Passion to serve burns in Redinger

By Kelly Breckunitch
Newton Kansan – April 3, 2017

Photo by Kelly Breckunitch

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And where there’s fire, especially when it comes to wildfires, Burrton’s Rodney Redinger is likely involved in fighting it.

Redinger is the fire training specialist for the Kansas Forest Service, teaching classes and training fire departments from across the state on how to deal with wildland fires.

Over the years, Redinger noted his role has evolved to include duties as an operations specialist. What that means is that Redinger will act in a managerial role when wildfires break out across the state, like the recent blaze in Reno County, helping coordinate resources and providing technical assistance to the departments fighting those fires. That can range from securing area maps to deciding when civilian evacuation is necessary (a decision he helped make in Hutchinson) to coordinating the efforts of air support available to douse the fire.

Based out of Hutchinson Community College, where Redinger got his start in the Fire Science program, he travels both the state and the country in his efforts, also serving as a Type II Operations Chief and helping with wildfires in the western half of the U.S. anywhere between two weeks and two months out of the year. Redinger admitted he may have been predisposed to the lifestyle.

“It’s my dad’s fault,” Redinger said jokingly. “He was on the volunteer fire department as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, he’d take me to the fire station, and I thought it was really cool being able to hang out with all the firefighters. I thought that was always fun and enjoyed just being around all the guys.”

For 20 years now, Redinger has served on that same volunteer staff in Burrton. Just shortly after making that commitment, he broadened his coverage area as an opportunity to join the Pike Hotshots (an interagency wildfire management crew) out of Monument, Colorado, was presented to him during his freshman year at HCC.

Looking to fill a spot on the crew, the Pike Hotshots contacted Joe Hartman with the Kansas Forest Service. Hartman had helped establish the wildland side of the Fire Science program at HCC and reached out to the director of the program to see if there were any students who would want to apply.

Members of the Pike Hotshots are required to have a high level of fitness, given that they are highly mobile and trained to be self-sufficient while working some of the roughest and most remote terrain all over the county. As a track and cross country runner, Redinger was thought to be a prime candidate. Redinger was accepted and was immediately hooked on the experience.


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

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