Retired Jefferson County firefighters

Left to Right: Susan Warriner (for husband David), Jim Kennedy, Patrick Gottstein, Doug Porter and Larry Kopp.

David Warriner

When Patrick Gottstein noticed how fellow students in his classes at PLHS who were volunteer firemen got to leave school, he definitely became interested in firefighting. That interest led him to spend 31 years as a volunteer fireman for the Perry Community.
Doug Porter, who grew up in Lecompton, noticed how his dad enjoyed being a volunteer firefighter, so it was only natural that he would become a junior fireman when he was old enough. In fact, after Porter moved to Perry, he volunteered to be a fireman for both communities for a while and found he enjoyed the work as much as his dad had. That led him to spend 30 years with the Perry fire department.
When David Warriner noticed a fire up the road from his house one day, he went to see what was going on. Watching the volunteer firemen work got him hooked, and before long he was a member of the department and spent 27 years with it, often working in dispatch.
Jim Kennedy traces his involvement with the Perry fire department to the recruitment efforts of Gottstein while Doug Porter was listed as the one who got Larry Kopp interested in the fire department. Kennedy and Kopp were members of the department for 26 and 27 years respectively.
Now retired for almost a year they look back on their years of service with no regrets, despite the fact they were on call 24 hours a day and worked in all kinds of weather regardless of the temperature and conditions and how much it often disrupted their time with their families.
“I knew every time I put a steak on the fire on a Sunday, a call would come in,” Kopp said.
“I remember a call came in during a birthday party, and David had to leave,” Susan Warriner, David’s wife said, adding that David passed away shortly after retiring.
Gottstein can remember freezing to a chair when he stopped to rest while fighting a fire during below freezing weather due to the water that had sprayed onto his outfit.
However, despite the hardships they looked upon this as a necessary job to keep the community safe.
“You have to go with the flow,” Susan Warriner said, presenting a wife’s point of view, and adding that there used to be a women’s auxiliary to take food and water to the firefighters. “The radio is on all the time. I still listen to calls and hear when Kentucky Township is called out. It becomes a way of life.”
“When the fire alarm went off, you left,” Porter noted.
“It’s neighbor helping neighbor,” Kennedy said.
All talked about the camaraderie between the departments in Jefferson County and how the Jefferson County Fire Fighter’s Association has monthly meetings.
“It’s a team effort; everyone works together,” Porter said.
“When a house is on fire, four departments are called out,” Kennedy added.
“We know everyone from the other departments and have get-togethers,” Gottstein said, adding that a lot of training is done together.
“We go to school in Topeka, and KU has a fire academy, but a lot of training is in-house,” Gottstein said.
“David always said a lot of training was by fire,” Warriner added.
They also talked about some of the calls they answered.
“One of our most interesting fires was when the landfill caught fire,” Gottstein said. “It was difficult traipsing around not knowing where you were stepping.”
“There was a 4 a.m. chimney fire and it was so cold the trucks kept freezing up,” Porter said, adding that he had gone on a call to get a cat out of a tree. “Our territory runs from the river to 237 [Highway] and from Oak Road to 54th. I can remember some fires where we would have 15-18 firefighters. One older gentleman at the time would run the pumps.”
“It’s [firefighting] a wonderful experience,” Porter added. “A lot of new people coming in are afraid, but they won’t be put in a situation they can’t handle. There’s always a job you can do.”
All noted that the fact they were part of the community and known to all definitely helped.
“It was more comforting since they knew us, although it was always scary being the first on the scene,” Porter said, adding they were often called on to assist at accidents. “It was always my fear that I would know the car and occupants.”
All of the firefighters said that being comforting was part of the job, whether it be a house fire or an accident.
“I remember a family that was hit by a train,” Porter said. “I just went over and held the hand of the survivor and comforted her.”
When asked about changes they’d seen while they were firemen, Porter noted that the rules, regulations and requirements had increased. “They’ve been passed down from the big departments to the small ones. We often are lacking the funding to take them up right away.”
“Fire equipment has become more expensive, “ Gottstein said, adding that after probation, a fireman gets a radio and outfit which can add up to a couple thousand. Then there is truck maintenance, but “our department was smart with money, managing to put some back every year. We never lacked for anything.”
Gottstein also pointed out that when he joined the department in 1985, they were using two pumper trucks, a 1958 and a 1967. In 2003 they purchased their first new truck and in 2016 bought another one; while there are a lot of things they’d like to have, they don’t have a huge budget to get them all.
“There’s a lot of pride in building trucks and seeing them work,” Porter said.
“We were lucky to be able to purchase items from those no longer using them,” Kopp added.
Looking back on their years fighting fires, they once again stressed they had no regrets.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Gottstein said as the others agreed.


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

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