Hesston Firefighter Retires After 38 Years Of Service

By Jacquelyn Nelson
Hesston Record – May 3, 2018
Submitted by Newz Group – May 23, 2018

Brian Reimer turned in his pager after serving 38 years as a volunteer for the Hesston Fire Department.

In the fall of 1979, Reimer, along with the current Fire/EMS Director Russ Buller and Jon Friesen, joined the emergency response team in Hesston as teenagers.

“I started out on the fire department and then joined EMS. At some point I quit EMS and stayed strictly on the fire side. I was encouraged by a couple other friends of mine who were doing it. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed helping people,” said Reimer.

Buller chose to make a career of small-town emergency response, taking over the Hesston department.

“Brian, Jon Friesen and I went to high school together and had an interest in emergency response. Jon was the first to sign up and then myself and Brian were soon to follow. It was an amazing experience to work with my good friends doing something we were all passionate about. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to work my entire career with Brian,” said Buller.

Reimer said when he turned in his pager earlier this month, “I just felt like it was time.”

Reimer has helped Hesston through some of its toughest times – from the 1990 tornado to the Kropf Lumber fire. However, he said there were every-day accidents and calls that have stuck with him.

“Some of the drunks…You wonder, ‘How did they survive that accident,’ “ he said.

One of the most memorable calls was to the off-ramp of I-135 onto Lincoln Boulevard, a man lying outside his vehicle unconscious.

“I’ve only ran one of these in my entire career. … We got there and he was code blue [no pulse] and we did CPR. He woke up and he said, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing that? It hurts. Stop!’ and we’d stop and he’d pass out and be gone, no pulse. We would do CPR again, he’d come back and talk to you. That was an odd call. You don’t see that every day,” Reimer said.

Through days when calls were difficult, or on stressful scenes, Reimer gave immense credit to his colleagues who were fighting fires alongside him.

“You really rely on your coworkers. You watch out for your partners. Your adrenaline is going crazy and you’re doing things left and right. I have people that just stop for a second, take a deep breath, and do it this way. After a time, you learn to take a deep breath and work through it,” said Reimer.

Coming up through the department together, Buller said he relied on Reimer during some of the most stressful calls to provide leadership and calm.

“Brian has been an amazing tactical officer. There isn’t anyone I would rather have working a fire scene than Brian. He has both the practical knowledge and the common sense that gets the fire out and it stays out. He also proved to always be extremely considerate of a fire victim’s property, going the second mile to make sure that it is protected from further damage and secure after the fire is extinguished,” he said.

Reimer said there were times when his mental was tested, but he always was able to find the will to carry on.

“I never thought I’d be able to go into a burning house and do what I did. That can be pretty unnerving having the gear and mask on and go into a building where you can’t see your hand in front of your face and being able to stay calm and rely on training you’ve done. I didn’t know if I’d have that in me to do that,” he said.

Through the years and thousands of calls, Reimer said even at the end of his time as a volunteer he still got an adrenaline spike when the pager went off.

“Once you get into the call – there’s 100 things going through your mind when a page goes out – once you get there, all those things calm down and you just do what you have to do,” he said.

However, Reimer said calls on the interstate continued to unnerve him.

“We run a lot of calls on the interstate and when it’s icy, those were kind of scary, standing on the highway with trucks going by at 50 to 60 miles and hour and it’s icy,” he said.

Reimer said one of the greatest improvements he has enjoyed over the years is the safety of responders. Early in his career, Reimer recalled catching a ride on the back of a fire truck on the way to a fire scene in frigid weather.

“We went to a house fire that was seven or eight miles west of town. There were two of us on the back of the truck, and it was really cold and windy. We crawled on top of the truck and got behind the cab and huddled up behind the cab to try to stay warm,” he said.

Today, such rides would never happen.

From an equipment standpoint, Reimer said today’s firefighters are better protected than ever.

“We’d have boots that came up to our thighs, a coat and our hat would have flaps we would pull down over our ears to keep them from getting too hot. Now they have bunker pants, a coat, helmet, hood. Today’s equipment is just so much better,” he said.

With thousands of volunteer hours logged, Reimer has received not only training, but hands-on experience with nearly every situation imaginable.

“The different types of training that we do now a days compared to what we did when I started. We’d sit on the back of the fire trucks, discuss a few things and be there for an hour and a half and go home. Now, it’s every bit of three hours of training,” he said.

Buller said the loss of that institutional and situational knowledge will be keenly felt.

“Brian brought 38 years of experience as a volunteer with Hesston and 33 years of full-time service with Newton Fire/EMS. That much background and knowledge is irreplaceable. His retirement will be felt for many years in our organization,” he said.

Even after officially leaving the department, Reimer said he is now working on forgetting decades of muscle memory.

“It feels kind of odd [not having a pager.] I’d always check, if I do something at work, I’d reach to make sure I didn’t lose my pager and I don’t have that anymore. In the last number of years, they started sending texts, and I don’t get those texts anymore.

“After 38 years, I’d still like to hear what’s going on. Maybe in six months to a year, OK, I’m good with it. But you can’t just drop it and walk away. You still wonder what’s going on when you hear sirens,” he said.

However, as Reimer left the department, he still encouraged others to step up and protect Hesston.

“There are tons of classes out there that you can take. Join a department. We do a lot of in-house training and we’ve had a lot of people that have come through as young kids and they end up going on to working full time for a department,” he said.

As for why Reimer remained so loyal to the Hesston department, “I just enjoyed it. I loved being a part of an organization like that. I enjoyed helping people out,” he said.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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