Archive for February, 2017

Convenience store fire blamed on ice machine’s compressor motor unit

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – February 28, 2017

Three Topeka-area fire departments were called to a blaze early Tuesday at a business just north of the city, authorities said.

The fire was reported about 3:20 a.m. at a strip mall in the 4700 block of N.W. Hunters Ridge Circle.

Initial reports indicated smoke was showing at one of the businesses at the property.

There was heavy smoke throughout the building, though the blaze was contained to two rooms belonging to a convenience store, Soldier Township Fire Chief Karl McNorton said.

The fire started in an ice machine’s compressor motor unit, he said.

Soldier Township and Silver Lake fire departments were first to arrive at the scene. Additional manpower was summoned from the Topeka Fire Department.

Crews remained at the scene until past 5 a.m. No injuries were reported.

Damages are estimated in excess of $50,000, McNorton said.


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County fire departments busy last week

Madison News – February 2, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 28, 2017

County firefighters were kept busy last Friday and Saturday. According to Greenwood County Fire Chief Doug Williams, on Friday at 12:43 p.m., Greenwood County firefighters were dispatched to the report of a grass fire along US 54 at B Road.

“The fire was traveling quickly in the wind and had jumped the highway,” said Williams. Additional help was requested and the highway was closed. Fire crews were able to rapidly knock down the fire that had jumped the highway to the south and hold the fire from jumping the highway again while other crews put out the fire that extended approximately half mile to the northwest. Greenwood County Fire District Divisions from Central, Eureka Lake and Salem responded with assistance from Butler County Fire District 5 and Eureka Fire Department. The fire was believed to have started by arcing electrical lines from the wind.

On Saturday, just after 5:00 a.m., the Eureka Fire Department responded to 716 N. State St. on a report of an electrical fire. The homeowners advised they could smell smoke. Firefighters found fire in the attic of the home involving structural members and blown in insulation. In order to access and extinguish the fire, ceilings in the living room were removed. The home was owned by Judd Gulick. The fire was believed to have started from electrical.


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Fire crews kept busy last Monday

Eureka Herald – February 22, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 28, 2017

On February 13, shortly after 3 p.m., the Neal, Central and Eureka Lake Divisions of Greenwood County Fire Department responded to US 54 and AA 50 Road on the report of a grass fire. According to Chief Doug Williams, crews found a grass fire involving hay bales, cedar trees and other items. Firefighters were on scene several hours extinguishing all of the burning hay. While extinguishing the fire, a farmer assisting the crews with a tractor and loader backed into a fire truck. Sheriff’s officer who was on scene, took a report. The property was owned by Charlie English and the cause was believed to be from an equipment malfunction.


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Halstead to offer Sedgwick EMS services

Newton Kansan – February 28, 2017

About a week ago the city of Sedgwick announced the end of EMS services, as the expense of maintaining a department and a lack of staff led the city council to relinquish the city’s EMS permit to the state, effective March 1.

After that announcement, county administration began meeting with other cities and Emergency Preparedness officials to try and find an solution.

Monday night, the Halstead City Council offered up on solution — albeit temporary.

By unanimous vote, the Halstead City Council agreed to extend a temporary offer to provide EMS services to the city of Sedgwick. The agreement will provide service to residents both in the city, as well as the surrounding rural areas, until June 30.

“The reality is that Halstead will most likely be responding to these calls anyways without an agreement in place, as those affected will still be able to call 911,” said Ethan Reimer, city administrator for Halstead. “Trying to ensure that people still receive some response in a timely manner is simply the right thing to do, but we also have a responsibility to our residents to ensure they are not paying for service to be provided to another city. This agreement allows us to help out our neighbors but ensures that Halstead residents will not be on the hook financially for responding to the Sedgwick area.”

Halstead is waiting to hear whether Sedgwick approves the agreement.

Halstead previously had entered into a temporary agreement to serve as back-up for Sedgwick EMS when Sedgwick experienced staffing troubles in 2015. Newton Fire/EMS served as a third option during that time. Throughout that agreement, Sedgwick was paying outside departments per initial primary response for which there was no acknowledgment or response from Sedgwick.

“We have enjoyed a long history of working together with the City of Sedgwick on other issues that affect both our communities,” said Mayor Bill Ewert, “we would hope that Sedgwick would be willing to help us out if the situation were reversed.”

According to Halstead city officials, Halstead has already seen an uptick in calls that involve response to Sedgwick prior to Sedgwick relinquishing its license.

The agreement approved by the city of Halstead is not subject to renewal or extension beyond June 30.

The issue forced the Sedgwick city council to address the future of EMS services multiple times during the year and led to increases in on-call and per run pay for Sedgwick EMS staff. Sedgwick hired a full time director for EMS services in October of 2016, Jennifer Cisneros. She began the task of turning around the service. She was faced with staffing issues — namely a lack of volunteers.

Prior to that director taking over on Oct. 17, 2016, the city had 70-plus calls where outside agencies were responding. Between October and December of 2017, outside agencies responded to just three calls in Sedgwick.

However, the director left the department in February 2017.

This is not the first time Sedgwick has been without a dedicated EMS service. From 1981 to 1984 the city had no EMS service.

The county levies taxes for EMS services, and then distributes those to municipalities throughout the county. Because the county levies that tax, the county bears responsibility to ensure services are available.

However, according to county officials, what the responsibility is under state statute is unclear. In this case the county facilitiated discussions with other municipalities to try and make sure Sedgiwick residents had access to EMS services. The county is not responsible to create its own service or offer direct services to residents.

Harvey County recently sent a quarterly payment to Sedgwick for $8,973.69. Annually, the county sends more than $35,890.


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Fire destroys car early Tuesday in East Topeka

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – February 28, 2017


A car was destroyed by fire early Tuesday on the city’s east side, and authorities were investigating whether the burned-out vehicle may have been stolen.

The fire was called in around 7 a.m. in the 2600 block of S.E. Monroe, a block with fields on both its west and east sides.

First-arriving crews reported the vehicle was completely involved in flames as it sat facing north in the middle of the block.

Topeka firefighters were able to get the fire out quickly.

Police at the scene said the car was a Kia Soul.

No one was in the immediate area when fire crews arrived, authorities said.


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Butler reorganizes early college academies

By Levi Yager
Butler County Times Gazette – February 28, 2017

Starting in the fall 2017 semester, Butler Community College will be phasing out the Early College Public Safety Academy.
“That public safety academy … is here in El Dorado, but the enrollment is not strong in it, and we aren’t generating any additional interest for enrollment for this coming year. We think a lot of it has to do with the fact that for some of the – like the EMT, the EMS kinds of things – that those students have to be 18 before they can be certified and test for some of the things. We think a lot of the things that are happening nationally are impacting desire, maybe, to be involved in law enforcement types of jobs. The students that are involved now, we’re going to continue to teach those classes so that they can complete what they’re currently enrolled in. We’ll move those classes over to the fire science building. And instead, in conversation with our partner schools, there’s a lot of interest for a more blended pre-law/criminal justice track academy. Rose Hill has committed additional classroom space. There’s a lot of interest from Derby and Douglass and Mulvane and the schools down in that area. And so, we’ve decided that we’re going to go ahead and start to promote that and see, you know, see what kind of interest is generated. The deans right now are, once we know what the interest is, then the deans will be able to tell us how many sections we may need to add. But there’s a lot of interest in that area. There’s also a lot of interest in education – in an education academy. And so we’re going to move forward and start to share information with parents and counselors about the potential for also an early college education academy,” College President Kim Krull said.
Early College Academies at BCC introduce the college learning experience to high school juniors and seniors by allowing them to take college credit in high school. The academies are specific to certain programs at the college. Through these academies, high school students can graduate with their diploma and an associate degree simultaneously.
“We started our first [early college] academy in the fall of 2010. And that first academy was the health sciences academy, and we started with seven students. And that particular academy today has 114 students in it, so you can see in seven years how much it has grown – huge,” Lori Winningham, vice president of academics at BCC, said.
The Early College Public Safety Academy was started within the last two years.
“We originally designed that [public safety] academy to have several branches in the public service arena that students could go into. Their first year, they would all be together as one group, and then they would choose a track. They could choose fire science, criminal justice, we had planned to develop an emergency communications track and then EMT. And we started that academy also with only seven students, but the interest has not really developed …. We’re in our second year right now, and we have 12 students that started out. The thing that we’re finding is that in order to have those four tracks, we need a larger volume of students,” Winningham said.
The administration has therefore decided to restructure how the public safety academy functions.
“So, as we have looked at that particular academy, we have decided that … we’re going to go ahead and do the fire science component of it where high school students can get a one-year fire science curriculum and then finish their associate’s degree …. There’s a fire station that we share with the City of El Dorado, and we’ll continue to offer that option for students who want to go the fire science track. For the other tracks – the emergency communications track, we did not develop that because we had zero students indicate they wanted that track. And then, the EMT numbers have been very, very small as well. And so, we offer EMT courses. Students can take those now in a concurrent format. So, while it won’t be in an academy setting, students can still do that. For the criminal justice arena, we have kind of backed up and reconfigured curriculum, and we will open a strain of what we’re going to call pre-law track at our Rose Hill campus. And so, that’s kind of where some of the criminal justice flavor is going to be seen because some of those courses in that track come from our criminal justice curriculum. And that will be kind of a new academy, but it’s really a modified version of what we did before, starting in the fall of ’17,” Winningham said.
The college will also be restructuring its Early College I.T. Academy, which is another academy that had several tracks in it. It will be broken out into separate cyber security and 3D technologies academies for the next school year.
“Right now, we have 34 for students in that I.T. academy. And as we start our group next year, they’ll have to choose which side they want to go – 3D technologies or cyber security,” Winningham said.
There are currently seven total early college academies scheduled for next school year.
“The one that is kind of new on the horizon is education. She’s listing this as elementary ed right now – we may just make that education. But right now that’s another new one for fall that will be kind of sharing the space with the pre-law group at Rose Hill. And I don’t have any numbers in that because that’ll be a new one for fall,” Winningham said.
The cost for entire associate degree through an early college academy at BCC ranges from about $3,000 to $4,600. Ideally, high school students will start at an academy as juniors and can finish their associate degree by the time they graduate.
“These students that get selected to go into the academies, typically what they do is – we have morning groups and we have afternoon groups – they spend half of their school day in the academy, and then the other half they’re back in their high school. So, they really live in both worlds. It’s not like they are not available to participate in sports or drama and all the things that high school students are involved in. You know, they make a big commitment to being in college at the same time that they’re in high school, but they live in both worlds. And that’s an important piece that we wanted to preserve for these students because, you know, that’s an experience that many of them don’t want to just walk away from,” Winningham said.


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Local police & firefighters raise money for Special Olympics Kansas with the ‘Heroes Pull’

By Joel Nichols
KSHB – February 28, 2017

Click on photo to view full-size.

Click on photo to view full-size.


Call it Heroes Helping Heroes!

The Sixth Annual Heroes Pull for Special Olympics gets slowly rolling and then picks up speed on Sunday, March 12 at 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Splash Cove in Shawnee, right after the Shawnee St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

First, here are the necessary numbers: Teams pull two different vehicles separately – a Lenco bear and a fire truck – each weighing about 38,000 lbs.

The team with the fastest combined times wins the competition.

Each team’s combined weight limit must not exceed 1,500 lbs. A minimum pledge of $250 is required per team.

Last year, the Shawnee Fire Department won with a combined time of 23.86 seconds. Just one second separated the first and second place teams.

Anyone can enter. In addition to teams from law enforcement and firefighting, men and women from the armed services, school athletes or just about any team that meets the numbers can be part of the event.

Even those who don’t find a place on the rope can show support with a pledge and being there to cheer from the sidelines.

This year’s dollar goal is $10,000 which will support regional and state Special Olympics competitions. Things such as athlete meals, equipment, medals, insurance costs and so much more.

According to one of the founders and organizers, Merriam PD Detective Jeremiah Waters, the money is important and the competition is intense but the real reward is the look on the faces of the Special Olympians who inspire everyone around them.

This is truly one moment when we can all pull for each other!


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House damaged but no injuries in fire

By Fred Solis
Clarion – February 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – February 28, 2017


Click on photo to view full-size.

Click on photo to view full-size.

About 25 firefighters and first responders battled a house fire at 228 E. Main Street in Mount Hope Saturday, Feb. 18, after receiving a call at 4:08 p.m. reporting the incident.

One person was in the house when the fire started but was not injured said Mount Hope Fire Chief Jon Smith. Nor were any firefighters or civilians injured, he added.

The fire began outside the house and consumed a gazebo on the northwest side of the house, according to witnesses, Smith said. The fire then jumped to a fence and the house, a two-story, five-bedroom, two bath dwelling built in 1900. The 2,400-square-foot building was a wood frame construction and had been remodeled a number of times over the years, Smith said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by state fire officials. Ninety percent of the structure was damaged by the fire, smoke and water, Smith estimated. Firefighters poured about 70,000 gallons of water on the blaze, he added.

Firefighters spent about four hours extinguishing the fire, with the most difficult time spent in the attic.

“We chased it in the attic from one end to the other. It would just move on us,” Smith said.

Firefighters, police and EMS personnel from Mount Hope, Bently/Sedgwick County Fire Reserve, Sedgwick County, Colwich, Burrton and the American Red Cross responded to the fire with two engines, two tenders, ladder truck, squad, lighting equipment, first aid assistance and food.

“Thanks to all the citizens of Mount Hope that showed up and volunteered to help,” Smith said. “It was a great outpouring from the community to help where they could.”

LMNO Pizza provided about a dozen pizzas for firefighters, he added.

With persistent dry conditions in the area, Smith urged citizens to adhere to local ordinances regarding burning outside and to take care when barbecuing.

“When conditions are right, it doesn’t take much for fires to start and quickly spread,” he said.


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Stockton Fire crew sent out Friday afternoon

Stockton Sentinel – February 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 28, 2017

The Stockton Fire Department was summoned to a location two miles north of Highway 24 at 23 and G Roads last Friday afternoon at about 12:50 p.m. Fire Chief Jon Voss said a small grass fire at the scene burned about 10 acres. He related the cause of the fire was sparks created by someone cutting up some scrap iron. Fire personnel were on the scene for approximately 45-60 minutes.


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Fire and water

Peabody Gazette Bulletin – February 15, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 28, 2017


State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen looks on as a heavy-duty washer/extractor for washing firefighter gear is installed Friday in Florence. The Florence department received the extractor as part of a multi-year state project to boost participation, retention, and safety in volunteer fire departments. Firefighters are at increased risk of health problems, including cancer, from hazardous fire residues, and special detergent used by the machine will more effectively clean and prolong the life of gear. Florence Fire Chief Mark Slater said the machine is for the use of area fire departments, and several have already expressed interest in using it. Slater said he intends to apply for another program grant for new safety gear.


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Kansas could see its worst year for wildfires yet

By Michael Pearce
Kansas City Star – February 28, 2017

Photo by Mike Hutmacher

Photo by Mike Hutmacher

Eleven months ago the Anderson Creek wildfire burned its way across 390,000 acres of Oklahoma and Kansas, killing hundreds of cattle, destroying millions of dollars worth of buildings and fences, and endangering the lives of hundreds of residents and volunteer firefighters.

It was the biggest known wildfire in Kansas.

This year could be worse.

“I’ll be honest, this year just scares me, what we have out there right now,” said Jim Unruh, a volunteer fire department chief based out of Marquette, Kan., who fought the Anderson Creek fire.

“It’s really, really getting dry out there, but holy cow, there’s so much fuel out there on some of these pastures it’s just unbelievable. If we get the wrong wind, we could have some big problems.”

Problems have already started in many parts of Kansas.

Unruh’s crew battled a wildfire of 3,600 acres last month.

Eric Ward, a Kansas Forest Service fire specialist, said the state had three large wildfires in January. A large wildfire burns 100 or more acres of trees or 300 or more acres of brush or grass. The office has tracked wildfires in Kansas since 2005.

“Up until this year, we had a total of four large fires in the month of January during all that time,” said Ward. “Then this (January), we get three. That’s certainly unusual.

“I think every indication is we are setting ourselves up for a fire season that could be more dangerous and active than most seasons. Since Christmas I’ve seen accounts of fires almost daily. That is very much not normal. We’re not at a crisis point, but right now the conditions are there.”

According to Ward, those conditions include plentiful rains and heavy grass growth the past two summers, and another unusually dry fall and winter.
Ample fuel supply

After several years of drought, most of the state was blessed with consecutive summers of good to great rains in 2015 and last year. That’s great news for those trying to feed cattle. It’s bad news for those having to fight wildfires.

“We had big grass last year, and we had big fires, up to 18 miles long,” said Randy Hoffman, a Cowley County rural fire district fire chief. “We have big grass this year, too.”

Heavy grass growth poses two different fire threats. Tall grass burns fast and hot. Grass that is compacted on the ground smolders for long periods and can reignite the fires. This year there is both.

Like Hoffman and Unruh, Ward said he’s heard reports of exceptionally tall grass on the Kansas prairies.

Unruh said pastures in the Smoky Hills, around Marquette in central Kansas, are “waist high for many miles.” The fact that it’s still standing tall presents a problem for firefighters.

Most years, winter snow compresses the grass close to the ground by spring, Ward said. Grass that’s low to the ground doesn’t burn as hot or as fast.

“You still have the same amount of fuel, but when it’s vertical it burns hotter and faster,” Ward said. “You also have much more of a problem with burning debris blowing in the wind and scattering the fire.”

Burning debris, from grass or eastern red cedar trees, helped the Anderson Creek fire jump a half-mile at a time, and cross streams and highways.

Grass that grew two summers ago is now turning into thatch.

Hoffman referred to that low vegetation as a “carpet of fire” that is left burning long after the vertical fuel is consumed. Hoffman said the carpets of fire take more time and water to battle. Unruh agreed.

“You go over it, and you think you have it out. Then you move on, look back and it’s flaring up again behind you,” he said. “It’s burning underneath and you can’t always see it. It’s like you never get it put out, and you’re really wanting to move on.”
Dry conditions

Dense prairie thatch normally helps firefighters by holding moisture, which greatly reduces the risk and damage of wildfires. Unfortunately, moisture, in the form or rain or snow, has been in short supply.

“Our maps show that southwest Kansas is in severe drought and the rest of the state is rated as moderate drought or abnormally dry,” said Christopher Redmond, of Kansas Mesonet, a statewide weather station network run by Kansas State University. “Our weather pattern is supposed to be shifting to cooler temperatures the beginning of March, but that’s cooler as in back to seasonal temperatures. But from what I’m seeing for (the next few weeks) the precipitation outlook is pretty slim.”

Conditions also are not good in most of Oklahoma, and parts of Texas and New Mexico. Firefighters in parts of those states, plus Kansas, were put on alert during Thursday’s high winds. Oklahoma has issued burn bans in several counties.

Redmond said the long-term Kansas outlook for spring is for temperatures to be above normal. Rainfall predictions are tougher. Most predictions he’s seen show about a 50/50 chance of average rainfall. It’s harder to predict humidity, which can quickly alter a fire’s potential.

Even harder to predict, Redmond said, is the wind.

Veterans of the Anderson Creek wildfire say steady winds blowing at 40 miles per hour, and sometimes gusting higher, made the fire difficult to control. The wind shift of nearly 90 degrees also added to the danger and difficulty.

Unruh, who runs the Marquette fire department in McPherson County, already has had one taste of what strong wind can do in this year’s dry conditions. In early January several volunteer units, including his, battled the 3,600-acre fire that began from the ashes of a brush pile that had been intentionally burned several days before.

With a heavy south wind, the fire traveled 3.6 miles in 30 minutes.

“We had enough wind and enough fuel, it was like the fire was just running across the pasture,” Unruh said. “We could have some big fires this year if one gets started in the wrong place. If we’d get something started about four miles south of Marquette, it could go all the way to up by I-70 in a heck of a hurry. That’s about 30 miles. It’s amazing how tall all the grass is out there. If there’s a fire (with the wrong wind direction) we’re really going to be in trouble.”


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Small grass fire doused before it gets to house near The Orchard

By Chuck Samples
KVOE – February 28, 2017

Emporia firefighters doused a small blaze that briefly encroached on a house north of town Monday.

The fire was reported a bit after 3 pm at 1170 North Kansas Highway 99, just east of The Orchard. Emporia Fire Battalion Chief Eron Steinlage says a controlled burn in front of the house went out of control and moved towards the house.

Emporia firefighters arrived and handled the fire before it got to the house. Americus, Allen-Admire and Reading fire crews were paged to the scene but were sent back before arrival.

No injuries were reported. Lyon County records show Amanda Pock as the property owner.


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Parsons homes damaged in fires

Parsons Sun – February 28, 2017

Parsons Fire Department responded to two fires in two days over the weekend.

The first fire call came at 8:11 p.m. Friday at 1220 Crawford.

Fire Chief Jay Hawks said the home is owned by Aaron Pearce, but it was not occupied at the time of the fire. Pearce is in the process of remodeling the home and had turned off the gas and water to the structure. Electricity remained on, however.

When firefighters arrived, smoke was venting from the upstairs and the west side of the structure. Hawks said there was heavy smoke.

Firefighters entered the front and expanded their fight inside the home. The second floor sustained heavy smoke and fire damage and the first floor had smoke damage. Some of the walls had been stripped to the studs during remodeling, so some of the studs were damaged.

The fire was under control at 9:26 p.m. and firefighters remained on scene until about 11 p.m.

Hawks said the cause of the fire is undetermined. He has narrowed the origin to one area on the second floor, but he said he has to do research into the cause.

Damage is estimated at up to $25,000 to the structure. The contents sustained about $3,500 in damage. There were no injuries.

The Altamont-Mount Pleasant Township responded, as did Parsons police and the Labette Health Ambulance Service.

At 9:38 p.m. Saturday, firefighters were called to a structure fire at 905 S. 22nd, a home owned by Stephen Wayrich and occupied by Jasmine Rakestraw.

Firefighters saw smoke spilling out of the home when they arrived and quickly extinguished the fire and accounted for all occupants.

Hawks said an inappropriate use of lighter is believed to be the cause of the fire.

Structural damage was estimated at $500 with content loss of $1,500, Hawks said.


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Salute the Badge: Like father, like son

By Melissa Brunner
WIBW – February 28, 2017



Each time Con Olson climbs into his ambulance, his thoughts shift to community.

“Whether it’s the fire department or the 4H or relay for life – or whatever it is – (it’s important) to be able to give back,” he said.

As regional director for Techs, Inc., the ambulance service for Seneca, plus Jackson, Osage and Atchison counties, Con never forgets what steered him in that community-minded direction.

“Growing up in a small town, the community depended upon people to keep it going,” Con said.

He also remembers who was the driving force – his father, Dee Olson.

“I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t on the fire department,” Con said.

Dee Olson spent 40 years with the all-volunteer Hoyt Fire Department, working his way through the ranks to battalion chief and serving as a board member. Con’s mother also was heavily involved in the department before her death in 1997. It’s what inspired Con to enter emergency services.

“It was part of my life from day one, so I couldn’t feature anything else for a career,” he said.

His first experience, of course, at Hoyt Fire, working calls alongside his father. Con recalls a brush fire that doubled around on them, sending nearby trees into infernos.

“It gets pretty hot, pretty quick,” Con said, while also recalling his father’s practical advice to put water on it and get to a safer spot.

Except his father also didn’t hesitate to put himself in unsafe spots, Con said. In 2000, Dee was part of the first team on scene when a man killed his parents, set their home near Hoyt on fire, and shot a deputy.

“Not knowing what they were walking into other than an officer down call and shots were being fired – that was about all they knew, but they broke every safety rule we have, and went in, did the job, got him out and got him to safety so he could be taken care of,” Con said.

His father’s advice after that call?

“Follow the safety rules,” Con said. “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Over the years, as Con moved into EMS work, he appreciated his father’s ear after responding to tragedies, like fatal car wrecks.

“Just having that knowledge about what it’s like to go through those experiences of, either a very sad situation or a very dangerous situation, and be able to vent that out and relieve some of that stress,” Con said.

It’s knowledge Dee shared with many a young firefighter, including current Hoyt assistant chief, Randy Smith.

“(He was) a great cordial guy, kinda one of those guys that bring you under his wing and kinda show you along with new guys,” Randy said. “Here, we run a lot of grass fires, and Dee, for most of my career, was either on a grass truck driving or in a tanker filling the grass truck and you’d get a few minutes of a break while you’re filling your truck up and he’d come up and, ‘Hey – you guys might want to look at this,’ say, ‘Hey, you’re having a hard time catching this here. Why don’t you come around on another tactic.’ Not everyone sees things the same way.”

Today, Randy says, it’s easy to see the father reflected in the son. In fact, Con was one of Randy’s EMS instructors.

“Con, being a great people person, can talk to anybody,” Randy said. “Real easy-going, just like his father.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that, when Dee passed away just before Christmas at the age of 87, Con chose to honor him with a fund to help other firefighters gain the knowledge Dee was so willing to share.

“A lot of volunteer departments don’t have the capabilities or the resources to get people through certification courses,” Con said.

It is perhaps the most fitting tribute, because, for a firefighter like Dee, there is no final call. It is what lives on in the next generation, in a community – and in a son.

“After 40 years, there is still much to offer,” Con says, “even if that’s not participating in day-to-day activities, but yet sharing your knowledge, your experience, being there for the men and women who are having difficult times, struggling in their department, whether it’s trying to learn their skills or dealing and coping with those calls that sometimes our mind wishes our eyes had never seen.

If you’d like to support the Dee Olson Firefighter Scholarship Fund, send donations in care of Denison State Bank, PO Box 71, Holton, KS 66436.


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Dry conditions ripe for more fires

By Mark Minton
Garden City Telegram – February 28, 2017

Photo by James M. Dobson. Click on photo for full-size image.

Photo by James M. Dobson. Click on photo for full-size image.

A string of fires in southwest Kansas last Thursday put the spotlight on abnormally warm, spring-like weather, which has firefighters working a little earlier this year to extinguish wildfires.

There were three large wildfires Thursday in Finney, Haskell and Gray counties. The fire in Finney County took local fire departments four hours to suppress and covered 4,000 acres of Red Cedar, buffalo grass and sagebrush with wind speeds reaching up to 60 mph. Gray County saw two fires last week, one on Thursday that covered 749 acres and took four hours to suppress, and a fire similar in scope that occurred on Feb. 19. Haskell County’s Thursday fire burned 350 acres and took about two hours to contain.

Although there were no injuries and no large monetary losses for landowners affected by the wildfires, this collection of incidents may be a precursor to something worse.

The Holcomb Fire Department on Thursday posted an infographic showing an “extreme” risk factor for Morton, Stevens, Seward, Meade and Clark counties, and a comment by the page’s admin said “not even an old timer could remember seeing the color purple used on a fire weather map,” which is used to indicate extreme risk.

“Right now we’re experiencing some weather conditions which are making fire conditions very hazardous at this time, and it’s extreme danger,” said Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton, who admonished area residents to avoid any open burning until the fire department can verify the safety of the weather conditions.

Rainfall scarce

Marc Russell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Dodge City, said there is no significant precipitation expected for the next week, which would have potentially mitigated the current hazardous lack of moisture.

“We do have a little chance for something Tuesday night, but it’s not going to be really anything other than maybe some showers,” Russell said. “It’s not going to be heavy enough to really moisten up the area.”

Monday evening, the NWS had issued Red Flag warnings for Seward, Stevens, Morton, Grant, Stanton and Hamilton counties. Russell said Red Flag warnings are issued when the climate becomes dry enough to facilitate an “easily prolific” wildfire under wind conditions at 20 mph or above.

“We’ve been pretty warm and it doesn’t take much to get 20 mph winds here on the high plains, so that’s almost a given in the afternoons,” Russell said, adding that temperatures heading into March are “abnormal” and more akin to April weather.

Rex Beemer, rural fire coordinator in Gray County, said he fears the possibility of another fire like the March 2016 Anderson Creek fire that scorched south-central Kansas and burned nearly 400,00 acres in Kansas and Oklahoma. Although no human fatalities were reported in that fire, noted that 600 cattle were killed, 16 homes and 15 structures were lost, and countless miles of fencing were destroyed.

Beemer said years of Kansas drought followed by an increase in moisture and precipitation in the last couple of years have resulted in grasses that have grown six or seven feet tall — effectively homegrown gasoline.

“That’s something that we’re really not used to out here in western Kansas is this fuel load, because we’re usually pretty dry,” Beemer said. “We just got through with a four-year drought, and now we have been exceptionally wet the last couple of years, so everything is grown. Well, now we’re back in a dry spell again and without any moisture in the ground these fuels are basically gasoline.”

Fast moving fire

The Thursday fire in Finney County was originally paged as a grass fire, but in width alone it spanned 10,000 acres and Shelton said it was seven-and-a-half miles in length. The cause of the fire remains undetermined, but the results are more concrete.

Holcomb Fire Chief Bill Knight said any seeds that had been sewn in those 4,000 acres are gone and that the scorched earth will remain barren for as many as four years. Although the fire did not reach any structures, Knight said that if there had been a structure in the fire’s path “it would have been pretty tough to save it at the height of the fire when it was moving as fast as it was.”

“It was one of the fastest moving fires I’ve ever seen,” Knight said. “We fought larger fires or assisted fighting larger fires in Haskell County, Seward County, where it burned up to 80 square miles, but here in Finney County it’s one of the larger ones for quite awhile.”

Knight said that although many people do not take grassfires seriously, more firefighters in Kansas are killed every year fighting grassfires and wild land fires than they are fighting structure fires.

“Cardiac arrest far and above is the number one cause of death for any firefighter,” Knight said. “Generally grass fires — you’re more remote in location, you’re out away from hospitals and ambulances. The number one thing is generally the stress of the heat and the length of time that you’re out there doing it.”

Knight added that grassfires typically take longer to extinguish than structure fires.

“Most of our calls are done in an hour, an hour-and-a-half, tops. Whereas a large grassfire like this can keep us tied up for hours upon hours and sometimes days,” he said.

Haskell County Fire Chief Rusty Sherwood said the Thursday fire in Haskell County was the biggest they’ve had this year He also emphasized the influence of previous plant growth and the consequences of that growth drying out in the winter months.

“What grew last summer in all those rains is now completely brittle dry, and we’re sitting on a pretty extreme fire hazard for the rest of spring until we start getting moisture and getting things to green up,” he said.

Residents urged to avoid fires

Sherwood noted that March is usually the windiest month in Haskell County, and with the increased risk of more dangerous wildfires to come, he asked that area residents who are curious about any fires they may witness stay out of the way.

“When we’ve got that much equipment trying to get to the fires, we come across a lot of sightseers that tend to get in our way, and that’s just something that people just need to be aware of that we don’t need those headaches,” he said.

And for residents seeking safety, Knight suggested referencing the USDA and United States Fire Administration’s online resources for tips.

He added that simply keeping grass and weeds trimmed short around valued structures could save them, and suggested an 18- to 20-feet-wide break around pivotal structures to slow the fire’s advance.


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Single vehicle accident takes Neodesha man’s life

KOAM – February 27, 2017

On Saturday, February 25″ 2017, at approximately 6:15 P.M, Deputies of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office along with emergency services from Cherryvale, Kansas were dispatched to a report of a one vehicle traffic accident. The reported traffic accident location was north of the City of Cherryvale on Liberty Street.

When Deputies arrived it was discovered that a Honda Passenger car had been traveling north bound on Liberty Street. The Honda Passenger car left the roadway and struck an embankment north of County Road 5200.

The Honda was being driven by Issac L. Hickman age 24 of Neodesha, Kansas. Hickman was transported to the Wilson County Medical Center. Hickman was pronounced deceased due to his injuries. The investigation is continuing and toxicology tests are pending.

Sheriff Robert Dierks would like to express the condolences of the Montgomery Sheriff’s Office to the family of Mr. Hickman. Sheriff Dierks said that it’s always disturbing when a life is lost in a traffic accident.


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GBFD busy with weekend fires

By Russ Edem
Great Bend Tribune – February 27, 2017


The Great Bend Fire Department was busy this weekend with five separate fire calls ranging from a campfire that got a little out of control to two structure fires.
The cause of a fire that caused major damage to a home at 1217 Madison St. on Sunday morning is still under investigation, Chief Mike Napolitano said.
Units reported heavy flames coming from the porch and front area of the residence as they arrived at the scene. The home is owned by Tom Pearson and was vacant at the time of the fire.
The GBFD along with members from the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Investigators and Great Bend Police Department remained on scene until approximately 4 p.m. looking into the cause of the fire.
“At the time of this report the cause of the fire is still under investigation,” Napolitano Said. “The fire caused over $60,000 in damage.”
The other fire call that came in on Sunday morning was a report of a deck on fire at 3322 18th St.
As fire and police department units arrived on scene at the home, owner Vincent Deason was able to extinguish the fire. The cause of the fire is believed to be spontaneous combustion of a plastic trash can stored on the deck. The fire caused approximately $5,000 in damage.

Other fires
According to reports, the first call of the weekend came in on Saturday at 9:08 a.m. for a campfire that got out of control. The fire was extinguished by firefighters.
The second fire call that came in on Saturday was at 5:30 p.m. at 20 SE 40 Ave. where a controlled burn spread into a tree row. Units where on scene for about three hours getting the fire under control, Napolitano said.
The last fire call of the weekend came in at 2:24 p.m. on Sunday. Firefighters responded to a report of trees and grass on fire. Units arrived on scene at the north side of the Arkansas River near Kiowa Road where approximately 300 yards of trees and shrubs where ablaze. Firefighters were on scene for about three hours.


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Woman, Eureka High student both killed in wreck near Severy

By Chuck Samples
KVOE – February 27, 2017

A Eureka High School student was one of two people who died as a result of a fiery two-vehicle crash near Severy before sunrise Monday.

Greenwood County Sheriff Heath Samuels says 17-year-old Tanner McMullen of Fall River was westbound on US Highway 400 when his pickup was hit head-on by a currently unidentified woman who was driving a small SUV. The woman’s vehicle apparently went left of center before the wreck. The Highway Patrol says McMullen’s pickup caught fire after the crash.

Both drivers were dead at the scene about five miles east of the Kansas Highway 99 junction. There were no other occupants in either vehicle.

At this time, it hasn’t been determined if fog was a factor but Samuels says there was patchy fog across Greenwood County at the time of the crash. US Highway 400 was closed for about four hours in both directions before it reopened around 10:30 am.

Numerous agencies were involved in the investigation, including Greenwood County deputies, Kansas Highway patrol, Severy Fire, Eureka Rescue and Greenwood County EMS.


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Cassoday Honors City Of Andover With Truck Markings

By Olivia Haselwood
Andover Leader – February 27, 2017


While the Cassoday Fire Department officially owns fire engine 11, it still bares some old markings.

In honor of the donation of the engine by Andover Fire Department earlier this year, the Cassoday department kept the Andover Fire Department insignia on the front of the engine. It now reads “Donated by Andover Fire Dept.”

The name of the engine is also staying Engine 11 despite not following the departments’ current numbering system.

“We cannot express how grateful we truly are for the donation,” the department said in a social media post last week.


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Russell Attends National Fire Academy

By Olivia Haselwood
Andover Leader – February 27, 2017


Andover Fire Chief Chad Russell spent two weeks learning at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

There he took a course titled Command and Control of Natural and Man Made Disasters.

“I learned a TON of useful information,” Russell said.

The 10-day course outlined procedures in disaster situations that might require interagency or inter jurisdictional coordination. Topics covered included earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, civil disturbances, terrorism, hazardous material spills or releases, tornadoes and floods. Students were taught command and control decision-making skills.


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Fire damages home in Ogden

By Cathy Dawes
KMAN – February 27, 2017

Riley County Firefighters responded to a structure fire in Ogden at around 11:38 pm Saturday evening. Riley County firefighters from the Ogden, Keats, Konza Valley, Hunters Island, Manhattan FD and Ft. Riley stations were called to the fire at 201 Eleventh Street in Ogden.. It was reported the duplex was fully engulfed. MFD station 4 arrived first and knocked down the initial fire in the kitchen area.

All the occupants were outside at the time of the fire. It took firefighters about 3 hours to put out the blaze and overhaul the burned area. The fire was believed to start as an electrical short in the attic above the kitchen door.. The fire resulted in approximately $25,000 damage to the structure and $2000-$3000 lost contents.

In total 22 firefighters, 1 police officers and a 2 person ambulance crew responded to the call.

The home is owned by Pam and Jim Wood and the occupant/tenant was Michael Turner. The occupants were being assisted by the Topeka Chapter of the American Red Cross.


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No damage to HPER Building after fire call

By Jessie Wagoner
Emporia Gazette – February 27, 2017

A reported structure fire in an Emporia State University campus building resulted in no damage and only light smoke Monday morning.

Emporia Fire Lieutenant Ron Ewing said a fluorescent light bulb on the first floor of ESU’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation burned out and the ballast overheated. While there was minor smoke, nothing was damaged.

At 6 a.m. Monday, scanner traffic indicated a fire in ESU’s HPER Building on the north side of campus. The reporting person indicated smoke in the first floor of the building, which houses classrooms, offices nd Emporia State locker rooms and athletic facilities.

“When we went inside we encountered no smoke, just a real light haze and the smell was obviously electrical,” Ewing said.

The light was located between the two old gyms in the HPER Building.


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Structure Fire

Parsons Sun – February 27, 2017

Click on photo to view full-size.

Click on photo to view full-size.

Neosho Township firefighters prepare to attack a barn fire on the Kris Vitt property east of Parsons Friday night.


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Permit approved for emergency services station

By Jeremy Gaston
Osage County Herald Chronicle – February 27, 2017

The Osage County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a condition land use permit for one or more emergency services to be placed on six acres of property located at 137th and Prost Road, just east of the U.S. 75 highway exit at Carbondale.

Darrel Sinclair, fire chief for Osage County Fire District No. 1, Carbondale, said the site was the department’s top selection following a two-year search.

“We’re looking for 50 years into the future,” Sinclair said. “The congestion is much less over at Prost Road. The reaction time to anywhere in the city is much better.”

Traffic counts from the road and bridge department showed as many as 5,000 vehicles crossing Main Street in front of the current station. The new station, which would be placed just east of the city limits, would see 600 to 800 vehicles per day.

Laurie Dunn, Osage County sheriff, brought accident figures for three locations for the last 10 years, noting 49 incidents on Main Street between the 200 and 600 blocks; 89 collisions between 117th and 149th streets on Topeka Avenue; and 18 incidents on 137th Street between U.S. 75 and Adams Street.

Donna Connell, Osage County EMS director, also spoke to the significant reduction in pedestrian traffic.

“There’s quite a bit in front of the current fire station, in front of the current EMS station,” Connell said. “You have children from all over Carbondale. There’s a significant hazard currently.”

Daniel Gasman, one of two landowners who petitioned against the station, was present at Monday’s commission meeting. Gasman addressed visibility and traffic at the location, turning off Prost Road and traffic to the daycare.

“I live directly south of there,” Gasman said. “My concern is safety on that road.”

The discussion helped prompt commissioners to consider a study to lower the speed limit through the area.

“You might as well start lowering it, in my opinion, after you get past Adams (Road),” said Glen Tyson, public works supervisor for the county.

The permit also includes a provision requiring flashing lights to be activated along a road anytime the bay doors are opened for emergency runs. Sinclair said the department had also moved its planned driveway location further east to increase visibility.

“I went out and viewed this and put to rest a lot of concerns I had when I saw where the driveway was,” said Gaylord Anderson, commissioner.

The commissioners ended the discussion by approving Resolution Z-17-01 (see Public Notices, Page 8), allowing for an emergency services station, no larger than 100 by 300 feet. The application allows for both fire and ambulance services at the location.

“We need a much better EMS station everywhere we’ve got EMS,” said Ken Kuykendall, commissioner. “I’m encouraged they’re thinking about being out there.”


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Mission Township Fire Department extinguishes out of control burn near I-70

By Shawn Wheat
WIBW – February 27, 2017

Rural Shawnee County firefighters were able to put out a grass fire before it spread further than it did.

Mission Township Firefighters were called by a passerby on I-70, around 3:45p.m., when a control burn became out of control near I-70 at mile marker 352.

Fire crews from both Mission and Dover Fire Department were on scene for about an hour.

No buildings were threatened by the fire, but a lane of I-70 was closed while crews extinguished the blaze.


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Fire damages hotel in downtown Hutchinson

By Adam Stewart
Hutchinson News – February 27, 2017

A fire Friday afternoon damaged a hotel in downtown Hutchinson.

According to Hutchinson Battalion Fire Chief Jeremy Unruh, a passerby reported a fire in a room at Budget Host Inn, 15 W. Fourth Ave., to hotel management, who then called 911.

Hutchinson Fire Department was dispatched to the scene at 3:13 p.m. for a report of an appliance fire, and while responding it was upgraded to a structure fire.

The first firefighters on the scene found heavy smoke coming from a second floor hotel room. They had the fire under control in 10 minutes and remained on the scene about 45 minutes overhauling and investigating the fire.

Unruh wrote in a news release that the room was vacant at the time of the fire. It appeared to have started in the window heater unit.

No injuries were reported and damage was estimated at $8,000.


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One dead in Hutchinson apartment fire

By Adam Stewart
Hutchinson News – February 27, 2017

A 44-year-old man was declared dead at the scene of a fire early Saturday morning in Hutchinson, according to a news release from Hutchinson Fire Department.

Firefighters were dispatched at 2:38 a.m. Saturday to the 1000 block of North Poplar Street for a report of a shed fire. Instead, they found smoke and fire venting from a window on a small apartment, Battalion Chief Jeremy Unruh wrote in the release.

While entering the structure, firefighters found a victim, who they removed from the building. The victim was pronounced dead by Reno County Emergency Medical Service, according to the release.

The victim was Jason Conrad, 44, of Tuscon, Arizona, Interim Fire Chief Doug Hanen posted Saturday afternoon.

The fire was controlled in 20 minutes, and firefighters remained on the scene for about 3 1/2 hours overhauling and investigating the fire. The fire remained under investigation Saturday morning. Damage to the building was estimated at $40,000.


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South Hutch council discusses fire department’s future; including closing it down

By Ashley Booker
Hutchinson News – February 27, 2017

Photo by Travis Morisse. Click on photo to view full-size.

Photo by Travis Morisse. Click on photo to view full-size.

The South Hutchinson City Council is widely discussing the future of its fire department – including the elimination of the service itself.

Council members have recently been talking about staffing the current facility and the ability to provide service. But, in all, the discussion revolves around affordability as the department’s budget has grown.

“The Council has made a commitment to providing the best service possible, but they are struggling with what the next move should be, and what the financial impact of that would be,” said Matt Stiles, city administrator, via email.

On Monday, members asked Stiles to create a report that would associate an estimated cost with every option they’ve discussed so far. Stiles said he believes he can have this information for the council’s next discussion on March 6.

When it comes to staff, they are considering the recruitment of more volunteers, adding additional part-timers, moving to a partly full-time staff with volunteers, offering an internship program or doing away with the fire service entirely and contracting with the Hutchinson Fire Department.

Before Chief Mike Patterson took over in 2013, the all-volunteer service mainly consisted of firefighters who worked and lived in the city limits. This allowed them to respond at any time.

Patterson was hired to modernize the department to address new volunteer training standards, find more volunteers and make necessary improvements to outdated equipment, Stiles said.

Part-time employees have been hired to cover during the week, which began in 2014, and the weekend, which began in late 2015. They were added after SHFD realized more and more volunteers couldn’t respond during the day.

The city also agreed to pay Hutchinson to respond to structure fires in 2014. This agreement has been renewed through 2018.

The enhanced protection has caused the fire department’s budget to rise.

“Increased protection and improved fire rating are positive signs of the efforts to modernize the department, but there is a constant need for volunteers and investment,” Stiles said. “There is a concern that the volunteer base that responds locally is too small and if a few people move on it would increase the pressure on the rest to respond all the time.”

This could potentially create unsafe situations for both citizens and responders.

For now, he said, the department has the required number of firefighters who respond to both fire and medical calls, but that may not be the case in the future.

Firefighters told council members Monday that they were concerned with how well HFD would be able to serve their residents if SHFD closed down.

One example they offered was if someone was stuck inside a burning structure or having a heart attack, and a truck was responding from north of the railroad tracks because the one south of the tracks was covering something else, and they were stuck behind a train, this resident could die.

Both departments have assisted each other with incidents.

The almighty dollar and finding volunteers

In making a decision about the department’s future, Council Member Dave Pitman said he believes members are having a hard time adjusting to the previous chiefs’ budgets – which Stiles said was a little over $66,000 in 2003, and has increased over the years to around $96,000 in 2010 and $123,000 in 2012 – compared to where it is today, at more than $380,800 under Patterson.

“There’s no dispute that the budget has grown significantly over the past three to four budget cycles,” Stiles said.

It’s primarily been due to adding part-timers, purchasing a ladder truck in 2013, investing in staff training and updating outdated equipment.

Patterson indicated it’s been difficult to find qualified volunteer firefighters with roots in South Hutch, or who live within the 10-minute response time.

And when they do find someone, most times, they have to go through firefighter training first.

“If you want to be a volunteer fireman, you’ve got to come in and commit to at least a semester course in Fire Fighter 1, and we’d like for you to have Fire Fighter 2,” Patterson said about the station requirement. “We have to do a considerable amount of training with you before we even let you do anything on a fire apparatus.”

“It’s just not the same fire service that it was when I started in 1978,” he said, and the level of commitment these days isn’t the same as it was back then, either.

Since Patterson took over, he’s seen around 20 people sign up, get training and be outfitted with more than $2,000 in gear, and then, all of a sudden, that commitment fades and they leave.

Patterson said it’s disappointing.

Of the current 27 staff members Patterson has, 12 work for HFD. Depending on the day, he could have one or all help cover South Hutch – in addition to the three who work part-time.

An outdated facility

Another problem SHFD is having is its current facility, which was built in the 1970s.

It’s too small for modern equipment and doesn’t have living quarters, which would be needed to add overnight employees or volunteers.

“If the city pursues any option other than contracting with Hutch Fire, then a new (free standing station) or remodeled station will be required in the future,” Stiles said.

Stiles and Patterson have met with two builders who indicate a free standing building, possibly located behind the current station at 2 S. Main St., would be the best option.

“The Council has gone back and forth on a lot of the options, but hasn’t reached a consensus on the best route to take,” he said.

They also must keep in mind what’s been done in the past. SHFD has been around since November 1953, Stiles said. There was also some kind of contractual relationship between Hutch and South Hutch for at least 17 years, but maybe as long as 67 years.

Mayor Pete Murray and Council Member Erwin Leeper have a real commitment to the department, as both retired from the fire service after volunteering for more than 20 years.

“I am very reluctant to give up our fire department,” Leeper said. “I think the firemen will more or less agree with that idea, and I’m sure the citizens will too. Anything we can do to maintain our fire department, we’re better off as a community.”

Murray agreed.

“I hate to give up our department to another city, just because we’re in a financial bind on it,” he said.

But for council members Larry Meadows and Pitman, the decision comes down to the safety of their citizens and firefighters.


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Cancer prevention programs stress keeping firefighters’ gear clean

By Mike Hendricks
Kansas City Star – February 27, 2017

Photo by Keith Myers

Photo by Keith Myers


Soot, grit and grime once were the height of fashion at American firehouses. Strutting around in a singed helmet and smudged turnout gear let the world know that you were one tough firefighting son of a gun.

“For some it’s still like the red badge of courage,” said Herington, Kan., fire chief Ken Staatz.

But the smart ones know better. Parading in filthy turnout gear after a fire is out is forbidden at many fire departments now. Dirty bunker gear, as firefighters’ protective clothing is also known, poses a cancer risk to firefighters and to those with whom they come in contact.

“It is vital to the health of firefighters to properly clean bunker gear following a fire to prevent the transfer of carcinogens, particulates and biohazards,” the Kansas state fire marshal said recently in announcing a new cancer-prevention program.

The occasion for that statement was to announce the first awards from a fledgling Kansas grant program, partly aimed at cancer prevention. Some of the $200,000 allocated this year was spent buying heavy-duty washing machines called extractors to clean toxin-laden coats, pants and hoods.

Extractors are potential life savers at fire departments that previously were without them and had no practical way of cleaning their gear before the $8,000 machines arrived.

“Before we pretty much washed them off with a garden hose and let them dry,” said Chris Komarek, the volunteer fire chief and city administrator in Ellinwood, Kan. “The hose method by no means gets rid of all the toxins.”

Nationwide, fire departments large and small are focusing increasingly on cancer prevention in response to studies showing firefighters contract cancer at higher rates than the population at large.

Exposure to carcinogenic smoke and gasses is blamed. Air masks and protective clothing provide protection. But firefighters inhale and absorb toxins when the smoke clears and the masks come off. Soot and smoke also become embedded in turnout gear and work their way into gaps, such as where the face masks rest on top of the hoods.

So now many fire departments carry wet wipes on their trucks, instructing firefighters to remove as much soot as possible from their faces, necks and hands before they leave a fire scene. Also, it’s important to shower as soon as they get back to the station and put on a clean duty uniform.

One of the bigger changes in firefighter culture in recent years is the attitude toward protective clothing. Nicknamed bunker gear because firefighters used to keep it at the ready by their bunks, now it’s not allowed anywhere near the living area. And dirty gear gets laundered as soon as possible at some departments.

“After a fire, they bag it up and ship it over to the stations that have washers,” said Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes.

But that’s not always possible in every fire department because not every firefighter in every department has two sets of gear. Kansas City, Kan., firefighters, for instance, are only issued one set due to budget constraints. Laundering turnouts is, therefore, done on firefighters’ days off, if they can manage it.

“This is something we are going to solve,” Kansas City, Kan., Fire Chief John Paul Jones said, noting his department’s application for a federal grant to buy gear and more extractors was recently denied.

Across the river in the other Kansas City, firefighters do have two sets of gear. But some complain that it’s tough getting it washed if they fight a lot of fires and their station doesn’t have an extractor. Only 13 of the 34 stations do.

“I work at one of the busiest units in the city,” said one firefighter, who said he would get in trouble if his name was published, “and I have to load my stuff up and wash it at another station close to my home, usually on my day off. Each station should have gear washers.”

That is the goal, said deputy chief Jeff Johnson, who is overseeing implementation of the department’s new cancer prevention effort. One element: have battalion chiefs distribute clean hoods after every fire.

Lee’s Summit, Independence and other area fire department are also ramping up their efforts.

The Independence Fire Department and its union, Local 781, are proud of an agreement they signed last year that sets out 11 decontamination steps fire companies should take during and after every fire.

National cancer statistics drove the discussion. But Independence Fire’s joint cancer committee also took as its inspiration the sobering cancer death of one department captain and the cancer survival story of another.

“We certainly are beating the drum as loud as we can,” Deputy Chief Mark Carrick said.


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Pair of grass fires keeps area fire crews busy

By Chuck Samples
KVOE – February 27, 2017

Wind shifts made for a busy day for Lyon County fire crews Saturday afternoon.

Hartford-Neosho Rapids Fire Chief Craig Andrews tells KVOE News grass fires developed at 558 Road U shortly after 3:30 pm and in the 2000 block of Road 90 about an hour later. In both cases, changes in wind direction meant controlled burns went out of control.

Hartford-Neosho Rapids, Olpe and Emporia firefighters responded to the Road U fire and barely had that out when the Road 90 fire developed. Hartford-Neosho Rapids crews handled that fire.

4:15 pm Saturday: Grass fire near Hartford brings area departments on scene

Firefighters from Hartford-Neosho Rapids and Emporia were called to a grass fire in southeast Lyon County on Saturday afternoon.

The fire was reported at 558 Road U shortly after 3:30 pm. Early indications are the fire started as a controlled burn that went out of control.


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Cigarette responsible for fire near Shanghai Chinese Restaurant

By Chuck Samples
KVOE – February 27, 2017

Fire caused some damage at a west Emporia home on Sunday. However, it did not cause as much damage as first feared.

The structure fire call at 619 Woodland, just north of Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, was reported just after 3 pm. Emporia Fire Battalion Chief Steve Howe tells KVOE News the fire started in a yard just outside the house and damaged some vinyl siding.

Original reports had the side of the house on fire and smoke coming from the roof. Howe says there was no extension of the fire into the house itself.

A discarded cigarette was the cause, according to Howe. No injuries were reported. Lyon County records have Brenda Lopez as the owner. The house was being remodeled when the fire started.


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Grass fire doused north of K-99, K-170 junction

By Chuck Samples
KVOE – February 27, 2017

Photo by Chuck Samples. Click on photo to view full-size.

Photo by Chuck Samples. Click on photo to view full-size.

Northeast Lyon County fire crews spent over an hour contending with a grass fire north of the junction of Kansas Highways 99 and 170 on Sunday.

Fire was reported at 2626 K-99 shortly after 1 pm, prompting responses from the Reading and Miller fire departments. Early estimates have between 50 and 100 acres burned before the fire was brought under control.

A cause has not been determined.


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Who saves the firefighters? Rapid intervention team is specially trained to come to the rescue

By Elvyn Jones
Lawrence Journal World – February 27, 2017

Photo by Nick Krug. Douglas County Rapid Intervention Team members, from left, Chief Dennis Snodgrass, Chief Mike Baxter and shift officer Paul Davis

Photo by Nick Krug. Douglas County Rapid Intervention Team members, from left, Chief Dennis Snodgrass, Chief Mike Baxter and shift officer Paul Davis

When Dennis Snodgrass became chief of the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Department, he noticed one routine fire response that concerned him.

“When you arrive at a structure fire, your best guys are going inside,” he said. “The guys on the outside, who maybe don’t have as much training or skills, they would be the ones called on to go rescue any firefighters trapped inside.”

With the recognition that it was a recipe for eventual disaster to depend on less experienced or skilled volunteers in critical life-or-death situations, Snodgrass conceived of the idea of a countywide rapid intervention team trained and equipped to rescue firefighters trapped inside burning buildings.

The concept of a rapid intervention team wasn’t new. They are fairly standard among larger departments. Snodgrass’ twist was that the team would draw members from Douglas County’s township departments and those in Baldwin City and Eudora.

Snodgrass floated his idea by Capt. Paul Davis of the Wakarusa Township Fire Department and Clint Hornbaker, assistant fire chief of the Willow Springs Township Fire Department.

“I agreed a lot with the vision and idea,” Davis said. “Our resources are stretched thin out in the county. Getting a group of volunteers trained and with skills and then take that back to the departments for fires makes everybody better and safer.”

Snodgrass got further support from Wakarusa Fire Chief Mike Baxter and John Mathis, retired Wakarusa assistant chief. The idea got a big boost from the support of Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug.

“Craig was instrumental in putting all this together,” he said. “The county saw the need and stepped forward.”

In November 2015, the Douglas County Commission approved $72,000 in funding for the rapid intervention team, which was used to buy an SUV and the equipment needed to outfit the team.

The leadership team of Snodgrass, Baxter, Davis, Hornbaker and Mathis spent the next four months getting everything in order and recruiting the first volunteers to the group. Baxter said the team had it first full training in April 2016 under the tutelage of Johnson County Consolidated District No. 2 from Merriam.

“They give rapid intervention training all across the country,” he said. “We were very fortunate to have them.”

The special training was needed because the team’s mission requires much different instruction from what its members previously received for fire suppression. The team trains in the nonsubtle approach of taking the most direct route to endangered firefighters and then getting out of the building. It’s an approach that has the rescue team making full use of the axes and chainsaws they carry.

“You might go in one door, and you might go out a window somewhere else,” Davis said. “We’re pretty good at making windows into doors.”

The team now rolls on every structure fire in the rural areas of Douglas County and cities of Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton from its base at Wakarusa Fire Station No. 1, which was chosen for its central location.

Once at a fire, the team doesn’t simply stand by until a firefighter makes a mayday call. It follows protocols that include making sure access points to the building are open and putting up ladders to upper stories in case they are needed. Team members also monitor where firefighting crews are inside the building, how many are on each crew, the fire attack plan and the progress of the fire.

“There are other things we do to alleviate manpower needs on the scene that free up other firefighters to do their tasks,” Snodgrass said. “If a mayday is called, we’re activated. It’s called when firefighters feel they are in trouble, not when they are down. Everyone is told if they feel like they are starting to get in trouble, call mayday. If they wait too long, it may be too late to get help to them.”

Firefighters routinely enter burning houses unless it is determined structures are too far gone to save and responders go into defensive mode. But, as yet, the team hasn’t been called on to rescue endangered firefighters, Snodgrass said.

“You are there for a reason you hope never occurs,” he said. “Statistics across the nation tell you it’s not if but when. Having an RIT at the scene is like taking out an insurance policy.”

The team has 18 members who come from the Baldwin City and the Clinton, Eudora, Wakarusa and Willow Springs township departments. The leadership team would like members from the other rural departments and more members overall to help assure there will be four to eight team members responding to calls, Snodgrass said.

“We’ve got room for more people,” he said. “Minimum, our goal is to have 20 to 25 members. Our guys are already volunteers on their respective departments. They are making a sacrifice to be on the rapid response team by putting in more time and training in addition to what they do with their own departments.”

The team has another need. It now trains at the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical training center on Haskell Avenue and through prop simulations at stations and sometimes in open fields.

“We need a real structure to practice on,” Snodgrass said. “Everything we do is about destruction. There’s a lot of things we do that are not typical of how you train for fires.”

To that end, the team is asking county residents with houses slated for eventual demolition to donate for RIT training. The buildings are not going to be burned down, which eliminates a lot of permitting red tape and the removal of hazardous materials. Any fire started to build smoke in a building’s interior would be confined to drums, Baxter said.

“A structure affords us multiple opportunities to train multiple days and set up multiple scenarios without duplicating a scene,” he said. “It would allow us to train for situations you can’t duplicate in simulations.”

Ideally, a building or buildings would be donated before the RIT’s planned 24-hour training on April 22, Baxter said.

“We’ll have a 24-hour shift, training on and off the whole time,” he said. “It would be great if we had a structure before then.”


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SCAFFA School 2017 – March 15th – 19th, 2017

SPECIAL PRESENTATION:  Click here for more information

Thursday, March 17th, 9 a.m.

Join us for a Presentation by Dr. Burton A. Clark, author known for “I can’t save you, but I’ll die trying: The American fire culture.”

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Authorities investigate fire in Montara duplex

By Melissa Brunner
WIBW – February 24, 2017

Photo by Melissa Brunner. Click on photo to view full-size.

Photo by Melissa Brunner. Click on photo to view full-size.

Authorities are investigating what caused a fire Friday afternoon in a duplex in the Montara neighborhood.

The Shawnee Co. Sheriff’s Office says emergency crews responded around 12:30 p.m. to 6609 SW Fairdale Dr. The address is part of a duplex. Authorities say no one was in the side where the fire was reported, and deputies forced entry to the adjoining side to ensure no one was inside.

The Shawnee Heights and 190th Air Refueling Wing fire departments responded.

Brian Aeschliman of Shawnee Height Fire says the fire started in the basement, but the cause is still unknown. He says crews quickly knocked it down and kept it from spreading, but the home was filled with smoke.

He said the assistance of the Sheriff’s Dept. and American Medical Response ambulance personal was instrumental at the scene.

The sheriff’s office says some family members arrived at the scene later. The American Red Cross is assisting them.


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Large pasture fire in south Ellsworth County

Ellsworth County Independent Reporter – February 24, 2017

The Ellsworth Volunteer Fire Department was called out early this morning to a large pasture fire in south Ellsworth County near the Rice County line. Approximately 1,000 acres were burned along with some hay bales. Two structures were threatened but received no damage. There were no injuries or loss of animals.


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Hundreds of acres consumed in rural Kansas fire

Great Bend Post – February 24, 2017

Photo by Gray County Sheriff's Office

Photo by Gray County Sheriff’s Office

A blown electrical transformer is being blamed for a large grass fire in rural Gray County on Thursday afternoon.

Fire crews were called just after 4p.m. to the blaze 3 miles southwest of Ingalls, according to Gray County Rural Fire Coordinator Rex Beemer.

Dry conditions along with 40-mph winds allowed the fire to spread very quickly. It grew to over 2 and one half miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide and consumed almost 500 acres of CRP grass, wheat stubble, trees, irrigation equipment and telephone poles.

Fire crews from Gray, Haskell, Ford County and Garfield township had the fire under control by 8p.m., according to Beemer. There were no injuries.

On Sunday, a wheat stubble, CRP grass fire consumed over 800 acres north of Montezuma, according to Beemer.


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Inexperienced driver to blame for early morning crash, fire

By A.J. Dome
WIBW – February 24, 2017

Photo by A.J. Dome

Photo by A.J. Dome

Authorities say a juvenile driver was behind the wheel of a car that crashed and caught fire early Friday morning.

Dispatch received a call about a car fire around 4:15 a.m., in the 1800 block of SW Fairlawn. Police say a juvenile driver lost control and crashed over the curb into a tree. The driver then fled the scene.

Dispatch tells 13 News the driver was not hurt. He was picked up by a relative a short time later, and was interviewed by authorities.

The driver was not hurt in the crash.


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Firefighters battle wind-whipped blazes Thursday

By Scott Aust and James M. Dobson
Garden City Telegram – February 24, 2017

Photos by James M. Dobson. Click on each photo to view full-size.

Photos by James M. Dobson. Click on each photo to view full-size.



Windy and dry conditions proved to be a potent combination for firefighters battling grass fires in several area counties Thursday afternoon.

Fires were reported in Finney, Haskell and Gray counties throughout the day.

“It was one of those days,” Holcomb Fire Chief Bill Knight said Thursday night. “We’ve got some really tired firefighters tonight, I’ll tell you that.”

The Finney County fire started just before 4 p.m. about five miles south of Holcomb. Wind gusts up to 50 mph drove the fire from an area due west of the Sunflower Electric power plant south to within a few miles of the Haskell County line, at one point covering an area two miles wide and five to seven miles long.

“It was moving so fast, we really didn’t have a chance to stop it. We just had to kind of let it come to us and put it out in that manner,” Knight said. “The wind was one of the worst possible things. And then, once we started to get a handle on it, the wind switched directions when that cold front came through and pushed it back toward an area that we previously thought wasn’t going to be affected.”

In addition to the Holcomb Fire Department, units from Garden City, Lockport township, and Sublette and Satanta from Haskell County assisted with the fight. The last truck cleared the scene around 8:25 p.m., though Knight said there may be some fence posts and hay bales that will continue to burn throughout the night.

Knight said that as of late Thursday night, the cause hadn’t been determined, but fire officials planned to return to the scene Friday to try and determine a cause and get a handle on the damage. No one was injured, and Knight doesn’t believe any structures were lost.

Knight said even individual citizens provided assistance in Finney County.

“We had a ton of farmers show up with discs and tractors, and people showed up in trucks with water tanks on them. Just a whole bunch of people that helped us get it under control,” he said.

Knight said firefighters from Sublette and Satanta had actually been on their way to Gray County when they diverted to Finney County. He said a transformer exploded south of Cimarron, sparking another grass fire that drew units from Hodgeman County and Garfield Township in eastern Finney County.

Haskell County firefighters had just finished battling a blaze 12 miles north of Sublette. The fire there, in a field near the intersection of County Road 70 and HH, started around 12:30 p.m. and was contained by 2 p.m.

Ten trucks carrying firefighters from Satanta and Sublette arrived on the scene and tried to contain the blaze as strong winds carried embers to the east. Fields were charred as far as road KK, about three miles east of the original call.

Local farmers also helped contain the fire in Haskell County, using farm equipment to turn up dirt and offering their water tanks to the fire trucks.

Haskell County Sheriff’s deputies directed traffic along County Road 70 and U.S. Highway 83, as smoke from the blaze began to impede vehicles.

The Haskell County Fire Chief could not comment on the definite source of the fire, but a Satanta firefighter on the scene who wished to be unnamed guessed that burning garbage was to blame.

The National Weather Service did issue a Red Flag warning on Thursday for southwest Kansas due to the critical fire conditions in effect. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior, and Thursday’s highs in the area were in the 70s, and wind speeds were 25 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 50 mph.

The weather forecast calls for cooler temperatures in the low 40s today and 50s over the weekend.


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Grass Fires Plague County Departments

By Olivia Haselwood
Andover Leader – February 23, 2017

More burning advisories were issued Wednesday with more expected for Thursday. Dry conditions, despite some weekend rain coupled with winds are giving some fire fighters plenty to do lately.

Last summer’s wet weather caused an overabundance of prairie grass, which is now dry and vulnerable to fires. Andover, Augusta and El Dorado fire departments spent the weekend responding to several grass fires across the county.

Andover fire chief Chad Russell said the fires his department responded to were minor and put out within a few minutes.

El Dorado fire chief Steve Moody said he had one this weekend that took nine departments to bring under control. Departments included Benton, Towanda, Augusta, Potwin, Burns, Cassidy, Rosalia and Leon in additon to his crews from El Dorado.

The fire was reported around 11:30 a.m. along the turnpike near El Dorado. There were no injuries to people or animals, or damages to trucks. After two hours of fighting the fire, around 200 acres had burned along with 50 round bales and some trees.

“This spring there was rain and that resulted in heavy grass growth,” Moody said. “Now we are going through a drought. So, heavy grass with heavy density and winds – makes for volatile fires. Citizens need to be extra careful with any fires. There also needs to be extra caution with any controlled burns.”

Augusta firefighters responded to at least two pasture fires that got out of control on Saturday. They were both quickly extinguished.


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Fire district, city consolidate

By Chief Rob Kirt
Gardner News – February 23, 2017

Photo by Fire District #1. Click on photo to view full-size.

Photo by Fire District #1. Click on photo to view full-size.

During 2016 Fire District 1 was successful in accomplishing many things,and as the chief, I am very proud to be a part of the leadership team we have.
Our continued driving force to improve our service levels and equipment needs is directly to serve the residents we protect.
The year began with finalization of the consolidation with the City of Gardner, and we would like to thank Laura Gourley for working closely with our staff and the county as well as the council members for their continued support of the fire district.
In the first quarter, Fire District 1 was proud to promote Jerry Holly from battalion chief to division chief of prevention as well as Captain Ken Phelps to battalion chief. With the success of the intermodal it was obvious to us that we needed a full-time prevention position to handle the increase of inspections.
The delivery of three new engines replaced the fleet and gave our firefighters the ability to fight a verity of fires do to the dual foam system. This system allows us to push a button activating a preset mixture rate to fight a structure fire with “A” foam all the way to a plane fire using “B” foam.
During the year, we had an initiative to teach compression only CPR and ended up touching over 200 people. This is a great accomplishment for our community. We also had 108 public relation events which ranged from birthday parties, Festival on the Trails, Frontier Days, Kid Fest, food and coat drive to assisting Don Roberts, Edgerton mayor, with delivering Christmas meals. Our firefighters installed 184 smoke detectors and changed out numerous batteries for the elderly and disabled.
Total fire and EMS calls ran for the year was 2,534, this is an increase of 202 in 2015. City of Gardner, Edgerton and New Century made up 90 percent of calls with an average response time of 3:42 minutes. This is well under the 5-minute national average.
Fire District 1’s board and staff are pro-active with the growth being seen throughout the district and look forward to the challenges ahead for 2017.


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Leoti Fire Department annual Fire/EMS meeting

By Nikki Meyer
Leoti Standard – February 15, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 23, 2017

The Annual Meeting for the Leoti Volunteer Fire Department and the Leoti Volunteer EMS was held on February 11th at the Community Building at 7:00 p.m.

The night started with an invocation by Pastor Brad Kirk. The meal consisted of grilled steak, cheesy potatoes, green beans, tossed salad, rolls and a variety of cakes. Mary Beth Porter and grill masters Todd Porter, Werner Burch and Larry Hochhalter provided the meal.

In attendance for the meeting were: EMT’s – Marqueta Keeton, Diana Kirk, Steven Marcy, Debra McLaughlin, Nikki Meyer, and Stephanie West. EMTs/Firefighters – Steven Baum, Terry Bloedorn, Cole Carpenter, Kris Casper, John Gould, Randy Keeton, Chris Kreitzer, Terry Laws, Mike Nickelson, Jim Roelfs, Ed Simon and Paul Simon. Firefighters – Bryce Berning, Kelly Burch, Leif Christensen, Darin Crouch, Levi Elder, Breck Flether, Ramiro Gairzia, Brady Harbin, Charlie Hughes, Pete Luna, and Karl Walk.

Also in attendance were Medical control Dr. Julia Myer and Lance Stang, PA.

Fire Chief Charlie Hughes recognized Fr. and Mr. Myers, Lance Stang, PA. He recognized Randy Keeton for the most fire and EMS runs for the year with 77 runs for EMS and 25 fire runs. Steve Baum was recognized for ten years of service and Kris Casper for five years of service.

The top three numbers of runs for the EMS were Randy Keeton with 77 runs, Kris Casper with 71 runs and Steve Baum with 62 runs. The top three for the fire department were Charlie Hughes with 40 runs, Randy Keeton with 32 runs and Terry Laws with 31 runs.

There were a number of door prizes handed out which consisted of gift certificates for Seaboard Pork Loins, which were provided by Seaboard, Western Hardware and Heritage Meats.

Fire department business consisted of; upcoming firefighter classes, and training for confined space and grain engulfment in April. The Fireworks Operator Licenses and what standards need to be met to uphold this. NIMS 100 & 700 training that will be available in March. The opportunity for possible Firefighter 2 classes were brought up and a new 911 phone app was also discussed.

Election of fire department officers ended as follows:

Charlie Hughes, Fire Chief; Mike Nickelson, Assistant Fire chief and Randy Keeton, Secretary and Treasurer.

A written Annual Report was given to everyone present.

In 2016 there were a total of 400 fire calls and a total of 123 runs for EMS.

DD’s Elite DJ Service from Scott City provided entertainment, they provided background music for the meal and a trivia game after the business was presented.


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Trash fire burns out of control near Jetmore

Jetmore Republican – February 8, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 23, 2017


Jetmore Fire Department and emergency services were dispatched this past Tuesday at approximately 2 p.m. to a trash fire just southwest of Jetmore that had been left unattended and had gotten out of control consuming nearly 400 acres of Hodgeman County land. Additional agencies were called in to assist in getting the fire under control including the Hanston Fire Department and Ness City Fire Department. Several local citizens lent a hand as well and a thank you goes out to all who assisted in bringing this blazing beast under control. The Hodgeman County Sheriff and local Fire Chief would like to remind residents to be prepared when burning by having water nearby (hose, bucket, extinguisher, etc.) in the event that the fire should escape it’s containment area.


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Apartment fire causes extensive damage

Junction City Daily Union – February 17, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 23, 2017

Click on photo to view full-size.

Click on photo to view full-size.

The Junction City Fire Department responded Thursday to a fire at an apartment complex at 115 West spruce St. JCFD Battalion Chief Dennis Wetklow said the fire began in the building’s shared attic and caused extensive damage in three apartments. The cause was yet to be determined at press time. No one was seriously injured, but Wetklow said one firefighter suffered minor injuries.


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40 years of firefighting

By Sarah Kessinger
Marysville Advocate – February 16, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – February 23, 2017


Longtime Waterville firefighter Chuck Tryon stands near a bright red 1971 Dodge 500 pumper truck.

It is the oldest among the Waterville Volunteer Fire Department’s nine vehicles parked uniformly across the floor of the large metal firehouse.

The pumper truck was 5 years old when Tryon joined the department in 1976. Soon he will step down as a veteran volunteer firefighter.

Tryon will be recognized for his 40 years with the department at a dinner Saturday at the town’s Community Center.

Also honored that evening will be Scott Blaske, 21 years; Mike Anderson, 20 years; and Mark Critchfield, 20 years. All three also are ending their service with the department.

Tryon, the city’s electrical supervisor, previously served for 25 years as fire chief and on the ambulance team for several years and was a part-time Waterville police officer.

“You do it for your community,” he said.

His colleagues say they’ll miss that dedication.

“Chuck’s really been a great asset to our community as a fireman, as a chief and in the work he does for the city,” said Waterville Fire Chief Dane Parker. “There’s a lot of knowledge there that we’re really going to miss. Luckily he said he’ll still be around and can help us out.”

Tryon recalls a variety of blazes. The one that  really scared him, he said, was a fire at the town’s grain elevator several years ago. He called area agencies in, worried that an explosion was possible. Heat from a burning leg belt in the concrete elevator did knock the structure’s cap off in the night, but it wasn’t a major blow and no one noticed it until the next day, Tryon said.

He also became accustomed to responding to pasture fires, more common years ago and fewer today, he said.

“We don’t have near the grass fires we used to. Farmers are a lot more careful, and they have their own equipment to help put them out.”

Firefighting gear and equipment have changed, becoming more tailored to specific needs of grass fires, structure fires and other situations.

Fires in new vehicles, Tryon said, can be more dangerous because shocks under the hood and on bumpers can get hot and explode, posing risk to firefighters.

The department has a new grain extrication unit to help in case of accidents at grain storage facilities.

True to his nature as a public servant, Tryon worries about who will replace the firefighters now leaving the department. It is increasingly difficult to recruit young volunteers willing to give the hours of training required to respond to emergencies at any hour when on call.

“The challenge is getting volunteers,” Tryon said. “We just don’t have near the businesses locally with employees that we once had.”

To keep the department updated, they rely heavily on local donations and grant funding.

In addition to their city-owned trucks, the department uses tanker trucks loaned by the Kansas Forestry Service.

Waterville firefighters hold an annual smoke-off fundraiser at City Park. Tryon said he’s always impressed how businesses across Marshall County step up to help sponsor the event.

Tryon, who turns 60 in June, said he plans to spend more time with his five grandsons and at their sporting events. His wife, Marlene, is a paraprofessional at Valley Heights pre-school, and his daughter Jayme Sprague lives with her family in Waterville. Daughter Nicole Zeibig lives with her family in Hallam, Nebraska.

Tryon said he expects to still go out on fire calls. He knows the town well, including its electrical infrastructure.

Plus he’ll miss the camaraderie of the firefighters, he said.

“Firemen are like family,” Tryon said. “You have your differences, but everyone works things out in the end.”


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One hurt in Marion County house fire

KAKE – February 23, 2017

One person was flown to a hospital with serious injuries Wednesday, after fire broke out in a Marion County home.

Undersheriff David Huntley told KAKE News the fire started around 1:00 p.m. at a two-story house on 280th Street, about two miles west of Durham. Huntley said the fire is “probably not suspicious,” but the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office is sending an investigator to help determine a cause.

The name of the victim has not been released.


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Topeka Fire Department: Apartment fire may have been intentionally set

By Luke Ranker
Topeka Capital Journal – February 23, 2017

Officials believe a fire in an apartment near downtown Topeka was intentionally set.

The Topeka Fire Department responded just after 1 a.m. to a fire in an apartment at 1205 S.W. Polk. The fire damaged the exterior of the building before crews confirmed it was out, a department release said.

The fire caused little damage — $625, according to TFD’s estimate. Of that, $600 was in structural damage and $25 was in content loss.


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Apartment fire reported on County Line Road

Wyandotte Daily News – February 22, 2017

A fire in the early morning hours Tuesday at 1140 County Line Road caused damage to an apartment, according to the Kansas City, Kan., Fire Department.

The fire was reported at 2:43 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21. Responding in 4 minutes, fire crews reported heavy smoke coming from the multi-story wood-framed structure.

All the residents left the structure, and the fire was brought under control within 45 minutes, according to a Fire Department spokesman.

There were no injuries, and damage was estimated at $20,000, the spokesman stated.

The cause of the fire is undetermined and is under investigation, the spokesman stated.


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Man dies near Mulvane when truck hit by train

Associated Press – February 22, 2017

The Kansas Highway Patrol says a man was killed when a train hit his truck southeast of Mulvane.

The man’s name has not been released.

Trooper Chad Crittenden says it’s unclear if the man saw the train coming as he drove into the path of the train.

The railway crossing on a gravel road is marked with signs but has no other warning signals.

The man died at the scene.


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Tabor trash can fire extinguishes itself

By Oliver Good
Hillsboro Star Journal – February 22, 2017

A wastepaper basket that ignited early Thursday morning in a bathroom at Cedar Hall on campus at Tabor College could have been a catastrophe had it not burned through nearby a water supply line.

At 1:20 a.m., Hillsboro fire responded to a campus fire alarm. Chief Ben Steketee said Lloyd Spencer was first on scene and smelled a strong odor of wax coming from the bathroom.

The fire was reportedly extinguished within two minutes.

“When I got there the trash can was all burned up,” Steketee said. “The fire also burned through one of the plastic water supply pipes, causing water to spray on it and ultimately put it out.”

The damage to the water line “incredibly fortunate,” Steketee said, as not all dormitory fire alarms were working correctly.

“The alarm was sounding in the building, but there was a problem with the bell in that hall and those students were not being alerted that there was a fire,” Steketee said. “If the fire would have grown it could have been a disaster.”

Steketee called in state fire marshal investigator Chris Mercer to investigate the scene because he noticed something suspicious.

“There was a candle lying in all the charred debris that was not melted,” Steketee said. “I don’t know what that could indicate, but it looked suspicious to me.”

As of Monday, the cause of the fire was undetermined and the investigation is ongoing.


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