City works to find protection additions

By Larry Dreiling
High Plains Journal – June 23, 2017

When a county or municipality has a small budget, its councilors and administrators often become like scroungers to find anything they can to help make their town or county better.

The city of Quinter has taken advantage of federal programs and used receipts off a small loan fund to acquire items big cities would think nothing of paying top dollar to buy, fixing them up and putting them into service at relatively little cost.

Take added new fire protection equipment. Quinter makes full use of the Kansas Forest Service’s Federal Excess Property Program that assist rural municipalities acquire additional fire protection equipment. KFS obtains excess federal property—generally military vehicles such as all-wheel drive 5-ton trucks and fire equipment—which is then loaned to fire departments. The property remains under federal ownership. When no longer needed, a fire department returns the equipment to KFS for disposal.

“We’ve taken three surplus large trucks under the program, including a 5-ton water tanker, and fixed them up and put them into service here,” City Administrator Ericka Nicholson said. “We took the water tanker up to the Norton Correctional Facility, where they have a training program in auto body and paint work, and had them repaint the truck for the cost of the paint and all of two dozen donuts.”

Quinter dispatched that truck to March’s Jupiter Hills fire in Lane County.

Brad Wagoner, Quinter’s assistant fire chief, was responsible for locating those trucks, fixing them up, and making them ready for service.

“We bought the tank, and put it on the truck ourselves,” Wagoner said of his mostly volunteer force. “Then we went up to Norton and handed it over to the inmates to paint. After it was painted, we brought it back to add the lights and the siren.

“The Forest Service also helps get other equipment—hoses, fittings, couplings and things for our airpacks—at little or no cost. It’s a great program because we can get a lot for so little. And the labor after the painting on the truck is the kind of thing we do anyway to vehicles on an annual basis for maintenance. It wasn’t that much more work.”

Both Nicholson and Wagoner like to boast about the size and type of their recently acquired vehicle, as it was the only all-terrain truck of its size fighting the Jupiter Hills Fire.

“When you think about it, a brand new truck goes for $300,000, but we got it for about $200 and then outfitted it ourselves with a new 5,000-gallon tank and pump as well as lights and siren. We have maybe $25,000 in a $300,000 truck,” Nicholson said.

And the two add the same sentence.

“And two dozen donuts.”

Nicholson adds: “We’d have to substantially raise taxes to have the kind of fire protection we now have. We’ve gone from three trucks, including a 900-gallon pumper to having six trucks.”

One of the newest acquisitions for the city was an unmanned aerial system equipped with an infrared camera, used primarily for search and rescue operations, such as locating people during range fires. The drone also has been used to survey on behalf of Gove County for flood damage in order to receive assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Police Chief Rodney Salyers has taken a class with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center to operate the drone and has his Federal Aviation Administration certificate.

“Neighboring counties will call our guys and ask to use it. We recently used it in a building fire to check for hot spots on the tops of neighboring building,” Nicholson said.

Salyers said, “We’ve used it during range fires to check farm homes to see if anyone is in them. That, I think, will be a big reason for us being called out to use it, since the infrared camera will help us find everyone, that’s from lost children to fugitives.”

Adds Nicholson, “People will complain we spent $3,800 on a drone, but they don’t want to talk about our saving three quarters of million dollars on new fire equipment. I mean this with all respect, but it’s paid for itself.”


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

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