at the three-day event at Sunrise Presbyterian Church, in which the city’s law enforcement officers and firefighters have a friendly competition to see which can recruit the most blood donors for the American Red Cross drive. Donors can vote for one of the departments, with both bragging rights and a trophy at stake.

The drive continues from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and Wednesday at Sunrise Presbyterian Church, 825 E. Beloit.

“Vote early, vote often; that’s the fire department’s motto,” Nelson said, while making his donation.

A few minutes later, Shane Pearson, EMS division chief for the Salina Fire Department, climbed onto a stretcher facing Nelson to make his donation.

“Hey, have the police ever won this, or have you guys always cheated?” Nelson asked, smirking. “It’s one or the other.”

Giving, and voting, twice

Across the room, Kelsey confirmed that he did plan to vote twice, and explained why.

Although he’s been a regular blood donor for 18 years, in the past five years he’s been what’s called a “double-red” donor. In that process, blood is run through a centrifuge to separate the red blood cells, platelets and plasma, with the platelets and plasma being pumped back into the donor.

The benefits are that one donation session nets twice the amount of red blood cells as a regular whole blood donation, the donor doesn’t feel run down afterward and one donation counts as two.

“I feel fine after this,” Kelsey said. “I don’t even feel like I’ve donated blood. And heck, yes, I’m voting twice.”

Double-red donors can’t donate as often, Kelsey said. They must wait 112 days between donations instead of the 56-day wait required after whole blood donations.

According to the Red Cross, people with O-, O+, A- and B- blood types are eligible to be double-red donors.

Tammy Hunnell, Red Cross account manager for Saline County, said the annual three-day “Battle of the Badges” drive is the area’s largest single drive. Typically, more than 400 units of blood are collected during the three days.

Most of that blood stays in the Salina area, Hunnell said.

Police have suspect in Dollar General bomb threat

Hays Post – August 24, 2015

hays fire 8242015

After just more than an hour, the scene of a Monday bomb threat has been cleared, according to law enforcement officials.

Just before 2 p.m. Monday, a bomb threat was called in to Dollar General, 1208 E. 27th. Public safety officials evacuated the store and blocked traffic on several roads in the immediate area during the investigation.

Just after 3 p.m., the store was declared safe, with no bomb found.

According to Lt. Brandon Wright of the Hays Police Department, a suspect has been identified and is in custody. The identity of the suspect has not been released.

Man trimming branches killed in fall from tree

KWCH – August 24, 2015

Wichita police say a man died Sunday after falling about 24 feet from a tree in which he was trimming branches.

Investigators say the man hit his head on concrete and died from the injury.

The incident was reported at about 12:20 p.m. in a neighborhood near 11th Street and Zoo Boulevard.

Russell Store Reports Bomb Threat

By David Elliott
KRSL – August 24, 2015

Russell law enforcement responded Monday afternoon to a store on North Fossil Street in regards to a bomb threat.

According to the Russell Police Department, at approximately 3:10 PM Monday, the PD received a call from the manager of the Dollar General Store at 1105 North Fossil in Russell advising their store received a call reference a bomb threat and requested authorities respond.

Officers from the Russell PD and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, along with personnel from the Russell City Fire Department and Russell County EMS responded.

There was nothing of a suspicious nature found in or around the store according to Russell Police Chief Dale Weimaster.

Weimaster said the incident in Russell is not believed to be connected to a separate bomb threat reported Monday in Hays.

Crash survivor thanks doctors, first responders

By Haley Harrison
KMBC – August 24, 2015

Video – 635

A woman who was hit by a wrong-way driver near Louisburg last winter says her recovery has given her a new outlook on life.

Amy Alexander said she didn’t know how bad her injuries from the Feb. 5 crash were until she reached the emergency room at Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

She said she felt hip and chest pain, but a CAT scan showed she had a torn aorta, an injury that could have killed her.

“Her chest CAT scan came up and I kind of got one of those wide-eyed, ‘uh oh’ moments because I immediately recognized there was a significant abnormality of her aorta,” said Dr. Don Fishman, of Overland Park Regional Medical Center.

Alexander spent 13 days in the hospital.

“I still experience pain. Most days I feel about 60 percent. Good days are 70 percent,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I am standing here and very thankful to be part of this great save event.”

Alexander appeared at the hospital for a ceremony to honor the doctors, firefighters and EMS responders who helped her.

She works in health care at one of the other HCA Midwest hospitals and has returned to work full-time.

Investigators said a 65-year-old man caused the crash. The Miami County District Attorney’s Office has not filed charges in the case.

Great Bend, Hoisington battle grass fire

By Susan Thacker
Great Bend Tribune – August 24, 2015

A spark from a power line is the suspected cause of a Sunday afternoon fire that scorched grass and trees northeast of Great Bend. The power company responded to repair the line.
Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said trucks were dispatched to 151 NE 40 Road at 1:54 p.m. They arrived to find a fire moving south through grass and numerous trees and evergreen bushes.
“The forward progress of the fire was stopped; however, units were on the scene for two hours extinguishing trees and brush,” he said. “Hoisington Fire also responded to assist.”
A possible grass fire on Friday afternoon presented less of a problem. Units were dispatched to NE 50 Ave. and West Barton County Road at 12:37 p.m., but when they arrived the small fire had already been extinguished.
There was also an unusual fire call at 6:55 a.m. Saturday. Units responded to mile marker 208 on East U.S. 56, to extinguish a gunny sack full of gloves and clothes burning on the edge of the highway.

Dog lost in early morning house fire

Hutchinson News – August 24, 2015

A family was uninjured but lost their dog in a house fire that caused $30,000 in damages early in the morning.

Hutchinson Fire Chief Kim Forbes said the pet was a large dog, but he didn’t know the breed or name. The cause of the fire was ruled as electrical, and the adult and two children escaped the blaze. The name of the family members were not made available.

The adult woke up to the smell of smoke and got the children out safely, according to Battalion Chief Darin Gehring.

Hutchinson Fire Department Blue Crew, led by Gehring, responded to the 800 block of West 22nd Avenue at 2:09 a.m. for a structure fire. When they arrived, firefighters found heavy fire and smoke coming from the southeast corner of the residence.

The fire was controlled in 15 minutes, but firefighters were at the house for three hours. Preliminary damage is estimated at $30,000. The fire was contained to one bedroom, but high heat and smoke damage were sustained throughout the rest of the residence.

Training Announcement – HazMat Technician Course

Training announcement

HazMat Technician Course

Location: Heartland Preparedness Center, 2808 N New York Street, Wichita, Ks 67219

Date: September 14-25 2015

Course Description: 

This is a 10 day, 80-hour course.

The Technician course is intended for those personnel that may respond to an incident involving hazardous materials/WMD and work in an offensive mode. Emphasis is placed on critical thinking skills, monitoring instruments, public safety sampling, and the use of specialized equipment and protective clothing required for working within the Hot-Zone.

This course is based on the content in the IFSTA manual Hazardous Materials Technician, 1st Edition.

The course meets or exceeds the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) professional qualifications standard 472, Standard on Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents (2013 edition) for Hazardous Materials Technician certification. By completing all of the lessons the student should be prepared for the Hazardous Materials Technician certification process.

All Students should be competent at the operations level prior to course start date. All students will be required to complete quizzes, written tests, and hands-on competencies with a minimum score of 70%.


Certification Testing:  Provided by Kansas Fire and Rescue Training Institute on the last Friday of the course.

Registration:  Register at  course ID# 1058805

For more information please contact

A.J. Clemmons


Direct line: 785-296-6493 Cell 785-207-2182

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