Archive for March, 2017

Chief Michael E. McDermed

Michael E. McDermed, 69 years old, Retired Fire Chief of the Atchison, Kansas Fire Department, passed away Thursday, March 30, 2017 at his home surrounded by his loving family.

Celebration of Life Services will be Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 2:00 P.M. at the Atchison Event Center, 710 S. 9th Street, Atchison, KS. Visitation with the family will be Tuesday, April 4, 2017 from 6:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. at the Arensberg-Pruett Funeral Home. The family encourages dressing in bright colors or Hawaiian attire. Memorial contributions are suggested to the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTSevents.braintumor.org/2017chiefscombatforacure) or the Michael McDermed Memorial Fund c/o City of Atchison.

Michael was born on April 26, 1947 in Topeka, Kansas the son of John and Minnie (Lipps) McDermed. He attended Franklin Elementary School in Atchison and graduated from Atchison High School in 1966. He was awarded numerous scholarships in the Arts and due to his athletic abilities in gymnastics received many athletic scholarships. He attended Kansas State University, participating in gymnastics, where he was an all-around champion.

He and the former Diane Kimmi were united in marriage on October 9, 1971 at St. Benedict’s Church in Atchison, Kansas with Fr. Roderic Giller, OSB as celebrant.

Prior to his employment with the Atchison Fire Department, Mike modeled for the Atchison Leather Products Company and served as an usher at the former Fox Theatre.

Mike began with the Atchison Fire Department on February 14, 1971 and was promoted to Fire Chief on June 1, 1981, where he served as Fire Chief for an unprecedented 35 years. He remained with the department until his retirement on June 17, 2016. Throughout his career he had several periods where he served as an interim City Manager.

He was a member of the National Association of Fire Chiefs, Kansas State Association of Fire Chiefs, and was an active participant in the Kansas League of Municipalities. He was an avid softball player in the Atchison community for many years. He enjoyed weekly trips to movie theatres to watch numerous different movies. Mike and Diane enjoyed their many years of traveling to Florida to spend time with their son and his family. He was also an avid sports fan of the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. He was dearly loved by his many family friends and his co-workers.

Mike is survived by his wife of 45 years, Diane McDermed, of the couple’s home in Atchison, KS, a son, Brandon and his wife Dr. Jenna McDermed, Orlando, FL, two grandchildren, Elliet McDermed and Ronan McDermed, and a sister, Bev Crum, Parkville, MO.

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The City of Atchison is remembering the life of longtime, former Fire Chief Mike McDermed.
McDermed died Thursday following a battle with brain cancer.
McDermed served the Atchison community for 45-years, with 35 of those spent as Fire Chief.
He retired last year due to his health issues.
In a press release issued by the City of Atchison Friday, Atchison Mayor Allen Reavis calls McDermed “an exceptional leader and devoted public servant,” adding that “he will be missed as a mentor and a role model.”
Along with his duties as Fire Chief, McDermed would serve as interim City Manager when that role needed to be filled due to an absence.
Funeral Services for McDermed are planned for Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 at the Atchison Event Center.
The family requests that guests wear Hawaiian, or bright colored clothing, at the celebration of McDermed’s life.
Atchison City Hall will be closed Wednesday afternoon to allow staff to attend the services.

 

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School bus catches fire near W. 131st and High Drive in Leawood

FOX 4 News – March 31, 2017

Photo by Jason Reif

Photo by Sandra Condon

Photo by Sandra Condon

Video457

Firefighters responded to a school bus on fire Friday afternoon.

Around 3 p.m. a school bus reportedly caught fire at W. 131st and High Drive in Leawood. All children were able to safely get off the bus.

The bus became fully engulfed in flames before crews were able to extinguish the fire.

No injuries were reported.

 

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Junction City Fire Department battles out building structure fire on Spruce Street

Junction City Daily Union – March 21, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

An out building caught fire in the early morning hours of Saturday at 207 East Spruce Street.

Junction City firefighters responded to the area at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday to battle a blaze in a small, aluminum out building behind the Marriot Hotel.

The building was on the opposite side of active railroad tracks from a hydrant, forcing crews to shut down all train traffic for the duration of the fire.

According to a press release from Junction City Fire Chief Terry Johnson, crews started with a defensive exterior attack, controlling the fire from the outside, before moving inside to fully extinguish the blaze.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but Junction City Fire Captain Nabus was assigned to investigate.

According to the release, no utilities were involved and damage is estimated at $5,000.

 

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Grass fire starts as controlled burn

Cowley Courier Traveler – March 21, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Winfield police and fire departments responded to a grass fire Saturday afternoon at the Kansas Highway 360 bypass and Wheat Road.

The fire started when an attempted controlled burn in a small field on the south side of the bypass got out of control, according to Capt. Chad Mayberry with Winfield Fire/EMS.

The fire jumped the highway and burned on the north side of the road, coming close to ball fields at Black Creek Park. The fire led to heavy smoke on the highway, necessitating traffic control from Winfield police.

The Udall Fire Department was called in to help cover the Winfield fire station, as firefighters were responding to two grass fires at the same time, Mayberry said.

The firefighters were at the scene on K-360 for about an hour.

 

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Fort Scott brick company building burns

By Jason E. Silvers
Fort Scott Tribune – March 22, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Click on each photo to view full-size image.

An early Tuesday morning fire gutted an old brick building on North Hill Street that once operated as part of a brick plant.

Fort Scott city firefighters were called out just after 1 a.m. after receiving a report from a Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office deputy that a building in an area on North Hill Street was on fire, Fort Scott Deputy Fire Chief Dave Bruner said.

“We responded and once on scene we found a portion of the building fully engulfed,” Bruner said. “We called Scott Township (rural fire department) for assistance with extinguishing it. We were able to contain it to that portion.”

Bruner said the fire “did get into another area,” in one of the nearby buildings on the property that made up the old brick manufacturing plant, but were able to control it before it spread.

The brick building, which has sat vacant for many years, was still fully intact prior to the fire.

“The brick portion of the building sustained the major damage,” he said. “There was a roof collapse in that area.”

Bruner said the Office of the State Fire Marshal was contacted to assist the FSFD in determining a cause. While the fire is under investigation, Bruner said after working the scene, “it looks incendiary.”

The fire departments received assistance from the Fort Scott Police Department and BCSO, Bruner said.

“They stayed and helped control the scene for us,” he said.

The FSFD sent five trucks and nine personnel to the fire. Bruner said he did not have a total number of trucks and firefighters sent by Scott Township.

Firefighters had the fire under control by about 2:25 a.m. but did not clear the scene until about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday following routine checks and an on-scene investigation, Bruner said. Firefighters also returned to the scene later to check for hot spots.

Bruner said there were no reported injuries to firefighters or civilians. He said the property is now owned by East Wall Street Properties Company.

Robbie Forester, general manager of Velocity Tactics, an ammunition distributor in Fort Scott, said Tuesday “about four or five years ago,” East Wall Street Properties purchased the property where the old brick plant is located as part of a plan to buy properties for future redevelopment.

Forester said he was contacted at about 3 a.m. and visited the fire scene, where he talked with Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou.

“The plan is to clean up the area and make businesses,” he said. “There are some future plans but nothing set in stone as far as plans. we do want to resurrect some buildings.”

Forester said he was speaking on behalf of East Wall Street Properties and the fire has no effect on Velocity Tactics. He said East Wall Street Properties and Velocity Tactics are companies under the umbrella of Ward Kraft, Inc.

He said the loss of the brick building should not affect company plans for future cleanup and development. He said there is no set timeline or plans for improvements.

“Basically we’ll just tear it down and maybe some of the surrounding buildings that are damaged,” he said. “We will move forward with cleanup and in future years” create some activities for the public.

The old brick building was once part of the Western Shale Products company,a  brick plant that operated from 1888 to 1935.

The company was located on 15 acres at the north city limits bordered by three railroads, two of which serviced the plant.

At its peak, the company had six brick buildings and nine kilns. The plant produced building block and paving brick in rail car quantities distributed across the continent, including the Indianapolis Speedway and as far as the Panama Canal, according to information from the Historic Preservation Association of Bourbon County.

Don Miller, HPA member, said the company produced different thicknesses of brick for buildings, roads and sidewalks and much of the original brick seen on Fort Scott roads today came from Western Shale.

“It came out of there (the plant) by the millions,” he said.

Cable cars would run on an incline from a clay pit of the Western Shale Brick Company to the company’s plant delivering freshly-dug red clay. Rail car quantities of coal were brought in and burned to heat kilns and fire bricks, according to HPA information.

Arnold Schofield, HPA member, said although there were other small kilns that serviced the area at one point, the Western Shale company was the “main brick operation” during its time. The brick building destroyed in the Tuesday fire is one of “only two buildings left from that.”

 

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Truck loses tire and causes small grass fire

Oberlin Herald – March 22, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

A small grass fire south of town Sunday caused by a truck which lost a wheel was put out quickly by the Decatur County Rural Fire Department.

The fire was reported at 1:05 p.m., Chief Bill Cathcart said, and volunteer firemen had it out in about half an hour. Since they weren’t sure what they would be facing, three vehicles including a pumper truck and two quick-attack trucks, and seven firefighters responded.

Chief Cathcart said that a front wheel came off a loaded truck belonging to Hoxie Tank Service out of Grinnell.

“He had a heck of a time keeping it under control,” the chief said. “It was a good thing nobody was coming from the other direction.”

The truck was southbound on U.S. 83 about three miles south of Oberlin, the chief said. It ended up in the opposite ditch and sparks from the lost wheel set some grass on fire.

The chief said that with no wind and plenty of help, the fire was handled with dispatch.

 

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Seward County fire to talk to public about challenges

By Robert Pierce
Southwest Daily Times – March 31, 2017

With the recent round of grass fires hitting the area, Seward County officials are looking to address some problems concerning the county’s fire department.

Those concerns will be discussed through two upcoming town hall meetings, one on April 6 at the Activity Center in Liberal and the other on April 7 at the Kismet Pavilion.

Seward County Fire Chief Andrew Barkley said the format for the meetings will be similar to ones the county hosted last year.

“We’ve sent out 1,300 postcards to the rural residents who pay our fire tax,” he said. “A lot of residents, I don’t think, understand that we are not general fund funded. We are mill levied for a fire tax funded.”

Barkley said the primary purpose of the meetings is to educate county residents on where the fire department is at this time. He said the number of the department’s personnel has not changed much.

“We’re about 20, and we’ve always been about 20,” he said. “We were 20 when I got here, maybe 21, but they’ve always stayed around 20.”

The problem, though, Barkley said, is that the fire department operated in the 21st century is not the same as those operated in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The guys that are working during the day can’t get off work anymore,” he said. “The economy has changed. They can’t get off work to respond to calls, so during the daytime hours, you’re very limited on your responders. If it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, you’re limited on your responders because everybody’s getting up to go to work.”

In past days, volunteer firefighters could be found sitting at home waiting for pagers to go off to respond to fires, but Barkley said in today’s times, fires are no longer the first priority for volunteers.

“Their first priority is their job and their family,” he said. “Times have changed, and we have to change with that. We are going to talk about daytime staffing, and we are also going to talk about what it would take to staff this department with two guys in each station 24/7 and what the cost would be with that. The residents need to know where we’re at, what we’re doing and what the plan is, and when you give them the factual information, it eliminates all the rumors and the ridiculous stuff that’s being said out there.”

Though one of the stations of the Seward County Fire Department is housed in the same building as the Liberal Fire Department, Barkley said the county department is not affected by anyone living within city limits and not owning property in rural parts of the county.

“This is for people who own property in the county,” he said. “What we’re looking at is to explain to them what it would take to put guys in our station and how much it would cost. To put guys in our station during the daytime, 8 to 5 Monday through Friday, is a $30 bump at 11 percent on $100,000. To staff our county 24/7 with two guys on duty at each station round the clock, it would be about $110 bump at 11 percent per $100,000.”

Barkley said the amount of calls his department has received this year has gone up from just the latter half of 2016.

“In 2017, we’ve run more calls in the last three months than we had in six months of last year,” he said. “The other side to that is you get 24/7 guys in there. When you have a big fire like this, when your volunteers respond, you already have three trucks there. When your volunteers respond, you get three or four more trucks. Now, you have seven or eight trucks there. Right now, the three or four volunteers you get to respond is all you get during the day. Now, you’re talking about additional resources on top of that with full-time personnel in place.”

Barkley said extra personnel could affect insurance ratings for homeowners.

“When you have staff in place at your stations and you’re able to take a year of service and show your training hours, response times, you’re going to affect your ISO rating for the county,” he said.

Having more personnel, Barkley said, could guarantee response from firefighters and emergency medical units.

“If you live out northwest of Supreme Feeders and you call for an ambulance, you’re waiting for one from Liberal,” he said. “If our station is staffed, in 10, 15 minutes, they could be to you.”

Barkley said the fire department is not drowning because of call volume, but rather having to cover 642 square miles of county.

“We have one volunteer for the north station that’s available after 5 o’clock at night,” he said. “During the day, you have nobody there, so your nearest fire protection’s coming from Satanta and here.”

The recent round of grass fires will likewise be a topic at the town hall meetings, Barkley said.

“We’re going to recap what the guys have named the Black Monday fire, which is the Road 13 fire,” he said. “We’re going to recap the Arkalon fire.”

Barkley said unlike many departments who took more than a day to put out fires around the Sunflower State, his department was able to contain the Road 13 fire within three and a half hours – with a little assistance.

“That fire was burning a thousand acres an hour,” he said. “With the help of farmers and discs, we were able to stop it, and we had no help coming to us other than from Stevens and Haskell County. Everybody else, we put in requests to the state of Oklahoma, the state of Kansas and were denied by both due to no resources available because of all the fires.”

Above all else, Barkley said having more firefighters would allow Seward County to more efficiently fight fires.

“We have to be able to try to make a stand ourself, and we have to be able to handle ourselves for three or four hours,” he said. “We have to be able to do that to survive, and we can’t do that right now with two guys on duty here.”

Barkley also said some people get the title of fire chief confused with being a firefighter, and he said the job he currently holds entails so much more than that.

“My job includes getting us resources, weather reports, making sure our guys are safe, assignments out to each waive of responding companies, accountability of our personnel, what we’ve lost, where we’re at, how we’re jumping, who’s where, who’s what, where’s the water supply, how many trucks do we have,” he said. “I have to track all that.”

Overall, Barkley said his job is to make sure his firefighters are safe and accounted for, that assistance is available and watching weather reports for wind change.

“There is so much I have to do,” he said. “If I’m on a truck fighting fire, how can I do all that? I can’t.”

The recent rains and the potential for moisture this weekend have not eliminated the likelihood for grass fires for Barkley.

“I still walk on pins and needles,” he said. “We’re supposed to get some more rain Friday night, Saturday and Saturday night, and I am hoping we’ll green up really good.”

Barkley said some residents have called for a burn ban in the county, but with a controlled burn policy in place, that is not likely to happen.

“Our residents are really good about calling in to find out what the wind’s going to do and whether or not they should burn,” he said. “Going into a burn ban ties my hands, and we can’t let people burn off tumbleweeds or anything.”

 

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Rural firefighters scramble to keep blazes in check

By John Hawks
Ottawa Herald – March 21, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Between landowners losing control of their controlled burns and rekindles from previous fires, all rural departments in Franklin County have been kept busy over the weekend and into Monday, Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County Emergency Management director, said.

“We’ve had 3 or 4 other calls today, too,” Radcliffe said Monday at the scene of a grass and timber fire in the 2000 block of Idaho Road, west of Ottawa. “Ohio, Cutler, (Lincoln-Ottawa-Harrison) and Potawotamie (fire departments) responded to those other fires.”

LOH responded at 4:23 p.m. to the scene of the Idaho Road fire, which saw 20 acres of grass and timber scorched.

“(This is) a rekindle from this morning,” Radcliffe said. “This is the second time today, it started creeping through the timber.”

A perfect storm of unfavorable conditions led to the most recent set of fires in the county, Radcliffe said.

“We let ’em burn on Saturday, had light winds, and just about every (fire) department in the county was out with controlled burns that got out of control,” he said. “And then we had a burn ban on Sunday, and had three or four rekindles.

“It’s that time of year to burn, but people need to understand, it’s dry.”

Burning was allowed in the county Monday, Radcliffe said.

“People just need to make sure they have enough equipment and personnel there to control their fire. It’s a lot drier than it has been in the past, and there is more fuel. Grass is a lot thicker this year to burn,” Radcliffe said. “It gets out of hand pretty quickly. People need to be careful, and it’d be nice if they could wait a week or so before they did their controlled burns, and maybe we could get some moisture and some green grass, to help slow the fires down.”

 

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Galen K. Smith

Galen K. Smith, 82, of Alta Vista, Kansas, passed away Tuesday, March 21, 2017 at Morris County Hospital.

He was born February 11, 1935 in rural Morris County, KS, one of five sons, to Roy Scott and Eva (Hooper) Smith. Galen married Karen Brown on September 22, 1957 in Alta Vista. They had four children: Galene, Rolinda, Brian and J Thomas.

Galen served in the National Guard four years. He worked for Lundin Brothers building homes in Manhattan for 25 years, before working on Fort Riley in the maintenance division of the Department of Facility Engineers for 25 years. He volunteered on the Alta Vista Fire Department for 33 years, served as President of Methodist Men, Chairman of Methodist Trustees, President of Kiwanis Club, 4-H Woodworking Leader and a member of Simpson United Methodist Church. Galen’s family received the Family of Builder Award in 1975. He also volunteered for several years taking care of the baseball field, umpiring, working the concession stand, whatever needed to be done…. Galen took care of.

He was an avid hunter, fisherman, gardener, woodworker and master of card games. Galen loved his family and took great pride in being a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother and friend. One of his greatest joys was watching his grandchildren in all their sporting events.

He was preceded in death by his parents and grandson, Brock Pigorsch.

Galen is lovingly survived by his wife Karen, of the home; children: Galene SanRomani and husband Dennis, of Kingman, Rolinda Smith and Terry Heina, of Junction City, Brian Smith and wife Gayle, of Topeka, and J Thomas Smith and wife Meredith, of Lebo; grandchildren: Brandon Pigorsch and wife Rachael, Dustin SanRomani and wife Cami, Darrin SanRomani and wife Emily, Brady Smith, Katherine Smith and Matt Wiggins, Megan Smith, Madeline Smith and Scott Smith; great-grandchildren: Brogan, Bryant and Brynna Pigorsch, Declan, Collison, Baker and Finley SanRomani. Also surviving are his brothers: Carol Smith, of Alta Vista, Kevin Smith (Marlene), of Farlington, Clinton Smith (Reta), of Donna, TX, and Sheldon Smith (Gloria), of Alta Vista.

A visitation for family and friends will be held from 1:30 to 3:30pm, Sunday, March 25, 2017, at Zeiner Funeral Chapel in Council Grove.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00am, Monday, March 26th, at Simpson United Methodist Church of Alta Vista. A private family inurnment will be held at a later date at Alta Vista Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to Simpson United Methodist Church and may be sent in care of Zeiner Funeral Home, PO Box 273, Council Grove, KS 66846.

 

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Hansen grant provides fire equipment needs

Beloit Call – March 15, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

After the recent wildfires that swept across the state of Kansas left behind large devastation, local firefighters are very appreciative for their latest fire equipment received to help during those situations.

Firefighters of Mitchell/Cloud/Ottawa Rural Fire Department No. 1 recently received a Dane G. Hansen Foundation grant of $4,985.90 in order to purchase new nozzles that will provide larger quantities of water flow.

The money helped the department purchase one Task Force Tips Blitzfire High gallons per minute ground monitor that flows up to 500 gpm as well as a two hand-held 2-1/2 Viper Select nozzles that flow upt o 250 gpm.

“The grant is very appreciated and these nozzles will help us to better serve our rural community for a variety of situations if the need arises,” said MCO Fire Chief Larry Heidrick. “These nozzles will be very beneficial on large fires.”

 

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Fire burns small area of grassland

Marysville Advocate – March 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

A small acreage of grass burned after a controlled fire restarted Saturday evening at 1020 Keystone Road, according to Marysville Volunteer Fire Department.

Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Rockwell said the landowners were originally burning off grass at a lagoon earlier in the day. A call came in at 6:10 p.m. when the grassfire rekindled and spread.

Firefighters also responded to a call to the AT&T building at Ninth and Elm Streets in Marysville at 10:10 p.m. Saturday. They determined that smoke from controlled pasture burns in the area had set off the building’s alarm.

 

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4-year-old girl helps family escape house fire in Gardner

By Daniel Barnett
KCTV 5 – March 31, 2017

Video947

A four-year-old girl is a hero after getting her family out of their home Friday morning after she was awoken by the smell of smoke.

The fire started about 3:50 a.m. at a home in the 200 block of Meadowbrook Drive.

Authorities say the girl woke up and smelled smoke. She then woke up her parents and told them she smelled burning plastic.

The parents immediately got up and called the fire department. They picked up the 4-year-old, the dog and the cat and got out of the home.

Firefighters say they found the fire in the attic of the home and that they believe it was probably an electrical fire.

No injuries were reported.

 

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Mobile home fire

Great Bend Tribune – March 24, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

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The Great Bend Fire Department responded to a fire call at 4:53 p.m. Thursday at 168 S. Washington Ave. Firefighters found a mobile home totally engulfed in flames. No occupants were injured, although there were unconfirmed reports that pets died in the home. The GBFD was assisted on scene by the Kansas Highway Patrol, Barton County Sheriff’s Office and Wheatland Electric.

 

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Got it under control…

Norton Telegram – March 24, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Photo by Dana Paxton. Click on photo to view full-size.

This past Sunday, the Norton Rural Fire Department was called out to a grass fire south of Norton on Highway 283. The ditch was ablaze by the time firefighters arrived but they quickly extinguished the flames. Jessica Madden is seen here stopping it in its tracks.

 

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Control burn out-of-control

Harper Advocate – March 15, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Click on photo to view full-size.

 

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Firefighters responded to large grass fire

Humboldt Union – March 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Click on photo to view full-size.

Humboldt volunteer firefighters responded to a large grass fire at 1600 and Delaware Road Tuesday, March 21. At press time, details as to how the fire started were not available. Wind gusts and dry conditions were likely contributors.

 

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Troy firefighters respond to Blair minor grass fire

Kansas Chief – March 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

An initial report of a structure fire, just east of Troy, last Thursday afternoon actually was a minor grass fire near the 1800 block of Highway 36, east of Wathena near Blair, according to Troy Fire Chief Allen Winkel.

The fire chief said the Troy department was dispatched at 2:24 p.m. on a report of a structure fire near the roadside park.

“The burn ban was on. We sent two pumpers, two brush trucks and  a tanker unit to provide a water supply source. However, before our guys even got to the roadside park area, they were notified of the actual location, and that it was a minor fire,” he continued.

Winkel said the Troy department was dispatched because the dividing line with response by the Wathena fire department is Peck Road. He added that the burn ban was in effect that day from 1 to 4 p.m.

 

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Fire destroys car, camper and outbuilding on 175th

By Paul Stewart
Kansas Chief – March 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Fire which erupted about 3 p.m. Sunday claimed a pull-behind camper unit, a vehicle parked nearby, and an outbuilding, at the residence of Aaron and Casey Gray at 2274 175th Road, Wathena.

Wathena firefighter Bob Ryser said there were explosions prior to, as well as after, the volunteer firemen arrived at the scene. No one was hurt, however, A Doniphan County ambulance, from Troy, was on stand-by at the scene.

Firemen were informed the residents, who were not at home at the time of the mid-afternoon blaze, had ignited the perimeter of the property earlier in the day. It was reported there was a burn ban in effect at the time of the blaze.

Due to power lines and the nearby residence, firemen could not attack the blaze from the south or west. Instead they had to apply water from the north.

The Wathena department responded with personnel in two pumper trucks, the rescue truck, and a tanker truck to provide an additional water source. Elwood’s department came to the scene with two pumper units and a rescue unit. The Wathena Police and a Doniphan County Sheriff’s Deputy also were on-scene. Two horses seemingly avoided the fire and smoke by moving into a nearby pasture.

 

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Volunteers near end of firefighting training

Scott County Record – March 23, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 31, 2017

Twelve firefighters from Scott and Lane counties have nearly completed a Firefighting I training course.

A final skills exam will be held on March 25, marking the conclusion of the class which began on November 1. Certification is done through the University of Kansas Firefighting Training Center.

“This is the first time in about 10 years the course has been offered here,” says class instructor Bill Fortune.

For 4-1/2 months, volunteers would meet weekly for sessions that involved self-contained breathing apparatus and bunker gear training, pump operations, vehicle extraction, first aid, hazardous materials and more.

During a recent exercise in Scott City, firefighters worked with instructors from KU on ceiling ventilation and rooftop firefighting through the use of a skills trailer from the KU training center. Training also included forceable entry, how to shut off a building sprinkler system in an area unaffected by a fire and a “Mayday” simulation for extracting an injured firefighter or oneself from a life-threatening situation.

Class members traveled to Ness City on March 18 where they gained experience on how to enter a building on fire with the aid of an interior firefighting simulator provided by KU.

This class of firefighters had the opportunity to take part of the class on-line which eliminated the need for so much lecture time.

Fortune says participants were given one or two chapters to read on-line and they would take an accompanying test. In addition, they would review the materials and ask questions during the next class.

“In the past, lectures would last about three hours and that would be followed by about one hour of skills training,” Fortune points out. “This way the questions and discussion last about an hour which allows us about three hours of hands-on training.”

Consequently, a class that typically lasts about six months was completed 4-5 weeks sooner.

“The firefighters like it a lot better. Everyone feels we got a lot more accomplished and we spent a lot more time working on things that we’ll have to deal with in the field,” Fortune says.

The next step is Firefighter II training, but that isn’t likely to happen in the immediate future.

“Several of the guys are interested, but I think right now everyone’s ready for a break,” Fortune says. “When the time comes, we’ll need about 15 firefighters in order to offer the class.”

Firefighter I Participants:

Scott City:

Scott Andrews, John Fisher, Wyatt Green, Brad Ludowese and Jordan Unruh

Dighton/Healy:

Jeff Allen, Tyler Dandurand, Nathan Handy, Morgan Landgraf, Nick Mendez, Alex O’Rourk and Kyle Roberts

 

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Emergency responders trace mysterious smoke to old wiring

By Erin Mathews
Salina Journal – March 31, 2017

Emergency responders discovered old, overheating electrical wiring was the source of smoke that a Salina police officer observed coming out of the ground while he was driving along South Broadway Boulevard about 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Fire Marshal Roger Williams said the wiring apparently once fed an electrical sign of some type that had been at 417 S. Broadway. He said the building is now a computer business, and the current owner was not aware of a sign.

Williams said a small amount of smoke appeared to be coming from the grass in front of the store. The source of the smoke was isolated to defective wiring near a concrete slab where a sign most likely once stood.

Westar Energy employees shut off power to the pole that should have been shut off at some point when the sign was removed, he said. Three breakers had tripped on the power pole.

 

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Tecumseh house fire kills three cats

By Daniela Leon
WIBW – March 31, 2017

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Three cats were killed in a Thursday evening house fire in Tecumseh, but fire crews managed to save two others.

Shawnee Heights Fire District Battalion Chief Brian Aeschliman says crews were called to the 2400 block of SE Stubb Road before 5 p.m.

When crews arrived they found flames coming from one of the bedrooms and significant smoke coming out of windows.

Shawnee Heights Fire District and crews from the 190th Air Refueling Wing fought the fire.

Chief Aeschliman says homeowners were not inside the home when the fire broke out and there were no additional reported injuries. He says they were able to contain the fire much quicker due to recent water system updates.

“They have been updating some of the water systems in this area and we have a nice brand new fire hydrant directly across the street, which is kind of unusual for some of our rural addresses,” said Chief Aeschliman.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

 

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Mobile home damaged in Hays fire

Hays Post – March 31, 2017

At 6:34 PM, Wednesday, City of Hays emergency dispatchers were alerted to a building fire at 1700 Dechant Road, Lot 27. The Hays Fire Department, assisted by Ellis County Fire Department Company 5, the Hays Police Department and Ellis County EMS, was immediately dispatched.

First arriving fire crews reported a fire in a single wide mobile home. Firefighters used two hose lines to control the fire. There were no injuries.

About one quarter of the dwelling suffered significant fire damage. The remainder was damaged by heat and smoke. Firefighters boarded up the structure after the fire to prevent further loss.

An investigation was conducted by the Hays Police Department assisted by the Hays Fire Department. The most probable cause of the fire was an electrical failure in the wall in the laundry room.

Twenty-four firefighters staffing five fire trucks responded. Firefighters also responded to another emergency call while operating at this fire. Fire crews left the scene at 8:40 PM however one fire truck crew remained on fire watch for an additional two hours.

 

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Friends remember Gray County volunteer firefighter who died in crash

By Brenda Carrasco
KWCH – March 30, 2017

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Richard Hixon was a beloved father, brother and son and on top of that a dedicated volunteer firefighter for the Ensign Fire Department.

For Blake Wondra, Richard was his best friend, “He was real easy to get along with. He was outgoing, he was a great father, he loved his kids very much. He was always willing to help somebody that needed help.”

Wondra said he and Richard spent countless hours together battling fires both in and out of their assigned county, “Every call I went on, Richard was there. We went to Oklahoma for the Anderson Creek fire, it was me, Richard and our chief Daniel. we always just looked out for each other.”

Although Richard may no longer be there, those close to him say he’ll never be forgotten, “It’s definitely going to be hard, Bubba would make it to every single call, we always felt comfortable knowing Bubba was going to be there watching after us.”

 

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Area Fire Department receives grant for grain bin rescue tube

Submitted by Harland Schuster
Sabetha Herald – March 30, 2017

Jerry Meeks, left, hands a grant check to Charles Gruber, right, from Frontier Farm Credit for the purchase of a grain rescue tube. Also pictured are (L-R) Harland Schuster, Andrew Baumgartner, Lee French, Ted Grimm, Dustin Milsap, Craig Stover, Raymond Gruber, Stewart Manche, Steve Manche, Brandon Adams, Sandon Wittwer, Jeremy Sweat and Heath Ploeger. Click on photo to view full-size.

Morrill Fire Department (FD) received a $1,800 grant for a grain bin rescue tube from the Frontier Farm Credit Working Here Fund.

Morrill FD purchased a grain bin rescue tube for grain bin entrapment rescue services. The grain bin rescue tube will help to protect the communities of Morrill Township and Hamlin Township in Brown County and surrounding areas. The firefighters will be trained on the proper use of the new equipment.

“In view of the potential for grain entrapment in the area we serve, we feel it is critical that we have the means to rescue victims in this situation,” Assistant Fire Chief Harland Schuster said.

“Farming and ranching are risky occupations, and we thank Morrill Fire Department for their help to ensure our community remains safe,” said Michael Leitch, vice president of retail operations at Frontier Farm Credit’s Hiawatha Office.

Morrill FD is one of nine organizations to receive a Working Here Fund grant in the fourth quarter of 2016. Frontier Farm Credit awarded $16,150 during the latest grant cycle ending Dec. 31, 2016.

About Morrill Fire Department

The Morrill FD provides fire protection, basic rescue and medical first responder service for 84 square miles, including the towns of Morrill and Hamlin, in Brown County. They serve a population of about 700.

About Frontier Farm Credit

Frontier Farm Credit is a customer-owned financial cooperative proud to finance the growth of rural America, including the special needs of young and beginning producers. With nearly $2 billion in assets and $382 million in members’ equity, Frontier Farm Credit provides credit and insurance services to farmers, ranchers, agribusiness and rural residents in eastern Kansas. Learn more at www.frontierfarmcredit.com.

 

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Small-town emergency responders face recruitment challenges

By Patricia Middleton
McPherson Sentinel – March 30, 2017

Small towns often rely on a team of volunteers to staff around-the-clock emergency medical services. Finding volunteers who live near enough and have the time to cover shifts can be a challenge for EMS departments.

“A lot of smaller communities are losing their transport services,” said Linda Johnson, assistant director of Marquette EMS. “To me, it’s essential.”

Marquette’s EMS service covers a large rural area, including Kanopolis Lake.

“We have a 20 minute response time,” Johnson said. “If you’re adding another 20 minutes from Lindsborg, McPherson or Ellsworth, that’s a long time to wait.”

Volunteers are required to live close enough to the EMS station so they can respond to calls quickly.

“We carry pagers and when the pager goes off, you have five minutes to be dressed and at the EMS building,” Johnson said.

EMS directors work to make their stations as accessible as possible to attract volunteers.

Marquette’s EMS building has a conference room, kitchenette, shower and restrooms, with Wi-Fi and television access. Having those amenities encourages volunteers, as they are able to come and spend their shift at the station if they live farther than five minutes away.

“Right now, all of our techs that are currently active live in town. That’s preferred, but that’s a pretty small population to draw from,” Johnson said.

Kansas regulations require that two personnel be on call 24/7 at every EMS station.

“We have some gaps here and there that we have to figure out how to cover,” Johnson said.

Lindsborg EMS volunteers assist in covering those gaps by reciprocating shifts with Marquette EMS.

“The very last resort is we go out of service and not have transport for that period of time,” Johnson said. “We avoid that at all costs.”

To find new volunteers, EMS departments such as Marquette’s depend largely on word-of-mouth recruiting along with online postings about training opportunities.

“We work through Facebook, some newspaper advertising — our budget’s pretty limited, so a lot of our recruiting is word of mouth,” Johnson said.

Marquette EMS volunteers earn a stipend of $1 per hour on call during weekdays and $2 per hour during weekends.

“I have one tech that takes enough hours to make her car payment,” Johnson said.

Volunteers can take emergency medical technician classes through Hutchinson Community College or Lindsborg Hospital. Classes are usually held two nights a week for a semester.

“When we’re recruiting people, sometimes getting them through the class is the challenge,” Johnson said.

If individuals can attend the classes, Marquette EMS will pay the fees, provided the student commits to work shifts for at least 20 hours per month.

There will also be an emergency medical responder class held on Saturdays this summer in Marquette, where Lindsborg EMS Director Chris Matthews will provide training for volunteers to become secondary responders.

“We’re hoping to recruit some people for that,” Johnson said.

EMS personnel have to deal with individuals in medical, emotional and mental crisis in extreme environments.

“You have to be able to tolerate a lot,” said Vida Mann of Canton EMS.

Volunteers must be able to remain calm in the face of traumatic injuries.

“It takes a special kind of person to do it,” Johnson said.

In her 23 years of experience with EMS, there has never been a time when the department did not need more volunteers, Johnson said.

“There’s a lot of attrition, people moving in and out,” Johnson said.

Volunteers also leave to become professional emergency medical technicians, decide the stress of the job is not for them or become too old to handle the physical strain.

“A long-term career in EMS is not easy,” Mann said. “It’s hard on a body. The older you get, the harder it is to do. The lack of sleep can be hard on a body.”

Canton’s EMS building provides volunteers with a room where they can watch TV or access the internet, along with a shower.

“It is hard to find volunteers anymore,” Mann said. “Life is busy anymore — family comes first to a lot of people and it should.”

Volunteers work in shifts ranging from four to 12 hours long.

“Weekends are harder to fill, especially in the summers when people are traveling,” Mann said. “I think you can find volunteer EMS struggling throughout the state of Kansas.”

Those interesting in serving as EMS volunteers must be 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license, a clean driving record, no felonies and be physically fit. Volunteers can start EMT training at 17 years old.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but we’ll go as long as we can,” Johnson said.

For more information about volunteering with Marquette EMS, contact Linda Johnson at 785-826-5544, Marquette EMS Director Jim Unruh at 785-546-2051 or message the department on Facebook. To learn about volunteering with Canton EMS, contact Vida Mann at 620-245-1430. Other departments in McPherson County may also be in need, contact your local EMS for more information.

 

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These twins pair up to save lives

By Shawn Wheat
WIBW – March 30, 2017

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Firefighters and law enforcement are a tight-knit community; many say like a family.

That’s especially true for a set of twins who’ve made public service a family affair.

When a call for help comes out in Leavenworth County, the Lingenfelser brothers have been the first to respond for the past 35 years.

“I’ve always liked my job, from the day I started. I love doing what I do, and working around kids and around people,” said Mark Lingenfelser.

According to Mike Lingenfelser, “Helping people. Helping the community.”

Mark and Mike started working as volunteer firefighters with the Kickapoo Volunteer Fire departments back in 1982 when they were 24 years old. They still volunteer there today.

But, since the start, Mark wanted to go into law enforcement full-time, “I spent 20 years teaching the DARE program with the city of Leavenworth, so a lot of my time was spent in the classroom. I spent a lot of years on the road also, but I’ve enjoyed the time in the classroom working with kids

Mike stuck with Firefighting, “Being a volunteer with Kickapoo, and still am a volunteer with Kickapoo, when you hear the trucks go out, you wanna be on it.”

There’s always been a rivalry between firefighters and law enforcement, but what about a rivalry between twin brothers?

“I’m the better looking one. He doesn’t know that,” Mark said laughing.

Joking aside, the brothers say duty comes first.

“There’s no rivalry,” says Mike. “It’s try to get him out of there as quick as we can get him outta there, and he tries to get me back to the station as quick as he can get me back to the station because we both know that’s where we want to be. We don’t want to be out on the road.”

“With me being a fireman too, I can’t dog the fireman too much, and we’re all out there basically doing the same thing,” says Mark. “When you respond to calls, and you’re there together, all that’s gone. It’s there for the good of the public.”

The Lingenfelser brothers have been recognized for their service over the years. Each earning awards for their work, by their community, and their peers.

According to Chuck Magah, Leavenworth Co. Emergency Manager, “I’ve seen where brothers have taken different aspects, but they have never been twins, that I’m aware of. These guys are outstanding.”

From playing sheriff as youngsters, these now grown-up public servants aim to shape the next generation.

“I have about 5 DARE graduates on the Sheriff Department. I hope I influenced them somehow,” said Mark.

“It’s real rewarding to see the youth grow up and choose a career in firefighting,” Mike added.

The brothers officially retired from the city of Leavenworth in 2012. Mark still helps run the DARE camp in Leavenworth County. Mike helps teach the Fairmount Fire Cadet Program.

 

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El Dorado honors Firefighter Herrick

Butler Times Gazette – March 7, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 30, 2017

Photo by Chad Wittenberg

A group gathered Monday afternoon to honor El Dorado Firefighter Ethan Herrick, who officially received his El Dorado Firefighter badge.

Ethan’s mother did the honors of pinning the badge.

After pictures with his crew members the group had punch and cookies–thanks to Chief Moody’s wife.

 

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Firefighters practice skills at airfield

By Christopher Burnett
Fort Leavenworth Lamp – March 30, 2017

Rick Kuhn, lead adjunct instructor for the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute, follows Leavenworth Fire Department Firefighter Jeff Cheney, Capt. Brian Valdez and Firefighter Luis Fuentes as they extinguish a fire during aircraft live fire training March 23 at Sherman Army Airfield. Photo by Prudence Siebert/Fort Leavenworth Lamp

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The Fort Leavenworth Fire Department concluded its annual aircraft fire safety training on March 23 with live-fire scenarios at Sherman Army Airfield.

Deputy Fire Chief Christian Howell said it is very important to keep the firefighters proficient in the firefighting skills required to successfully eliminate aircraft fires.

“Firefighters from post and other communities attended classroom training modules followed by this hands-on firefighting class at the airfield,” Howell said. “This type of training allows us to work using our equipment and operating procedures. It also allows us to train with other departments.”

All firefighters on post from the various work shifts were able to accomplish the training over three days.

“The refresher training is both cognitive and physical,” said Edgar Guerra, assistant chief of training at the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department. “The classroom portion covers tactics, strategies, hazards, safety procedures and the entire spectrum of aircraft rescue firefighting. And, we finish with the hands-on training. Both are important because these skills naturally degrade.”

Tyler Clemons served in the Air Force as a fire protection specialist for six years. He is a new firefighter with the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department and expressed his appreciation of the training. Clemons said the hands-on training would require use of straight stream and fog patterns from the fire hose.

“Very informative classroom training prepared us for the types of situations we can confront when responding to aircraft fires,” Clemons said. “In addition to being more physically demanding, the hands-on portion requires more situational awareness due to the fact we are actually dealing with a fire.”

Guerra said firefighters use the Mobile Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Trainer to provide the hands-on portion of the training. Personnel from the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute operate the trainer. He said it is capable of producing a wide range of realistic training scenarios and uses a simulated aircraft fuselage to train the aircraft rescue firefighters.

“The trainer simulates the most likely types of aircraft fires we confront — interior in the passenger, cargo and cockpit areas (as well as) exterior, such as engines, wheels and those caused by fuel spills,” Guerra said.

Guerra said safety features are built into the course and equipment to provide the greatest possible protection to firefighters during the live-fire training.

“This trainer has kill switches here in the control booth and inside the aircraft itself,” Guerra said. “Training can be halted instantly from the switches if something should go wrong.”

Noting the wind gusts, Guerra said the use of propane was a safety consideration as well because it evaporates quickly.

“Firefighters are trained in the proper application of the fire streams in order to ensure the best result using the hoses,” Guerra said. “We will often use foam when fighting aircraft fires, and it is important to know the proper application process.”

According to Guerra, in addition to the 40 firefighters from post, 15 firefighters from the city of Leavenworth and three firefighters from Arkansas participated in the three days of training.

“The goal (of the training is to stay current on best tactics and strategies in order to provide the best service to our community,” said Christopher Bender, assistant chief of operations at the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department. “The most important aspect of this particular training is this hands-on module because it reinforces the necessity of our firefighters to work as a team.”

Sherman Army Airfield consists of one active runway, two military hangars, aircraft parking area and a civilian fixed base operation. The Flying Activity offers flight training and instruction. There are no military aircraft stationed at the airfield.

“This type of training is also important to our community because we are at a higher risk than other airports because we have two flight schools here,” Guerra said. “And, we have nearly 30 privately owned and maintained aircraft here.”

Guerra said egress is the most important thing for people to do if they find themselves in an aircraft fire.

“After getting out of an aircraft that is on fire, the next most important thing is accountability,” Guerra said. “Accountability lets responders know if there could be someone inside.”

 

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Elk Falls hit two times with fires

Prairie Star – March 8, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 30, 2017

The community of Elk Falls was saddened by two structure fires over the past week. Last Wednesday a stove explosion caused a fire at a home in Elk Falls which resulted in a complete loss of the home and injury to one occupant. During the early morning hours of Saturday morning the Ivy Barn on the property of Steve and Jane Fry caught fire and burned to the ground. It had recently been used as a space for the Fry’s son and daughter-in-law to showcase and create their business for furniture, jewelry, and home goods. The building and its contents were a total loss. Firefighters in both Elk and Chautauqua counties were busy through the week with grass fires as a result of the dry and windy conditions.

 

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Great Bend Fire Department receives bids on new truck

By Russell Edem
Great Bend Tribune – March 9, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 30, 2017

The Great Bend Fire Department will be replacing one of the two pumper trucks with a new one that will be identical to the 2011 model it presently has. The department has received bids and are int he final process of selecting a vendor. The approximate cost of the vehicle is $400,000.

“We are excited that the bids are in and now we can sit down and go over who best fits our criteria on what we are needing,” Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said.

According to Napolitano, the reason they are wanting to replace the current pumper truck is consistency. This will allow the firefighters to be familiar with both pumper trucks instead of having to know how to operate two different types of vehicles, thus improving efficiency.

Napolitano said that the control panels equipment on the trucks can be overwhelming at first as firefighters try to remember where everything is located. Having the same truck with the same control and equipment locations will help overcome this.

This by itself is a great advantage when it comes to fighting fires, the chief said. The faster they can get on scene and get the trucks operational can save lives and property.

“Being consistent is important to us. Being able to have two identical vehicles will help our firefighters to fight fires,” Napolitano said. “This makes our job easier and helps us to be there when we are called upon.”

Napolitano said three of the ambulances that the department uses are set up this way and it really makes a difference to the crews when they are heading to a scene. They know exactly where the equipment is from truck to truck.

Napolitano said before bids are sought, they decide on what vehicle they want.

He forms a committee of firefighters from the different shifts to discuss what they need. This insures that the truck they get is exactly what they want. After this is done the department will ask for bids.

Once the department decides on a bidder, the truck will be ordered. It will take the department one year to receive the vehicle from the manufacture. During this time, the department will send staff to the company to inspect the process and to make sure the vehicle is to specifications.

Once the vehicle is finished, the staff will return to the company for final inspection and to drive the vehicle back to Great Bend.

According to Napolitano, the same company that built the department’s last pumper truck is the company with the lowest bid.

“We are very pleased that the company with the lowest bid is the same one that built our last truck. We have that relationship built with them, they know what we want, and they are a pleasure to work with,” Napolitano said.

 

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Salina Guns and Hoses to raise money for medical bills

By Rocky Robinson
Salina Post – March 30, 2017

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Baby V was born by emergency C-Section on September 11, 2016 at only 28 weeks Gestation weighing 3lbs and 8ozs. Upon delivery, Kyzer was taken to Wesley Medical Center where he received a blood transfusion due to blood loss during birth and spent 70 days in the NICU until he was strong enough to breathe on his own. Kyzer’s parents have endured a lot since he was born. Several trips to Wichita, staying with Kyzer while trying to care for two boys at home. After being home less than two months, Kyzer was taken to Salina Regional, placed on oxygen, IV fluids and tested positive for RSV on January 17th. He was taken by ambulance to Wesley Medical Center where they confirmed RSV and pneumonia. With this being the 2nd extended hospital stay, Kyzer’s parents have depleted their leave for work. All proceeds from this event will go to Kyzer’s family to help with medical bills.

Since 2006, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and EMT’s in Salina have come together every October to raise money for local families in need. A charity flag football game has been played for 11 years. In 2014, Salina Guns and Hoses was formed. In the past three years, Salina Guns and Hoses has raised over $57,000 for six Salina families. In 2015 we raised enough money to give the largest donation to a single family in the history of this event. We also held the first Salina Guns and Hoses Christmas, complete with a Christmas light tour in a limousine and lots of presents. In May 2016, we hosted the inaugural 10-FORE golf tournament at the Salina Municipal Golf Course. Proceeds were donated to a 6-year-old Leukemia patient. In December 2016, we took the families on a bus ride to Wichita to watch Paw Patrol LIVE.

On Saturday, May 6, 2017 12:00PM Salina Municipal Golf Course, our community will gather for an exciting day of golf benefiting a local family in need of assistance to help care for their sick child. Kyzer was born premature and spent 70 days in the NICU at Wesley Medical Center. After being home less than two months, Kyzer was back at Wesley for his second extended hospital stay. With the generous support of people in the community, we will be able to help Kyzer not only meet essential daily needs, but to work toward a brighter future. All proceeds from this event will go to Kyzer’s family to help with medical expenses.

For more information on how donations are helping to make a difference in the lives of so many in our community, we invite you to visit our Salina Guns & Hoses Facebook page. You can also find information there on our upcoming events for the year.

 

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Emporia Fire Department Water Rescue saves Fed Ex driver

WIBW – March 30, 2017

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Heavy rains have some Lyon County Roads under water, and led to a water rescue Wednesday morning.

The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office told 13 NEWS a Fed Ex driver tried to go over a low-water crossing bridge on Road 210, about four miles north of Emporia, and got stuck. With water in Taylor Creek rising rapidly, the driver called for help.

The Sheriff’s Office said the Emporia Fire Department Water Rescue Team responded and helped the driver to safety.

Much of Lyon County remains under a flood warning through Friday. The Sheriff’s Office says drivers should be alert. Several rural roads, especially along the Cottonwood River south and east of Emporia, remain closed.

 

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Douglas County Commission approves more flexible burn ban language

By Elvyn Jones
Lawrence Journal World – March 30, 2017

The Douglas County Commission approved a measure that provides more flexibility in restricting open burning in rural areas of the county.

In 2015, the commission approved a resolution allowing the county to forbid open burning on days deemed unsafe. The measure approved at Wednesday’s meeting amends the language of the 2015 resolution to do away with wind speeds as a specific criterion for daily bans. Wakarusa Township Fire Department Fire Chief Mike Baxter said the new language would provide more leniency and allow burning on wet days when predicted wind speeds would normally have forbidden it.

Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said banning burns during wet conditions and in other safe situations undermined the credibility of the bans and could encourage rural residents to ignore them.

The new language will continue to ban opening burning on days in which the National Weather Service in Topeka lists the rangeland fire index as very high, extreme or red flag. The approved language gives Weinaug or a designee the authority to prohibit burning based on local conditions on days with a low, moderate or high index. Specifically, the county administrator or designee could forbid burning when sustained wind speeds of 20 mph were forecast for a moderate-risk day, or if 15 mph winds were predicted for a high-risk day.

Weinaug said he was still working to identify who would be designated to make the daily 6 a.m. decision to ban or allow open burning. He said that before the changes take effect, he would identify a county employee to work with Teri Smith, Douglas County Emergency Management director, to make that early-morning decision.

 

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HCC fire science instructor, students help resident clean up burned trees after fire

By Adam Stewart
Hutchinson News – March 30, 2017

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

Cindy Stohr’s home north of Hutchinson was spared when wildfires tore through the area at the beginning of March.

“Like a lot of homeowners, I was very lucky,” she said.

But the trees on her property weren’t so fortunate.

A multitude of trees in her yard and lining the private lane to her house burned. The dead trees were both an eyesore and a safety hazard.

Cleaning all of that up would have been an overwhelming task for Stohr, so she was thrilled when a coworker’s husband, Jamie Copple, offered help clearing out the burned trees.

Copple isn’t just some guy with a chainsaw. He is retired from a 36-year career with the U.S. Forest Service, all of it in fire work. Now Copple is a part-time instructor in Hutchinson Community College’s fire science program, teaching wildland fire and wildland chainsaw classes.

He and two HCC fire science students – Dakota Isaacson and David Dukart – spent two Thursdays cutting down and cutting up trees.

“I wanted to get them out there and get them some more saw time,” Copple said.

He estimated the days were about eight hours each and said that time was enough to finish all of the cutting needed on Stohr’s property.

“With three guys and three chainsaws, we got a lot done in two days,” Copple said.

Stohr said she and a neighbor are burning the logs in a pit dug specifically for that purpose.

“The pile that was over there to burn was unreal,” she said. “I wish I’d gotten a photo of it.”

Stohr said the biggest need she has seen after the fires is manpower. People have been very willing to donate money and supplies to families affected by the fire, but fewer people are able to help with cleanup.

Copple said that is a normal thing with wildfires. People are always charitable and giving, but manpower is what is needed most.

 

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Reno Co. Extension office provides free lunch for first responders

KWCH – March 30, 2017

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First responders were treated to a free lunch Wednesday, thanks to the Reno County Extension Office.

It’s a kind gesture that makes us Kansas Proud.

The extension office says it wanted to say “thank you” for all the hard work by the firefighters, paramedics and others during the recent wildfires in Reno County.

“That’s what happens a lot of times is communities and families get together when tough things happen,” says Darren Busick with the Reno County Extension Office. “It’s our pleasure to help those people and give them a free lunch. They did a lot more than just a free lunch for us.”

Much of the meal prepared for first responders was donated. The extension office made the desserts.

 

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Stove Catches House on Fire

KSAL – March 30, 2017

A fire that started on a kitchen stove badly damaged a Salina home Wednesday evening.

Salina Fire Marshall Roger Williams tells KSAL News that first responders were dispatched at around 7:00 to the report of a house on fire at 1125 E. Beloit. The first crews on scene discovered a working fire.

“Flames were not visible, but the smoke was so thick it was hard to see nearby homes in the neighborhood,” Williams said.

According to Williams, three people live in the house. Only one of them was home, Matthew Heller. He was able to safely escape.

The fire caused extensive smoke damage throughout the home, and heat damage in the kitchen and attic.

Williams determined that the fire started on the stove, and was cooking-related.

Heller apparently turned on a burner to do some cooking, and then fell asleep. Williams says it’s fortunate that Heller woke up, otherwise things could have turned out much worse.

The home was left uninhabitable.

There were no injuries.

 

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Firefighter killed in accident

KAKE – March 29, 2017

One driver was killed and another injured Wednesday when a pickup truck and car collided in Gray County.

The Kansas Highway Patrol reports Richard Hixon of Ensign, 27, was driving east on U.S. 56 toward Ensign around 11:45 a.m. The pickup entered his lane while attempting to pass a tractor-trailer three miles west of town. The vehicles may have hit head-on.

Hixon was declared dead at Western Plains Medical Complex in Dodge City. The pickup driver from Satanta also was taken there with critical injuries. Three other people in the pickup, including two small children, were not injured.

 

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Need for radios causing headaches for rural fire chiefs

By Phyllis Zorn
Peabody Gazette Bulletin – March 29, 2017

Rural fire districts are grappling with how they will come up with money to buy 800 MHz radios they will soon be required to carry.

Firefighters can neither afford the radios nor ignore the need to buy them.

At a recent fire, Lost Springs fire chief Brad Pagenkopf saw a group of his firefighters threatened by flames sneaking up behind them. He tried to radio them to tell them about the threat, but they could not hear him. Luckily, the firefighters saw the threat and got out of harm’s way, but it brought home to Pagenkopf the importance of communication.

“We’re facing a situation where it’s our firefighters’ safety if we can’t communicate,” Pagenkopf said. “Are we going to have to impose a sales tax to protect our volunteer firefighters? Or is the county going to come up with a solution?”

Recent commitments by Marion and the county show the costs for new radios could be as high as $1,650 for portable units and $2,200 for vehicle units.

Rural fire departments in the county are trying to figure out where to go from here and fire chiefs are scratching their heads.

“Other than going broke, we don’t know,” Pagenkopf said. “We’ve been looking into grants and the chances of being awarded a grant are slimmer than winning the lottery.”

Several other fire chiefs said they are researching grant information.

“I wish I had an answer for you,” Lincolnville fire district chief Lester Kaiser said. “I expect we’ll apply for some kind of grant.”

Kaiser said imposing a sales tax is being considered as well.

Goessel fire chief Galen Miller said the department is considering all avenues.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Tampa assistant fire chief Tim Svoboda said. “We don’t have the money.”

Fundraisers are another possibility, Svoboda said.

“In the Tampa community, when we have to do something, there’s a good turnout,” Svoboda said. “We’ve had fundraisers before, and usually get what we ask for.”

Pagenkopf said his department is juggling two needs.

“With my department, I have a brush truck that needs to be updated, and I may have to get radios instead of the brush truck,” Pagenkopf said. “We’ll take donations. We’ll take anything. We’re not asking for payment. We’re asking for the tools we need to do our jobs safely. We sure need that support from the community.”

 

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New firefighter joins department

By Kelsey Unruh
Hillsboro Star Journal – March 29, 2017

Since he was a little boy, Austin Welch has wanted to be a firefighter. His dream came true March 21, when he was accepted as a firefighter with the Hillsboro Fire Department.

Since before he was approved to join the department, Austin has been busy taking firefighting courses in Halstead in the evenings.

“He’s a busy kid,” Austin’s mom Angie said. “This is something he’s liked all his life.”

Austin has been involved with the department since he was four years old, when he noticed a small fire in the bushes in front of Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church in 2003.

“He was standing outside at (the old location of) Vogt’s with his mom and was pointing and saying, ‘Fire, fire, fire,’ until he got his mom’s attention,” fire chief Ben Steketee said.

His mother called the fire department, and the fire was put out with only minor damage to the building.

“We thought that was pretty neat, so we got him a remote control fire truck,” Steketee said.

From then on, Steketee said, Austin was always a part of the fire department.

“He was always around and always wanting to participate,” Steketee said. “That was, I think, the start of it all.”

Austin’s dad also got involved as a firefighter with the department for eight years. Austin also has a cousin who is a firefighter in Wichita, so it was only a matter of time until he also joined the field.

“So I was around the department at a young age and got a grasp for the job,” Austin said. “Being around it, you just kind of want to follow in the family footsteps and make it a family business.”

Austin said he’s excited to serve the community and “to serve in one of the best departments in the county.” He also said he is not in firefighting for the glory.

“I’m here to serve the community and that’s my job,” Austin said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Angie said she does not feel too anxious about her son going to fight fires.

“They train them and whatnot,” Angie said, “but you’re always nervous a little bit. You’re nervous whenever you hear anyone go out, especially someone you know.”

Austin plans to take fire science classes at Hutchinson Community College in the fall.

Angie feels that having been involved with the fire department for so long will help Austin be prepared.

“I think anything that they do here is going to help and benefit him for that,” Angie said.

Austin also has donned the department Fire Pup costume, visiting elementary schools and teaching children fire safety tips.

With Austin being involved in the department for so long, Angie said it shows younger kids how they can also get involved.

“Him growing up and being attracted to that stuff, and now he’s doing this stuff and other kids are looking up to it,” Angie said. “It’s kind of a way for him to pay back a little bit.”

 

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Newton Fire/EMS plans awards reception

Newton Kansan – March 29, 2017

Newton Fire/EMS staff invite the public to attend as they honor co-workers who have performed outstanding service in the past year to the community and the department.

The awards reception will be at 7 p.m. April 6 at Station 3, 2520 S. Kansas Ave. The event was developed as a means of honoring individuals who perform above and beyond the call of duty.

Captain Leroy Dyck and retired Chief Mark Willis will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Firefighter/EMT Zac Lujano and Firefighter/Paramedic Kevin Finley will receive the Outstanding Achievement Award.

Deputy Chief Steve Roberson, Lieutenant Joe Martin, Firefighter/EMT Garret McKinney, Firefighter/Paramedic Duane Helms, Firefighter/Paramedic Drew Couey, Firefighter/EMT Bryce Roth, and Emergency Room staff from Newton Medical Center will receive the Lifesaver Award for their work in resuscitating a young woman from clinical death and returning her to her family.

 

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Stolen firefighter’s vehicle

By Phil Anderson
Topeka Capital Journal – March 29, 2017

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So much for being a Good Samaritan.

A volunteer firefighter found out as much Wednesday morning after authorities said his pickup truck was stolen by the woman he had stopped to help after her car caught fire on Interstate 70 in west Topeka.

The theft led to a high-speed chase through a large portion of western Shawnee County, finally coming to an end just west of Dover in Wabaunsee County.

The woman suspected in the truck theft was taken into custody by Kansas Highway Patrol troopers. She was expected to be booked into the Shawnee County Jail on multiple counts related to the theft and chase. Her name wasn’t immediately available.

The incident began around 9:15 a.m., when a blue, four-door car was reported on fire on the shoulder of westbound I-70 near the S.W. Wanamaker Road exit.

Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Adam Winters said a volunteer firefighter who was passing through the area saw the car on fire and stopped to render aid.

With the weather damp and chilly at the time, Winters said, the firefighter allowed the woman whose car was burning to sit in his truck.

The firefighter then got out of the truck to assist with putting out the car fire. After he exited the truck, the woman drove away, headed west on I-70.

Winters said KHP troopers spotted the truck a few minutes after it had been reported stolen as it traveled west on I-70 near S.W. Auburn Road, about two miles west of where the car fire occurred.

The trooper attempted to pull over the truck around 9:30 a.m., but the woman sped away, leaving I-70 at the Auburn Road exit, then turning south on Auburn Road.

The chase reached speeds of 90 mph at times as the chase proceeded south on Auburn Road.

About two miles up the road, the chase turned west onto S.W. K-4 highway, which meanders through a wide area of western Shawnee County.

The truck later went through the town of Dover in extreme western Shawnee County, continuing west on K-4 highway into Wabaunsee County.

The truck was reported to have been disabled after it hit a pillar and another vehicle at S.W. 57th and Douglas Road in Dover.

The chase came to an end around 9:45 a.m. about a mile west of Dover, near K-4 highway and Echo Cliffs Road, just inside Wabaunsee County.

No injuries were reported.

Additional details weren’t immediately available.

 

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Carl A. Whitcomb

Carl A. Whitcomb, 78, of Spring Hill, KS, passed away March 25, 2017 in his home surrounded by his family and closest friends. Visitation 6-8:00 pm Thursday, March 30, 2017 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 28750 Hospital Drive, Paola, KS 66071. Funeral Service will be at 9:30 am Friday, March 31, 2017 also at the church. The burial will follow at 12:30 pm at Leavenworth National Cemetery, 150 Muncie Rd., Leavenworth, KS 66048. Memorial contributions may be made to Johnson County Fire District 2/Carl Whitcomb Fund, 19120 Metcalf Ave, Stilwell, KS 66085. Condolences may be left at www.brucefuneralhome.com

Carl was born October 1, 1938 in Greenville, SC to Ernest Cuberly and Lola Beatrice (Burns) Whitcomb. He grew up in Burlington, KS and then graduated from Waverly High School in 1958. Carl was drafted into the United States Army and served in the Korean Conflict. He married Judy Ann VanVranken on August 5, 1961 in Yates Center, KS. They have lived in Spring Hill for the last 31 years. He worked for UPS as a mechanic for 20 years while serving as a Volunteer Captain for the Spring Hill Fire Dept. Prior to this, he served on the Hoyt Fire Dept for five years. He loved fishing, hunting, and was an avid gunsmith. Most of all, Carl loved nothing more than spending time with his grandchildren and going to their activities. He will be missed by his family and friends.

Carl was preceded in death by his parents and infant brother, Jerry Whitcomb. He is survived by his wife, Judy; daughter, Julie and Bob Carlisle of Corpus Christi, TX and their children: Allison, Sean and Ryan; daughter, Virginia and Mark Whelan of Overland Park, KS and their children: Ian and Logan; daughter, Louise and Robert Bardwell of Spring Hill, KS and their children: David, Mark, Miranda, Tyler, Derek, Jordan and Courtney; three great-grandchildren and siblings: Gene and Irma Whitcomb of Greenville, SC, George and Sharon Whitcomb of Lawson, MO, Leon and Patsy Whitcomb of Grove, OK, Paul and Deborah Whitcomb of Greenville, SC, Lida and Roy Lawson of Burlington, KS and David Whitcomb of Greenville, SC

A special and heartfelt thank you to the Firefighters of Johnson County Fire District 2. The Dept. went above and beyond in their line of duty to provide aid and support, anytime, anywhere with the upmost respect. With our deepest sincerity, the Whitcomb Family.

 

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New Kan. Fire Marshal policy will change fundraising with fireworks

Hays Post – March 29, 2017

To enable charitable groups to better leverage the fund-raising potential of selling fireworks leading up to the upcoming Independence Day holiday, the Office of the State Fire Marshal has issued a policy statement which permits organizations to sell fireworks without requiring them to operate their own fireworks stand, according to a media release.

Until now, in order for an organization to generate fund-raising revenue through fireworks sales, they were required to operate a licensed fireworks stand.

This requirement prevented many organizations from selling fireworks because of the cost and manpower requirements of operating a fireworks stand.

As of Wednesday, organizations can now sell fireworks as a fundraiser as long as the delivery of fireworks to the purchaser occurs during the retail fireworks season of June 27 through July 5 as established by K.A.R. 22-6-5.

 

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Man recovering after lightning zap Tuesday

By Shane Farley
NewsCow – March 29, 2017

Josh Carnaggio is feeling pretty sore – and very fortunate – after being too close to a lightning strike during a thunderstorm Tuesday night in Ark City.

The 31-year-old Carnaggio was resting this morning after some scary moments in the parking lot of the local Walmart. He left the hospital late Tuesday and went home to recuperate.

Around 8:40 p.m., emergency crews were called to the store for the report of a man who had been struck by lightning. Review of video from the parking lot shows a flash of lightning hit a pole about 20 or 30 feet away.

Carnaggio had just stepped from his vehicle and was walking in the parking lot when he heard a “big boom,” saw a flash of light and felt intense pain shooting up his right leg. The lightning had hit the pole and discharged into the wet parking surface.

The surge of energy knocked Carnaggio to the ground.

“I wasn’t moving on my own, I couldn’t. I was just shakin’,” Carnaggio told NewsCow. “Three people ended up carrying me inside.”

In the minutes after the strike Carnaggio said “my chest was tight. I couldn’t really breathe.”

He was evaluated by Ark City Fire-EMS at the scene and was taken to the hospital. Carnaggio declined an opportunity to stay at the hospital for observation.

He remained very sore Wednesday morning.

“Like the worst workout I’ve ever had,” Carnaggio said. “And then some. But I know I’m very lucky.”

Carnaggio’s wife is an employee at Walmart.

 

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2017 Volunteers, Emergency Workers of the Year Announced

By David Elliott
KRSL – March 29, 2017

Russell/Ellsworth County Emergency Management Director Keith Haberer, Jack Brown, Russell 911 Communications Advisory Board Member and Russell County Commissioner Alan Kuntzsch, Glen Blundon, and Russell 911 Communications Advisory Board Member and Russell City Fire Chief Shane Preston. Not pictured: Durk Wecker and Chris Pasek.

Russell/Ellsworth County Emergency Management and the Russell 911 Communications Advisory Board announced the 2017 Volunteers and Emergency Workers of the Year Tuesday evening during the National Weather Service Storm Fury on the Plains Spotter Training Meeting at the Dream Theater in Russell.

The award for Volunteer and Emergency Worker of the Year was presented to four individuals, three from one nomination letter and one from another.

The first three – Jack Brown, Durk Wecker and Chris Pasek – are true volunteers who put their own lives at risk to rescue stranded campers. A flash flood in the early morning hours of Labor Day weekend last year trapped many individuals including children. Their nomination letter stated, “While all emergency services were desperately attempting to find resources that could rescue these people, three young men acquired a boat and solved the problem. I understand that it is not normal or safe for civilians to engage in these types of rescues, but I also believe there was nothing safe or normal about this situation. Had these three not acted when and how they did, this situation very possibly could have had a tragic ending.” A heartfelt thanks to these men is extended by the person that nominated them.

The fourth winner – Glen Blundon – has served on his fire department for over 16 years as a firefighter, Assistant Fire Chief and now Chief. As Chief, he is dedicated to keeping his department’s equipment at peak performance and replacing gear and equipment to maintain a modern, safe and efficient department. He provides training and exercises for his firefighters, strives to make every call leaving his own work setting idle and sees the importance of serving to your fullest as a volunteer firefighter. This past year when southern Kansas was devastated with a huge grass fire, he was proud to authorize several of his firefighters and a firetruck to be dispatched to aid in the fighting of this wildfire. He also sent his personal pickup along with his firefighters to use as their mobile command center. Donating his own time and semi, he hauled a load of hay, donated by Robert and Melinda Olson, to the ranchers who had lost their pastures to these destructive fires. He also volunteers to help out at the Gorham Street Dance, is the President of the Russell County Fire Chiefs Association, President of the Russell County Prescribed Burn Association, a trained storm spotter that puts himself in harms way during severe weather, volunteers at St. Mary Queen of Angels Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, has served as a club and project leader for the Big Creek 4-H Club and served 10 years on the Russell County Fair Board.

The 911 Advisory Board felt each of these individuals were very deserving of this award. The Board said each person could have received it on their own merit but it was determined to give an unprecedented four awards this year. The people these four individuals have impacted are eternally grateful for the selfless acts that have not gone unnoticed. These individuals selected show the true spirit of volunteers, one who does for others without any strings attached and no matter the danger to themselves.

 

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Fire early Wednesday damages Lenexa home

KMBC – March 29, 2017

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A fire early Wednesday damaged a home in Lenexa.

Firefighters were called just after midnight to the 8800 block of Gallery Street.

Everyone inside made it out safely. No one was hurt.

Firefighters said it appears the fire started in the kitchen.

The cause of the fire has not been released.

 

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Hay bales on fire

Advocate of Phillips County – March 9, 2017
Submitted by Newz Group – March 29, 2017

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The Phillipsburg Fire Department was called out on Monday, March 6th to a report of hay bales on fire east of Phillipsburg. Fortunately they were able to quickly contain the fire before it could spread further due to the high winds.

 

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Head-on crash involving wrong-way driver along I-70 claims life of both drivers involved

By Stephanie Graflage
FOX 4 News – March 29, 2017

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Two drivers were killed in a head-on collision involving a wrong-way driver along eastbound I-70 in Kansas City, Kan., Tuesday night.

The crash closed eastbound I-70 at 18th Street Expressway for about two hours while authorities conducted their investigation.

According to the crash report, a 2004 Dodge Ram was heading east on I-70 when a 2005 Lincoln Navigator, driving the wrong way in the same lane, crashed head on into the Dodge Ram. Both drivers died.

Police identified the driver of the Dodge Ram as 30-year-old Tyrone Jennings Jr. of Kansas City, Kan.

Police identified the driver the Lincoln Navigator as 34-year-old Troy Reliford of Lee’s Summit.

Neither driver was wearing their seatbelts.

 

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Kansas man dies after crash into semi’s trailer, fire

Hays Post – March 29, 2017

A Kansas man died in an accident just before 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday in Stevens County.
The Kansas Highway Patrol reported a 2001 Chevy Venture driven by James B. Farnham, 28, Johnson, Vehicle 1 was traveling westbound on Stevens County Road Y.

The driver failed to stop at stop sign at the intersection of Kansas 25. The van crashed into the trailer of a southbound semi and caught on fire.

Farnham was pronounced dead at the scene and transported to Paul’s Mortuary.
The semi driver William D. Parks, 46, Garden City and a teen passenger were not injured.

The occupants of the semi were properly restrained at the time of the accident, according to the KHP.

 

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Speaker talks about Texas blast

By Ray Nolting
Parsons Sun – March 29, 2017

Photo by Ray Nolting

The emergency management coordinator for McLennan County, Texas, spoke Tuesday morning to a group of Southeast Kansas emergency workers and others about a 2013 fire and explosion in Texas that killed 15 people and injured more than 200.

About 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, the same chemical used to create the bomb that destroyed the Alfred Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, was stored at West Fertilizer Co. in West, Texas, on April 17, 2013. This was a busy time for the plant that mixed chemicals for fertilizers for farmers.

At 7:29 p.m. that night, the public safety answering point, or PSAP, which is a 911 dispatch center, for that area received the first of many calls reporting a fire at the fertilizer plant.

Frank Patterson, the emergency management coordinator for McLennan County and the city of Waco, Texas, discussed the incident in detail at the Parsons Municipal Auditorium so others could learn from mistakes made in Texas and from the many things that emergency responders and emergency management did right.

Patterson said the first 911 caller didn’t know the address of the fertilizer plant, but said she saw and smelled smoke coming from it. She told the dispatcher what road the plant was on, but the road and plant address couldn’t be found quickly in the computer-aided dispatch system.

Toward the end of the nearly three-minute 911 call, which Patterson played, the dispatcher said she would direct fire resources to the plant, part of which is located in the city limits of West.

A middle school, nursing home, apartment complex and residences were near the plant.

Patterson said the difficulty in finding the plant address was a data problem.

“This is not a people problem. This is a data problem,” he said.

The street the plant is on changed names three times within a mile, from North Roberts to Jerry Mashek Drive to another name.

The other problem was the possibility of a hazard from the fire given the volatile chemicals stored there. The CAD system said nothing of potential hazards.

Patterson said he maps this out in McLennan County. He maps out hazards from industry and other sources so the information comes up in the CAD system when pulled up by dispatchers, who then forward this information to first responders during emergencies.

“That’s because we do it ourselves, not because it’s mandated by the state. And, quite frankly, it really should be at a state level,” Patterson said.

A bill in the Texas legislature failed to pass that would have required this hazardous materials information to be included in CAD systems because 911 districts opposed it for the potential cost.

The next call that night came from a police officer in West who noticed the fire. The dispatcher told him fire units were en route.

By 7:39 p.m. firefighters realized how big the fire was and called for additional resources. At 7:51 p.m., the plant exploded. The blast caused a magnitude 2.1 earthquake and left a crater 93 feet wide and 12 feet deep. Firefighters on scene were in the process of pulling back at the time of the explosion that left a plume of smoke hundreds of feet into the air. The pressure from the explosion also broke water mains underground, which hampered firefighting efforts.

“Nobody was thinking explosion. … Toxic gases, smoke. That’s what they were thinking about,” Patterson said.

In addition to firefighters and other first responders who died, two fatalities were pulled from the nearby apartment complex. Most of the injured came from the nursing home.

Patterson said the explosion happened while he was en route to West. He discussed in detail setting up an incident command area and marshaling resources to various areas for the ambulance service, firefighting and hazmat crews to monitor the air for toxins and put out fires, search and rescue where the damaged homes and businesses were and law enforcement to keep vehicle traffic out of the area.

In the 30 minutes from the first 911 call at 7:29 p.m. that night, the 911 center received more than 1,000 911 calls for service. Many calls rolled to other answering points because 911 calls can’t be placed on hold.

In a blink of an eye that night, “The world changed for a lot of people. The community changed. The county changed. The first responder community changed,” Patterson said.

The streets were filled with walking wounded when he arrived and a triage center was set up to assess injuries and send the most serious patients to hospitals first. It took a while for Patterson to take stock in the devastation. Bricks were in the street, doors were blown into houses, a man had been in his kitchen and was blown out the back wall into his yard. A chunk of the foundation from the building that held the ammonium nitrate damaged a home hundreds of yards from the plant.

He said training and drills helped the people work together because they all knew their roles. It helped that the people on scene were the people he trained with and worked with every week.

By 8:30 p.m. that night, injured patients were transported to hospitals. That process continued for hours that night.

People who lived in the apartment building and in the neighborhoods and were there anyway were enlisted to help and guide rescue crews.

More than 120 agencies responded that night. Many agencies that were also responding, even though they were not asked to, were called off. Those that came anyway were guided to staging areas.

“That’s a lot of agencies, that’s a lot of equipment, that’s a lot of people.”

The incident command center worked well until people discovered its location and wanted updates.

An anhydrous ammonia tank at the fertilizer plant developed a leak and complicated matters that week, but the Union Pacific Railroad crews on hand agreed to resolve the issue with the leaking tank if they were allowed to repair their railroad tracks to restart rail traffic.

The triage center moved as did the incident command center during the course of the next few days.

West Fertilizer Co. had been in business for 65 years. If the fire had occurred a month before or a month after April 17, there would not have been as big of a problem, he said. Ammonium nitrate degrades over time and the company didn’t normally store that much of it on site.

Eventually, federal authorities determined that the fire that caused the explosion was intentionally set. No arrests have been made.

 

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