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.”


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
KSFFA’s Fire News Blog Home Page

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